Daily Archives: December 13, 2007

Out of Control, Into the Future

There are some interesting responses showing up to LC’s draft report on the future of bibliographic control. Karen Schneider, Roy Tennant, and (in great depth) Diane Hillmann have weighed in. So has Tim Spaulding of LibraryThing, who urges the Library of Congress – and libraries generally – to make bibliographic records open for reuse. He points to a petition that argues for the virtues of open records.

Bibliographic records are a key part of our shared cultural heritage. They too should therefore be made available to the public for access and re-use without restriction. Not only will this allow libraries to share records more efficiently and improve quality more rapidly through better, easier feedback, but will also make possible more advanced online sites for book-lovers, easier analysis by social scientists, interesting visualizations and summary statistics by journalists and others, as well as many other possibilities we cannot predict in advance.

Government agencies and public institutions are increasingly making data open. We strongly encourage the Library of Congress to join this movement by recommending that more bibliographic data is made available for access, re-use and re-distribution without restriction.

I’d love to hear what academic librarians say about all this. I’d especially love to hear from academic libraries that are using LibraryThing for Libraries. What have been the benefits? How have people responded?

A lot of us think the NIH is right to open up federally-funded research. Is open the way to go for LC, too?

Resist The Rankings

I suppose I should be elated. The folks over at a site called The Library Shelf just wrote to give me the good news:

Congrats, your blog The Kept-Up Academic Librarian has made it into the TOP 20 of the TheLibraryShelf blog community, powered by SocialRank!!!

Great, just what we need. Another effort to rank librarian blogs.

What I find amusing about this is that I routinely analyze the stats for both Kept-Up and ACRLog. By every measure possible ACRLog kicks Kept-Up’s ass when it comes to readership, comments to the posts, comments at other blogs, mentions in publications like the Chronicle and AL Direct, and any other indicator of popularity you can identify. Yet, ACRLog is no where to be found in the ranking. And yet the ranking includes blogs that you and I both know get little readership while there is no trace of blogs that have significant readership.

Am I complaining that ACRLog wasn’t ranked. Hell no. I’m writing this to tell you three things.

First, blog rankings suck. These rankings suck whether they are weekly, annual or of the “all-time favorite” variety. Second, blog rankings don’t work. I’ve yet to see a ranked list of librarian blogs that has any hint of rationality to it. Third, if your blog does get ranked somewhere please resist the urge to tell your readers about it, to inflate your ego about your role as a blogger and most of all to put the ranking site’s badge on your site – because that’s what this is really all about – getting more traffic to the ranker’s site. Isn’t it incredibly shallow to shil for some “let’s be the next YouTube” gang that really couldn’t care less about your blog? Going ga-ga over these rankings just encourages more efforts to rank blogs. If we just commit as a community to ignore them they will go away.

If you think your blog is accomplishing the goals that you set out to achieve when you started it, and if you are reaching an audience that cares about your blogging – even if it might be small – then consider it a success on your own terms. You don’t need a ranking to confirm your contributions to the library community.

Now I know other bloggers find these rankings amusing and harmless, and some even say they are a good way to discover new blogs (even though the rankings usually list the same blogs over and over again), but if this is one of the few ways this community can entertain itself and derive some sense of accomplishment, well, that’s a pretty sad commentary on the state of our self-esteem.

Here’s a suggestion. Let’s not pander to these meaningless rankings. I suggest that if we want to acknowlege our community’s bloggers who are doing really good work (high quality writing, regular postings, originality of ideas and topics, innovative suggestions, etc.) let’s all contribute to an annual listing – not numeric rankings – but a collection of ten blogs worthy of our praise. Let’s also include a collection of new blogs that came out that year that deserve more attention. And let’s do it ourselves. And let’s not just make it a popularity contest of “my favorite blogs”. Make it an accomplishment worth earning by way of recognized excellence in writing, originality and other criteria we can really respect – not just raw numbers. I think LISNews has done some sensible blog listings of this type in the past – which I commend – and I recommend that it be our sole source of liblogoverse acknowledgement for excellence in blogging. Personally, I can live without it. But if people like this sort of thing, well at least this is an approach I can support.

Oh, and don’t call them blogging awards. Don’t get me started on awards for blogging.