Archive for the ‘Writing and blogging’ Category

Blog maintenance: An update

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Three weeks ago, I noted plans to be more active on this blog–and to do some maintenance in the process.

That post garnered more non-spam feedback than I usually get.

I note “non-spam” because the level of spam comments has now risen enough that I can’t honestly pretend to scan them for wrongly-categorized comments: It’s now typically more than 100 per day, sometimes much more.

In general, people objected to my plans to get rid of “a whole bunch of posts that are outdated, and some of them really don’t have any significance any more.” I listened and tried to clarify what I had in mind, perhaps less than successfully.

And then I acted. And, with one big exception, I’m mostly done.

If you have an exceptional memory or took a snapshot of the homepage on January 24, you may note some changes in the “Categories” sidebar. There’s a new “Passé” category with relatively few posts. Another category changed names. Yet another category was merged into what should have been a parent category. There may be a couple more cases like that.

I added a new Micropublishing category for tutorials and other posts that serve as additional material for The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing.

And several categories have smaller numbers than they did on January 24.

What’s happened so far

In addition to the category changes and renaming noted above, I’ve deleted posts very selectively. Nearly all of the small number of deletions were posts that said nothing more than that Lulu was offering a short-term discount (and urging folks to buy C&I Books at the lower prices) or announcing a price change in a C&I book. I should congratulate my readership on a complete and utter disdain for sales, since none of those discount announcements seems to have resulted in even a single sale (and I’ve pretty much stopped doing them, although Lulu seems to have more short-term sales than ever).

I did not delete posts that made points I no longer agree with. I did not delete announcements for issues of C&I. I did not delete any post that, in my opinion, had any useful content, even if it was outmoded. (The new Passé category includes a few of those latter posts.)

What I’ve mostly done is to reduce multiple categorization–especially on posts that primarily announce new issues of Cites & Insights or discuss things related to C&I.

What’s left

As time and patience permit, I’m still going through the posts with Cites & Insights as a category, removing other category tags when the post announces a new issue or is primarily about the ejournal. I’m doing that chronologically (that is, oldest first), starting with page 15 of a post list for the category. I’ve done pages 15-11, and expect to do pages 10-1 over the next few days or weeks.

Update, 12:15 p.m. PDT, February 10, 2012: “the next few days or weeks” turned out to be the next two hours. This process is now complete.

I’m not deleting posts in the process. I’m only cleaning up categories.

More posts?

I think so. I tentatively plan to expand the use of Walt at Random as a precursor to Cites & Insights, just as it is now for old movies. And I hope to expand on some points here that don’t make sense in C&I. And, of course, I’m still working on (or planning to work on) possible funding for an ongoing study of public library use of social networks…and possibly book ideas.

Anyway, that’s what’s happened and what’s left. I don’t believe I’ve betrayed any archival principals. I do believe the Category sidebar will be a little more useful–and, of course, the search box and chronological navigation haven’t changed at all.

Keeping it going: Another update on library social networking et al

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

A few months back, one of the many Library Society of the World FriendFeedFolk made an idle comment about setting me up as an institution.

I trust the person didn’t actually mean that I need to be institutionalized. Let’s assume that’s the case. I hope I’m still a few decades away from being institutionalized…

While I’d certainly accept an ongoing “consultancy” or, say, Jack-of-some-trades Emeritus position, with adequate funding (let’s call it $15,000/year plus inflation, for at least four years), somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’d still like to hope that there’s a way to make a more project-oriented version of this happen–namely, the future outlined in “Prospectus: An Ongoing Public Library Social Network Scan” [which I’ve updated slightly since it was first posted, and which appears in differently-modified form in Bibs & Blather within the current Cites & Insights] and expanded in “A library is…

Over the last few days, as I’ve reviewed the full second draft of Successful Social Networking in Public Libraries and started determining how to modify it for the third (submission) draft, I’ve realized and found out some additional items that may add meat to all of this.

The IMLS Oops

I knew all along that the best source of key data for libraries in all 50 states (plus DC and some American territories) was IMLS–but last August, when I tried to download and open the latest public library statistics, I found that it wouldn’t work: The Access file wouldn’t open in Excel and the flat file was not something I could handle. (The Access file is actually three linked .mdb databases.)

Either I did something wrong back then (quite possible), something’s changed on my computer (also possible–I do have Windows Update auto-enabled), or something’s changed elsewhere in the universe, because when I tried the same thing today, it worked.

This would have been nice last August–or, better, last June before I started any of the library scans–if only because the IMLS database includes the actual names that public libraries use, which either aren’t always used in the state spreadsheets (available from most but not all states) or aren’t in columns that I found obvious. As a result, some library searches were clumsier than they needed to be, and it’s even possible that I missed a few.

So: If I did have funding to do a complete sweep for 2012 and later years, I could apparently work with the national files even without buying new software. That’s a good thing. And having the actual library names in one neat column does make life easier…

The potential side-effects

If I could get ongoing funding for this project, I could be persuaded quite easily to treat it as a form of personal sponsorship (and yes, $15,000/year plus inflation would be about right), which would mean:

  • PDFs and other electronic output directly from the studies themselves would be freely available and would carry a Creative Commons BY (attribution) license. (If there are spreadsheets, they’d carry a CC0 license, although that’s silly since data is fundamentally not copyrightable anyway.)
  • I would retroactively change the Creative Commons license for Cites & Insights and Walt at Random from CC BY-NC to CC BY–that is, “use it as you will, as long as you give me credit.”
  • I would treat all of my books for which I have full control as carrying a Founder’s License: That is, I’d dedicate them to the public domain after 14 years. That would include all my books before Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality–which is more than 14 years old, but I’m not in a position to make it public domain. (When Being Analog turns 14, in another year, I’d ask ALA Editions whether it’s out of print and thus has control return to me. If so, I’d make it public domain.)

So there’s an amplification. Any takers?



Watch this space (and a question)

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

I believe I’ll be a bit more active on this blog in the coming weeks and, especially, months.

As part of that activity, I want to do some cleanup of existing posts and categories, in order to make the categories a little more useful. (I also plan to add a new category or two.)

There are a whole bunch of posts that are outdated, and some of them really don’t have any significance any more. I could do two things with those posts:

  1. Get rid of them.
  2. Eliminate existing categories and categorize them as something like “Archived crap”

Your suggestions or other alternatives are welcome (as long as they’re not spam).



Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Until October 2011, deadlines were important to my non-work life–deadlines, that is, in addition to the usual deadlines (such as taxes, payments…).

I specify non-work in the sense of “not part of your salaried day job,” since I’m not really thinking about all those deadlines. You could make the case that anything with a deadline is, in some way, work, but let’s not go there.

For me, overlapping and multiple deadlines were important enough that I’ve kept a printed Current Schedule spreadsheet, covering 108 days from when the current one is printed, for probably more than a decade now.

Why 108 days? At the row height I used in Excel, from the beginning of the page, 54 rows plus a heading row fit nicely on a single sheet, and the sheet is two date-columns wide. Five columns in all–two each of dates and projects, one of actual deadlines.

The spreadsheet was good because it kept me on track, and because crossing things off is always satisfying. I would usually allocate five days for a column, seven days for Cites & Insights, and so on–and would have bolded “finish point” dates that were usually a little ahead of the actual hard deadline over in the rightmost column. Soft deadlines (e.g., books, which typically have deadlines at least six months out, and articles without firm commitments, where the deadline’s purely internal) had working days scattered throughout the available time–and I made sure there were “Slack” days as well as, of course, travel days.

I still keep the current schedule, but now it’s a little odd. I have one fairly firm deadline, for a book–and that one’s still more than three months out.

Laziness, Procrastination and Deadlines

I consider myself fairly lazy (but also, at times, fairly efficient). I’m a whiz at procrastination. And deadlines in the form of a printed schedule (if you want to call me a Luddite, that’s your call) helped. A lot.

True confession: This post is at least partly procrastination. I finished the expanded research for my libraries-in-social-networks book Tuesday, took a day off Wednesday before starting on the new metrics and wholly revised manuscript–and find that I’m not quite ready to get going yet. Maybe tomorrow. In the meantime, there’s LSW/FF, video poker, reading…and this post. Well, OK, I did prepare two initial derivative spreadsheets (one as a “self-benchmark,” representing the 40-odd libraries where people sent me comments and clearly thought their social network presences were successful, the other combining Fall 2011 checks of 5,961 public libraries in 38 states, not including the 17 libraries where I received direct comments but the libraries aren’t within those 38 states), but that’s a pretty small start.

Here’s the thing: Most editors would say I’m absurdly good at deadlines–typically a month ahead for most monthly and bimonthly columns. I’ve missed precisely one deadline since I started doing scheduled writing, and I told the editor about that as soon as it was obvious I’d miss the deadline (I was a week late).

I figure I always kept ahead of deadlines because, for several years, I had so many of them that I figured that if I missed one, the whole string would come down like a row of dominoes.

How long have I been dealing with publication deadlines? I’ll leave out books, since those deadlines are both longer and softer. I’ll also leave out articles, since most of those didn’t have prescribed deadlines. Otherwise, here’s what I find:


That’s when I started doing the “Common Sense Personal Computing” articles in Library Hi Tech–quarterly deadlines, but deadlines nonetheless.



  • Library Hi Tech (four issues)
  • LITA Newsletter (two issues)–I started editing the LITA Newsletter halfway through 1985. Initially, this was a complex set of editorial deadlines (gathering material, editing material, preparing layout, sending off to ALA for typesetting, checking proofs) driven by the desire to have late writing deadlines and the need to meet external production deadlines.



  • Library Hi Tech–four issues each year (although one or two were combined issues or special issues that skipped the article)
  • LITA Newsletter–four issues each year. In mid-1986, this changed from traditional ALA typesetting, layout and production to desktop publishing, primarily so that I could increase the page count without increasing the budget. That change also resulted in different (not looser!) deadlines, and added to the workflow.



  • Library Hi Tech–Four issues, but the running title was now “Trailing Edge,” as I gave up on finding common sense in personal computing. (Or, really, wanted a broader topic range.)
  • LITA Newsletter–Four issues
  • Information Standards Quarterly–I was the founding editor of NISO’s new quarterly. It came out–guess what?–four times a year. There was an Editor’s Notebook in each issue, but most of the work was trying to get copy, rewrite it, and prepare the layout (initially desktop-published).


Quarterly (more or less)

  • Library Hi Tech–still “Trailing Edge”
  • LITA Newsletter
  • Information Standards Quarterly — I gave this up after Volume 3.
  • Public-Access Computer Systems Review–“Public-Access Provocations.” PACS Review, one of the earliest Open Access publications in librarianship, wasn’t necessarily quarterly, and my column didn’t necessarily appear in each issue, but I did have three columns in 1990 and two in 1991, as well as an Afterword for the 1990 volume when I prepared the paperback version of that year’s issues (published by LITA in 1992).


Quarterly (more or less)

  • LITA Newsletter. I was editing and producing this throughout this period–and for the last two issues in 1992 and first two in 1993, I wrote “From the LITA President” as well as the editorial (skipped in one issue). 1992 also saw the first and last LITA Yearbook, a 122-page paperback published as a supplement to the LITA Newsletter (I’d gotten really good at stretching a budget!) and essentially providing expanded coverage of LITA activities at the 1992 Annual Conference. This was part of the LITA25 celebration (for LITA’s first quarter century, although it was ISAD for the first part of that quarter-century). Around the same time, I also did the layout and desktop publishing for two paperback versions of LITA Presidents’ Programs (not my own)–Citizen Rights and Access to Electronic Information, the 1991 LITA President’s Program, and Thinking Robots, an Aware Internet, and Cyberpunk Librarians, the 1992 LITA President’s Program. I had a lot of LITA-related deadlines in 1992…
  • Library Hi Tech–still doing “Trailing Edge,” but adding “Looking Back” articles in some issues. Between the two of them, three in 1992, six in 1993, five in 1994.
  • Public-Access Computer Systems Review–two “Public-Access Provocations” pieces in 1992, two in 1993 (and one article), three in 1994.

I also prepared the paperback annual versions of PACS Review for LITA for 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994; after Volume 5, the series ended (although the journal limped along a little longer). My tenure as LITA Newsletter editor also ended at the end of 1994–and the publication returned to much briefer issues, traditionally typeset, eventually being converted to electronic form and shortly after that disappearing entirely. It is with sadness as much as pride that I note that I was editor of LITA Newsletter for most of its life.


Quarterly (more or less)

  • Library Hi Tech–“Trailing Edge,” one article per issue.

More Frequent

  • Library Hi Tech News–“Trailing Edge Notes,” a new five-page section in this more-or-less-monthly (10 issues a year), but it began in March; there were nine five-page editions (I prepared the print masters using desktop publishing), always the last five pages of each issue.
  • CD-ROM Professional–“CD-ROM Amateur,” a column in alternate issues of this 11x/year magazine, beginning in July: three columns in 1995.
  • ONLINE--At this point, these were articles for this bimonthly (that is, six issues per year) magazine, not a column; four of them in 1995.



  • Library Hi Tech–two “Trailing Edge” and two “Comp Lit” columns–oddly enough.

More Frequent

  • Library Hi Tech News–ten “Trailing Edge Notes,” one per issue, still five pages, still the trailing edge of each issue.
  • CD-ROM Professional–six “CD-ROM Amateur” articles, one in each odd-numbered issue.
  • ONLINE–still articles, not a column, four during 1996.



  • Library Hi Tech–this year saw two double issues, each of which had both a “Comp Lit” and a “Trailing Edge” article.

More Frequent

  • Library Hi Tech News–the last year of “Trailing Edge Notes,” appearing in all 10 issues but growing to 8 pages starting in May 1997. It also lost its secure end-of-issue slot earlier in the year.
  • ONLINE–four articles, all PC-related.
  • Database–“CD-ROM Corner,” replacing the earlier “CD-ROM Amateur,” appearing in each issue of this six-times-a-year magazine.


Ah, the heck with it, let’s just list them all…

  • Library Hi Tech–the two last installments of “Trailing Edge,” boiling down to “It’s Just a Tool: Fifteen Years of Personal Computing.” Also one “Comp Lit.”
  • Library Hi Tech News–still in each of ten issues, but now as “Crawford’s Corner” rather than “Trailing Edge Notes”; grew again from eight to ten pages mid-year.
  • Database–“CD-ROM Corner,” once in each bimonthly issue.
  • Online–four articles, still technically not a named column.


  • Library Hi Tech News–“Crawford’s Corner” in each of ten 1999 issues and each of ten 2000 issues.
  • EContent and Database–the publication changed name in 1999 (you wondered what happened to Database?) and frequency in 2001. I had six “CD-ROM Corner” editions in 1999, continuing from the old magazine to the new, and six in 2000, ending with “Leaving the Corner.”
  • ONLINE–after two standalone articles in early 199, I took over the “PC Monitor” column later in the year, with two columns in 1999 and three in 2000.
  • American Libraries–not a column, not yet, but I had four articles published in 1999 and four more in 2000.
  • Oh yes: There was this December 2000 thing called Cites & Insights


  • EContent–the name changed to “disContent” and the magazine’s frequency changed to something like 10 or 11 issues per year. Ten “disContent” columns appeared in 2001.
  • Online–three “PC Monitor” columns
  • American Libraries–six articles, three of them with a running title (“The E-Files”)
  • Cites & Insights–13 issues.


The high water mark, and possibly the point at which more people felt they’d read enough from this guy Crawford. (The high-water mark for speaking was 1992-2001, starting to decline in 2002 before the precipitous fall in 2005.)

  • EContent–Twelve “disContent” columns in 2002, eleven in 2003, ten in 2004 (always one per issue)
  • Online–Three “PC Monitor” columns each in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
  • American Libraries–“The Crawford Files” began in January 2002 and appeared eleven times in 2002, eleven more in 2003, and ten in 2004.
  • Cites & Insights–Fifteen issues in 2002, 14 in 2003, 14 in 2004.


  • EContent–ten “disContent” columns in 2005, moving to alternate issues in 2006 (five columns).
  • Online–Three “PC Monitor” columns in 2005, four in 2006
  • Cites & Insights–14 issues in 2005, 14 in 2006.

I decided “PC Monitor” had run its course by the end of 2006. (American Libraries decided that “The Crawford Files” had run its course in 2004…)


  • EContent–five “disContent” columns.
  • Cites & Insights–13 issues.


  • EContent–five “disContent” columns in 2008 and the last five in 2009.
  • Online–a new column, “Crawford at Large,” appeared six times in 2008 six more in 2009.
  • Cites & Insights–12 issues in 2008, 13 in 2009.


  • Online–Six “Crawford at Large” columns in 2010 and the final half dozen in 2011. One article will appear in early 2012.
  • Cites & Insights–12 issues in 2010, nine plus a one-sheet “special” in 2011.

And that’s it. I don’t see any outside columns on the horizon (although I’m open to suggestions). C&I is on hiatus, and I don’t see a regular schedule re-emerging for a while. After the next book deadline? Well, that’s an open question…

Hmm. At the very least, I’ve procrastinated away the afternoon or most of it. I’ll start on serious work for the book tomorrow. Maybe.










Dear [some city] weight loss

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Here’s a special salute to your team of spammers, who seem to be managing to get two or three pieces of garbage comment, there only to tout your brand and links, past me every day…until I see them and moderate them back off.

The salute’s missing a few fingers, of course, but I trust you’ll take it in the spirit in which its intended. No, I won’t even name the city; it’s not my favorite, but it deserves better than you’re giving.

May your business shrivel and die.

Update 12/19: Based on two dozen or so spamments cleared this morning, starting with one from the “weight loss” troll but continuing with all different names but similar IP addresses (similar, but not identical), I assume that the troll is trying to punish me.

If this continues, the effect might be for me to disable comments entirely on most posts, relying on email for comments. Not sure how that helps the troll, although it surely hurts what readers I have left. Or maybe the troll just wants this blog gone? Could happen…

If you’ve written a real comment…

Monday, November 28th, 2011

…on one of my posts (especially one where I’m asking a question), and it doesn’t show up on the site, please send me email (waltcrawford at gmail dot com) noting the situation.

I used to check every comment caught by Spam Karma 2. Unfortunately, there are now so many of these–typically 60 to 100 per day, sometimes more–that I just don’t feel I can spare the time.

I just did rescue a comment caught in the spam bucket, but only because I’d just flagged another new comment as spam, just half an hour after doing the daily spam-removal routine.


Spam or legitimate promotion?

Monday, November 14th, 2011

As I’m scanning public library websites and looking at Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, I’m finding a growing number of occurrences of a message.

The same message, on each page. I’ve seen it already half a dozen times this morning, and probably at least two dozen over the past few days. Currently, I’m seeing it in Wisconsin libraries, but that’s because those are the libraries I’m looking at–there is nothing in the message specific to Wisconsin, as far as I can tell.


Without quoting the message directly, it’s a pitch for a new book, posted by the author; the book is related to the Human Genome Project, supposedly in plain language, and published by Xlibris (a PoD house that charges several hundred to several thousand dollars in advance, making it a vanity press by my standards).

The message is identical on every Facebook wall. It’s either attached as a comment on some library post (none of which have anything to do with the HGP) or offered as a standalone comment, presumably on pages where that’s easy to do.

I’m doing this post for two reasons–and will link to it in a message on Publib and Web4lib for both reasons:

  1. If you’re an administrator for a public library Facebook page and you see this message and wonder what it’s all about: You’re not alone. It’s popping up all over the place. It’s not specific to your library, although I suppose it’s indirectly arguing that you should buy the book. If you choose to treat it as spam and delete it, you’re probably making a sensible choice. (By the way, for libraries whose Facebook pages are largely inactive: Do you check them once in a while to delete the make-big-money-at-home spam that pops up on such pages?)
  2. A tiny little part of me wonders whether what this author is doing could be considered legitimate self-promotion? That tiny little part notes that I’ll have a book–from Information Today, Inc., definitely not self-published–out early in 2012 that is directly relevant to every public library and its relations with its community. Should I be posting a notice about that book to every public library Facebook page? Even more interesting: The reason I’m looking at all these Facebook pages is the other book I’m working on, which should be out later in 2012 from ALA Editions–and I suppose you could make the case that it would be directly relevant for me to post something on each and every public library Facebook page (that I’m aware of) about the book. After all, the Facebook pages are the major basis for the study, and the book will allow libraries to see how their Facebook page compares to their peers.

Don’t worry: I have no intention of doing either one. It strikes me as inappropriate and maybe a little unsavory. But I’ve always been a terrible self-promoter, and maybe I’m wrong here. What do you think?

Relevance and reward, 2

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Has it really been that long since “Relevance and reward, 1“? Apparently so. How time flies…

Progress report 1: From Abbott Memorial Library to Woodbury Community Library, I’ve swept through Vermont–another state I’ve never visited but feel as though I know better than I did a few days ago. No large public libraries at all, not even one serving 40,000 or more…

Next up: Wisconsin, and that’s gonna take a while–381 libraries, more than any state I’ve done so far, and a warmup for the final two (if I do them), Pennsylvania’s 453 libraries and Texas’ 561.

As for the rest of the book: Done with the draft of Chapter 6, the penultimate chapter before the second geographical chunk and the four-month followup. Also getting much better title suggestions from ALA Editions.

The first part of this post was about my writing and where it makes sense to spend time and energy–the need for some relevance and possibly other rewards.

As part of that post, I noted that my speaking invitations have dried up, as have my print columns. It’s quite possible that there will be some speaking invitations in the future related to the books I’m doing now, particularly the micropublishing book. But otherwise, I think both of those areas require a different kind of whine:

Younger and more involved voices should be doing these things

Maybe that’s all I need to say. But, being Walt Crawford, I’ll drone on with an expansion.

If I get invited to speak on community micropublishing, or for that matter on public library use of social networks, it will be because of books–and not me-too books. Nobody’s done what I’ve done with micropublishing and library involvement. Nobody’s done as broad a study of actual public library use of social networks as I’m doing. In those areas, I have unique things to offer–at least for a while.

In other areas, not so much.

And, frankly, if a conference planning committee wants a speaker on most library-related topics where I could do a bang-up job, I’m fairly certain that there are real librarians actually working in the field (in libraries!) who are younger than I am, have spoken less often than I have, and would do a better job.

They’re the ones who should be speaking. The field needs to hear from a range of voices, including those who aren’t On The Speaking Tour, those who don’t seem to pop up at every conference. And the field needs to hear real experiences and arguments based on real library experience, not just theory and broad assumptions based on narrow evidence.

And, in general, to the extent that there are still columns in library-related magazines, they’re the ones who should be writing them. Ideally, for a few years–then stopping (or moving to a different outlet) and letting someone else take over.

Hi, Brian Mathews (with one t). Congratulations. You did good.

I love state and regional library conferences–with almost no exceptions, I’ve enjoyed speaking at them and attending them (I habitually went to the whole conference and as many programs and events as made sense). Ontario, Texas, Washington, North Carolina, Alaska, Kentucky, Florida, Wisconsin, Colorado, Connecticut, New England, Michigan, New York, Victoria (Australia), Minnesota, Ohio (ALAO), Maryland, British Columbia, Georgia (COMO), Arizona, Tennessee, Nevada–all great. (Well, Nevada was difficult, but that had everything to do with health and nothing to do with the conference.) Also a bunch of conferences at different levels…military, marine sciences, New York regional groups, AALL, Music Library Association (I’d say MLA but there are so many MLAs…), AMIGOS, Harvard College, University Circle, NCCIHE…and more.

And I’m not angling for invitations back to any of them or to the states I haven’t visited–unless they want to hear about these current projects. For pretty much all the topics I’ve addressed in the past, I believe they’re better off with other voices…more relevant voices, especially those who can use the professional rewards.

So, apparently, do they.

That’s a good thing.

Progress report 2: Cites & Insights is still dead in the water. It’s not formally on hiatus yet; it’s not actually gone. There may yet be a November/December issue. Or maybe not. And, based on reactions to date, it appears that it really doesn’t matter to much of anyone. Which may also be OK.

Not as wordy as last time, at least. Now, on to Abbotsford and a bunch of other Wisconsin libraries…


Relevance and reward, 1

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

For many years, I said “I’ll keep writing as long as people keep reading what I write.”

That may be a bad formulation. Here’s a better one:

I’ll keep writing (in a particular area, in a particular manner) as long as it continues to be relevant and rewarding.

“People keep reading what I write” is one measure of relevance and reward, to be sure, but it may not be one that works very well at this point. It worked fine when I earned my living doing something else that was both relevant and (usually, and always financially) rewarding. It worked great when the combined package of paid columns and articles, paid speaking invitations, citations and discussions based on what I was writing, and other linked measures made it clear that my writing (and speaking) was relevant to a reasonably large group of library folk.

Now? I’m wondering.


I hadn’t thought about it explicitly, but when I lost my full-time position, I was as much concerned about remaining relevant as I was about financial rewards.

At that point, Cites & Insights still seemed pretty clearly relevant to a fair number of people (based on feedback and the extent to which items were cited elsewhere). While speaking invitations were on the decline, there were still some of them–and I still had two paid columns in print magazines.

And I was offered a part-time position that, while never well paid, yielded results I considered highly relevant and valuable to the field, doing something I thought I could do exceptionally well. So, all in all, I was happy enough with relevance, and there were enough rewards overall to keep me reasonably happy.


The last 18 months or so have been a little more difficult. The part-time position went away and, in the process, the work I’d done was scrapped entirely, as though it was of no importance to anybody.

Look: My day job was library systems analysis, design and programming for five decades. I knew that very little I did would survive long after I left. I doubt that any of the code I wrote anywhere is still being used; I’m not sure much of the design work survives in any fashion. That’s OK–it comes with the territory. Abruptly deciding to deep-six an entire interlinked body of professional literature with no real warning, two or three months after updating of that body has ended: That’s something different.

Cites & Insights has always been a little tricky. It was sponsored for several years (continued thanks to YBP!); it was clearly being quoted and cited for several years. Apparent readership (based on Urchin statistical reports) was strong, and each issue or essay continued to gain readers over time.

Meanwhile…well, speaking invitations dried up completely. (That might change–given at least one of the books that’s coming out, I hope it will.) The “freemium” model wasn’t working: C&I wasn’t yielding speaking invitations and attempts to produce something special for a fee were essentially useless. (Four copies of the hardcopy limited edition sold. Four.) And, while the numbers still seem reasonably strong, I’m not seeing much of any secondary recognition–not much sign that C&I is part of the ongoing professional conversations. And, of course, there’s essentially no revenue (I believe donations this year total two digits before the decimal point).

I tried something mildly interesting in producing the Library 2.0 Reader for a PDF and hardcopy price that yielded a nominal $4 in revenue–and adding a slight speedbump to the original C&I issues, both of which were still being downloaded–apparently–hundreds of times each month. The speedbump, a substitute PDF, suggested buying the book, but also gave the very brief URL for the continued free copy.

That’s been extremely discouraging. Not only has the Reader barely sold at all–five copies in June 2011, two in July 2011, zero copies (also true for all C&I books) in August, September, and so far October 2011–but Urchin statistics show that, while there have been 783 downloads of the stub issue since July 1, there have been only 16 PDF downloads of the new version of the original essay and 7 or fewer of the more recent ones. HTML hasn’t done much better: 17 of the original, 13 of the followup, 11 of the more recent essay. In essence, not only won’t people pay a nominal sum for these essays, all but a handful aren’t even ready to copy-and-paste a URL. I can only assume that, for 90+% of the downloads/clicks on the PDF, there’s no real relevance there.

Oh…and my print magazine columns dried up, one at the end of 2009, the other at the end of this year. In both cases, I think the editor’s decision was right: The column had run or has run its course.

I’ve said most of this before

True enough, including the Bibs & Blather in the August 2011 C&I. There I talked about relative priority of various projects, with C&I going back to a lower priority level.

I also said “It’s still here. I’m still here” and that C&I was likely to continue, “Possibly with less regularity. Probably with less intensity.” I said I was nearly certain to reach issue 144 (one somewhat natural stopping point, a gross of issues) and better than 95% likely to reach issue 150. (I also made some changes and, I believe, improvements in the layout and in the HTML versions. For what those changes are worth…)

C&I has reached issue 144: the current issue, dated October 2011. It actually appeared on September 17, 2011; that’s on the late side for relation of actual appearance to issue date, but not by much.

What’s changed?

Maybe nothing. On the other hand, it’s now October 19, and not only isn’t a November issue imminent, I haven’t written anything toward such an issue.

Something curious happened toward the end of last week and early this week. I turned around a second round copyediting draft of The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing, the book (to be published by Information Today, Inc.) that I regard as something every public library would benefit from–and yes, “every” does include some very small libraries–and possibly the most important and relevant book I’ve ever written in the field, up to and including MARC for Library Use, although it’s a very different kind of relevance. I won’t be doing anything on that book for at least another week and a half, and remaining steps are quite small…

Meanwhile, work’s well begun on my 2012 book for ALA Editions, on public libraries’ use of social networks. I’d completed the first pass survey of libraries in25 states. As of the end of last week, I was about a third of the way through the draft of the book itself.

It would have been a perfect time to turn some attention to Cites & Insights, printing lead sheets for an essay and starting work on the actual writing during breaks in working on the new book.

Instead, I decided to expand the social network project: Building a new spreadsheet with public libraries in another 13 states (all the remaining states with readily-available spreadsheets of library names and service areas), some 3,600 of them, and starting a slightly more efficient survey of social network use in those libraries. That, combined with an already-planned “quarter later” rescan of the original 25 states (which may now become a four-months-later rescan), pretty much takes up library-related energy, one reason there have been so few posts.

Where does that leave Cites & Insights?

Caught in relevance-and-reward limbo, at least for now.

I  know Open Access: What You Need to Know Now is and should be relevant, even if it’s gotten a lot less attention than I was hoping.

I know The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing is relevant and should be rewarding.

I know Libraries on Social Networks (working title) will be relevant and, I hope, rewarding.

Doing the substantial amount of additional research for that project will add slightly to its value. “Slightly” is probably the operative term. And yet, when faced with the choice of working on that slow, slogging, slow process or working on C&I essays, I chose the research.

Is C&I defunct? No, at least not yet. Is it on indefinite hiatus? I honestly don’t know at this point. (You could put that another way: Will there be a November/December 2011 issue? Damned if I know…)

Could this change? Of course. But for now, that’s where things stand. Or sit.

Relevance matters. So do rewards, of which relevance itself is an important (but not the only) one.




Social networks: Progress report

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

A mere 16 days ago, I posted “Still around, not posting much,” noting what I was doing rather than blogging–namely “Phase 1.5” of the research for my book on public libraries in social networks.

I aimed to finish phase 1.5–cleaning up the saved tweets and wall updates and characterizing them–while I was still 65. At that point, I thought I’d be ready to do a quick pass for “extra” libraries (libraries where someone sent me comments for the book, where the library isn’t in one of the 25 surveyed states) and start preparing metrics and actually working on the book. Somewhere in there, I’d also do a hardnosed edit on already-written material for the October 2011 Cites & Insights and probably publish it.

Yes and no

Yes, I did finish Phase 1.5 by September 14, 2011, the day I turned 66.

No, I wasn’t ready to start preparing metrics and actually working on the book (that is, start writing text).

What happened in the middle: One of those who sent me info was Susan Mark, Statistics Librarian at the Wyoming State Library. Wyoming has very few reporting library agencies, and Mark had a list of those with Facebook pages. It’s one of the 25 states.

And my list didn’t match hers. Not even close.

So, after some digging around, I found that the problem was libraries with no obvious Facebook link on their websites (or at least on the home pages), and where the Facebook page itself didn’t show up high enough in a Bing search result (I was checking 15 or 20 pages). By using my brain and Ctrl-f (and Google, although I don’t think that made the big difference), I was able to check the first 100 results…and add in the missing libraries.

While it would be perfectly reasonable to focus on Twitter and Facebook uses that are linked from library home pages, I knew that I already had a fair number that weren’t–and thought it might be worthwhile seeing how many more I was missing. I took the first 100 (of 1,500+) remaining libraries and retested–just searching on Google and looking for a Facebook page in the first 100 results–figuring that if I found 5 or fewer, I’d just let it be.

I didn’t find 5 or fewer.

So I’ve now retested all 1,500+ libraries. Since I already knew these didn’t have obvious FB links on the home pages, I just worked with Google and the browser’s Find function. (There are so many fewer Twitter accounts, and they’re so much harder to find, that I didn’t bother.)

The results? Instead of 841 sets of Facebook updates and 370 sets of tweets (336 with both), I now have 1,158 set of Facebook updates, 381 sets of tweets (the extras mostly coming from the 19 “extra” libraries)–and 346 with both.

I just finished cleaning up and characterizing those updates and tweets this morning. So I’m now roughly where I expected to be last Wednesday—but with a whole bunch more libraries involved and some interesting new data.

By the way, it’s still true that, as far as I can determine, most public libraries (in the half of the country I tested) do not have either general-purpose Facebook or Twitter accounts (excluding teen departments), but “most” is a narrow figure: 1,231 libraries didn’t show either one, while 1,194 showed one or the other. (That number includes the Extra 19, all of which have one or the other–it would be 1,212 to 1,175 otherwise.)

You will find pages on Facebook for most public libraries, but hundreds of those pages are “community pages” that were neither created by the library nor have anything to do with them.

How many libraries are active on Facebook or Twitter? That depends on your definition of “active.” I’ll get into that more in the book and possibly in posts later on (or even in Cites & Insights if there’s too much blather to include in a relatively short book that’s mostly about what libraries do well).. Just to offer two data points:

  • 86 of the libraries with Facebook accounts (having at least one Like and at least one post–I didn’t include accounts that don’t meet those fairly minimal criteria) have averaged less than one post per month. Notably, 66 of those 86 lack obvious FB links on the library websites; I’m guessing most of them are fully abandoned. Another 75 have averaged less than two posts per month, but for a very small library that may be entirely appropriate…
  • 108 libraries have fewer than one Like per 1,000 residents.

Now on to metrics and some writing…noting that I’ll be doing a second research pass roughly one quarter after the first one (within a day or two either way), adding more new accounts and updating other figures. For Twitter, that means I can get reasonably accurate rates of activity–and for both, I’ll include a “freshness” measure for the most recent update or tweet, so that I can offer a reasonably sound basis for “active” or not.

In passing, I’ll note that marking up the updates has left me even more admiring the extent to which many very small public libraries serve their communities well with minimal resources. I always had such admiration, but it’s stronger. (It’s also a little remote: I’ve never lived in a town with a public library/system serving fewer than 50,000 people.)

So: Lots more blogging? Probably not. Did the C&I receive the intense editorial scrutiny I’d planned? Well…you be the judge.