Archive for August, 2007

Cites & Insights 7:10 available

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Cites & Insights 7:10, September 2007, is now available for downloading.

The 26-page issue, PDF as usual with most essays also available in HTML form, includes:

  • Bibs & Blather – A new book is on its way, Public Library Blogs: 252 examples.
  • Making it Work – Successes and failures in changing libraries
  • Following Up and Feedback – Extending the conversation for eight or nine previous essays, including substantial new sections adding to “On the Literature” and “On Authority, Worth and Linkbaiting.”
  • Net Media: Wikipedia and Other Wiki Notes
  • Trends & Quick Takes – Four trends (including notes on Second Life) and seven quicker takes
  • Interesting & Peculiar Products – Two products and seven editors’ choice/roundup notes.
  • My Back Pages – six mini-rants.

Quick update on several statuses

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Just thought I’d touch base, in case anyone’s interested:

  • Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples – The book and cover are done and uploaded at both Lulu and CreateSpace, with proof copies ordered from both sources. I could hold the next C&I until I see and approve proof copies, but probably won’t–maybe. Best guess: It will be about 2 weeks before the book’s available. The final book is 299 pages (289 + x). My wife (whose photography provides the cover once again) finds my choice of cover photo a little ironic for a book about blogs…but you’ll see when it’s ready. Price: $29.50.
  • Cites & InsightsI have a handful of items to add to the first Followup and Feedback section in many moons (since February, actually), and a few items to add to Trends & Quick Takes–and, probably, a Bibs & Blather to write. After that–which may take a while, because of other needs for my PC this weekend–it’s a matter of editing, combining, copyfitting. Best guess: midweek (say 8/21-8/23). On the other hand, if the proof copies show up early, I could revamp the whole thing and it might take longer…
  • The CreateSpace/Amazon experiment – The proof copy of Balanced Libraries–no textual changes, but I’ve scrapped the “continue the conversation” last page and back-of-title “comments” section and provided a different edition date–is also on the way. If it looks good, I’ll go live…but Lulu will continue to be first choice, at least for now.
  • Pricing for Balanced Libraries – When/if it goes live on Amazon, it will be $29.50. I’d originally said that the price at Lulu will increase sometime between 9/14 and 10/1. Given the enormous increase in sales since that announcement (I don’t use emoticons, but I think I can count those sales on one hand), I’ll probably reprice the book on Lulu at the same time–to $29.50, of course.
  • The search for ongoing revenue sources / employment / sponsorship – Still nothing to report. Still interested in talking to people about possible situations. Still not looking to replace the whole of my current income, in case that (and possible misapprehensions about my current income!) is holding anyone back.

The next C&I–that is, the one after the September issue I’m working on now–will be the final one while I have a steady job, at least as things stand now. So far, I’ve mostly kept “job search/sponsorship search” issues out of C&I. That may change. Or, of course, something could develop between now and then.

Oh, and for a few who are interested:

  • The academic library blog book – I’ll probably start working on it shortly after wrapping up the September C&I, and have absolutely no target for completion. Come October, I might also start working on yet another project that involves blogs–but there’s no point talking about that one just yet.

CreateSpace/Amazon: Another experiment

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

NOTE: This post was not designed to be a tutorial or forum on self-publishing and PoD. Please see the new section at the end of the post.

If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you’ll know that I published Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change via–a publish-on-demand operation with no upfront costs and a coherent model.

If you go through some of the posts under the “C&I Books” category, and for that matter an essay in C&I, you’ll know that I’m happy with Lulu. They do what they say they do, they offer good help, and the book quality is first-rate, including an excellent cream book paper stock for the trade (6×9″) paperbacks I’m doing.

But that book is only available via Lulu and has no ISBN, for reasons I explained earlier.

CreateSpace has been around for a while as a publish-on-demand CD and DVD operation, with some upfront costs (typical of most PoD providers). I don’t know whether Amazon created it or purchased it, but it’s part of the Amazon group now.

Recently, CreateSpace added books to its repertoire–and eliminated the upfront. The book process involves assigning a CreateSpace ISBN as soon as you’ve established a book project (at no charge), and includes sales at (only the U.S. site) as well as your own e-store, unless you say you don’t want it available via Amazon.

Well, I thought, that’s intriguing. I went through the material as carefully as possible looking for gotchas. No gotcha on copyright or exclusivity–CreateSpace assumes I hold copyright and doesn’t require exclusivity. No apparent gotchas on hidden costs–I’m forced to buy a proof copy (at production cost), but I can’t imagine releasing a book for sale without a proof copy anyway.

Two semi-gotchas, but they’re both quite up front:

  1. The book paper is bright white (presumably 50 pound), not the lovely Lulu book stock. (Note that if you do get an ISBN for a Lulu book and offer it through Ingram, all copies not purchased at Lulu are also 50 pound white, not 60 pound cream.)
  2. CreateSpace takes more of the sale price than Lulu does–a little more for estore sales (unless it’s a thin book and you’re not expecting any profits), considerably more for sales. But the deal is still a whole lot better than Lulu’s Ingram/ISBN package.

And, you know, I can’t help but wonder whether availability on Amazon and having an ISBN might not yield some additional sales…

So I’m trying it out. Lulu will still be my primary outlet (I do love that cream paper, and I get the best per-copy proceeds for a given list price), but I’ve just submitted the Balanced Libraries PDFs (interior and cover) to CreateSpace. Once they’re approved, I’ll order the proof copy. If all goes well, I should be able to announce additional outlets (that is, for the book in early September–and if that happens, I’ll also publish future PoD books in both places.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Update May 8, 2008: This post relates only to my own experiments in PoD self-publishing–not to the field in general or to extended discussions of CreateSpace or Lulu policies.

I’m closing comments on this post as of today for that reason. Anyone who’s interested in how the experiments are working out can click on appropriate categories–in particular “C&I Books”–to follow the story, albeit in reverse chronological order. Longer and more coherent discussions have appeared (and will appear) in Cites & Insights, in particular the essay beginning on page 23 of the April 2007 issue and the first two pages of the May 2008 issue..

It’s worth noting that I’m familiar with (specialized) traditional publishing, to the tune of twelve books. I believe in traditional publishing. I was (and am) trying something a little different here. I’m not happy with the tendency to conflate vanity publishing and self publishing, but that’s a whole different can of worms.

Good blogs, bad blogs

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Fifteen or so public librarians were probably surprised yesterday or today to get email from someone they’ve never heard of*, just asking them to provide their service area population, and noting that it was for a book about public library blogs–including at least one blog from their library.

I believe that everyone I asked responded within half a day. That’s nice. It means they didn’t treat the email as spam or some kind of nonsense request. It’s not a difficult question for any public library to answer, so I didn’t expect it would take much work.

Several of them commented. Some wanted to know when the book will be out (I now plan to send email to all 196 libraries when it does come out, or at least all those I can find email contacts for). Some were intrigued.

Two had questions that surprised me, and encouraged me to write this semi-philosophical post (that could even turn into a C&I essay at some point, but probably not). Paraphrasing, the questions were:

  • Are you using our blog as a good example or a bad example?
  • Do you say positive or negative things about our blog?

I answered both, to be sure–in the first case saying “I wasn’t looking for bad examples, and I’m not sure how someone outside a library and its community could determine that a blog is a bad blog” and in the second “I wasn’t out to criticize any blog, although I do note unusual template choices–and in general I’m descriptive rather than either praising or criticizing.”

Those answers (also paraphrased) are correct. But the questions are interesting, particularly since both blogs involved appear to be doing just fine. So, herewith, a few comments about good blogs and bad blogs–in this case, limiting myself to “official library blogs.” (The rules, if there are any, are different for personal blogs, and I’ve certainly seem personal blogs that I consider “bad” as in “generally destructive.”)

What’s a good library blog?

That’s easy (I believe). Any library blog that serves the library and its community is a good library blog.

You’ll find remarkable diversity among the 252 blogs in the forthcoming Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples (I could give you a link, but for now it would only show Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change.)

My sense is that most of the blogs probably are serving their communities. Maybe not huge chunks of the communities in some cases, but blogs aren’t huge overhead either (at least most of them shouldn’t be).

What’s a bad library blog?

Short version: A blog that nobody in the community has any use for and that the librarians or other staff find painful to update.

Even then, that’s not so much bad as pointless and a waste of time.

You could imagine categories of library blogs that would be bad, but these are all strawblogs:

  • A library blog that tears down its own library as being worthless, doomed, whatever.
  • A library blog that makes fun of patrons or humiliates them.
  • A library blog that states an explicit mission and leaves that mission wildly unfulfilled–e.g., “We’ll provide weekly updates on new activities” as part of the banner on a blog that gets updated once every other month.

I haven’t seen any blogs that fit those categories. I’d be very surprised to see any such blogs.

Yes, there are library blogs that get updated less often as time goes on. Sure, lots of library blogs die after a while. That doesn’t make them bad. It might or might not make them failures: that’s for the library and its community to say.

A group of soon-to-be-former colleagues at OCLC use “It’s all good” for their blog. From what I can see of the public library blogs included in the book, and certainly given my intent in putting the book together, I think that phrase applies here as well.

As for being critical: Well, I do run metrics, but those are descriptive, not prescriptive. I do include a sample post (except in a few cases where it would be meaningless), but I selected an interesting post or a “typical” post, certainly not one that would make a blog look bad. When I describe the blog template/interface, it’s to note unusual aspects–but those unusual aspects may be perfectly appropriate (for example, some of the many teen blogs have “teen” color schemes).

I do have a list of 20 or 30 blogs that I found particularly intriguing as I was going through the set. I haven’t decided whether that list will be part of the final book; I’m afraid it might incorrectly be regarded as special praise, when it’s really just saying that I found these blogs noteworthy. Update 8/17: Just finished what I believe will be the final proofreading pass. I will not be including the “intriguing blog” list in the book–it’s either too short or too long. I may post it here once the book’s actually out–but there are so many blogs worth pointing out… [end of update]

So: Does that answer the question?

*What? I may be well known among libloggers and reasonably well known in the library field in general, but it’s fair to assume that at least two-thirds of American public librarians haven’t the vaguest idea who I am. Why should they? And, for that matter, most of the emails went to Canada (and one to Ireland)…

Service area populations: Paring down the open list – DONE!

Monday, August 13th, 2007

Final Update, Tuesday, August 14: There’s nothing like combining blog posts with selective email…I now have confirmations or changes from every library that was an open question. Thanks to all of you!

Thanks to several who responded to this earlier post and a little time spent with the NCES site, I now have what “good numbers” for most of the libraries on the list–and I’ve sent email to all of the others (and received responses from some of them already, and from the patient library director of Waterloo Public Library in Iowa, who’s also director of the Cedar Falls Public Library–and who does interesting blogs for both–noting that Waterloo Public in Iowa is not Waterloo Public in Ontario…oh, and now I’ve also received a response from the director of Waterloo Public in Ontario). Parse that sentence and…well, no, don’t even try.

So anyway, rather than keep annotating that already–too-often-changed post, here’s the short list of libraries that I’m still awaiting responses from. This time, the number in brackets is what I’ll use as a service area population if I don’t hear otherwise by the weekend…and so far, with two exceptions, those numbers appear to be pretty good.

  • County of Prince Edward Public Library, Picton, Ontario K0K 2K0. [Confirmed 25,000]
  • Kingston Frontenac Public Library, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 1X8. [152,000 137,000]
  • Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library, Bradford, Ontario, Canada L3Z 2A7. [24,000 25,000]
  • John M. Cuelenaere Public Library, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada S6V 1B7. [34,000 41,000]
  • St. Albert Public Library, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada T8N 3Z9. [56,000 58,000]
  • Galway Public Libraries, County Galway, Ireland. [confirmed 231,000]

If you’re at one of those libraries and my email didn’t get through, and if the service area population is considerably different from that shown (say at least 5% one way or the other), I’d be grateful if you’d send me a note with the actual service area population,

Oh, and thanks again to all who responded so rapidly to Saturday’s post! Particularly those who expressed an interest in the book.

As for the one two respondents who asked whether their blogs were a good or a bad example…well, maybe I need to do a post about that. (The answer, in this case, is that I was explicitly not looking for “bad examples”–but it might be worth discussing what would constitute a bad library blog. It’s not an easy question. Let’s just say that there aren’t any of the 252 blogs in the book that I believe to be bad blogs.)

50-Movie Western Classics, Disc 1

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

Roy Rogers is riding again…and Tex Ritter, Gene Autry, John Wayne and a slew of others, some singing, some not.

This is one of the early 50-Movie Packs: You can tell by the silent still TreeLine logo that starts each side. (Somewhat later ones have the same logo with motion effects and music. More recent ones have an animated MillCreek logo with sound effects.)

Many of these movies were one-hour second features, “oaters” to fill the second half of a double bill. Not all, by any means, but the total running time for the 50 movies is just under 60 hours (59:57)—more than the original Family Classics (56:36) but a lot less than, say, the Classic Musicals (66:5) or the Hollywood Legends I’m interleaving this with (73:44, about as long as any 50-pack is likely to get). I should note that those timings come from the Mill Creek Entertainment website, which now seems extremely forthcoming about what’s in each set and its actual length (although lots of the disc sleeves are still inaccurate).

Some of the discs cluster films with the same star. That can be a trifle disconcerting. For starters, five early Tex Ritter movies right in a row is probably two too many.

Disc 1

Tex Ritter did an awful lot of movies in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and you can read that any way you want. How many? Forty “Tex” movies between 1936 and 1942—in all of which his character’s first name was “Tex.” Then he did another 20 between 1942 and 1945, movies where he learned a different name for the role.

Ritter was important as a country singer and may be best known today for his singing of “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling” in High Noon—and, of course, as the father of John Ritter. As an actor and singing cowboy, particularly in these five movies from the first three years of his movie career (1936-1938), including the first? Not so much.

You could count on several things in these pictures: Ritter doing fancy (and fast) shooting, typically shooting some gunslinger’s gun out of his hand. A big fight scene, where Ritter triumphs—and the bad guy’s cohorts don’t try to draw their guns until Ritter’s done (at which point Ritter’s companion draws on them, of course). Ritter wearing a white hat (and riding his white horse White Flash) and the well-dressed lead villain (usually) wearing a black hat. A young woman deeply involved in the plot, and Ritter riding away or otherwise ending up with her (and companion, sometimes) at the end of the film—sometimes married, sometimes not.

Oh, and Ritter singing with a big smile on his face. In the first two movies here and to some extent in the others, I’d call it “singifyin’” more than singing—akin to speechifyin’ as compared to speaking. He overdoes it, going for extra effects and becoming a parody of country singing—sometimes with songs that seem to be twelve-bar compositions repeated over and over again. It’s clear that Ritter could sing well and without overdoing it, particularly since he does that (sometimes) in his very first movie. I can only assume that the over-the-top style was what his director or audience wanted.

Rollin’ Plains, 1938, b&w, Albert Herman (dir.), Tex Ritter, White Flash, Horace Murphy, Snub Pollard, Harriet Bennet, Hobart Bosworth, Ed Cassidy, Karl Hackett, Charles King, Beverly Hillbillies. 0:57

Texas Ranger Tex Lawrence is tracking down a troublemaker who’s causing grief between the sheep farmers and the cattlemen. (This time, the villains are the sheep farmers.) While gang leader Trigger Gargan is the obvious culprit, the real culprit’s a leading citizen. Smilin’ Tex and his goofy sidekicks save the day after getting in various sorts of peril, and of course he gets the girl. One of those with a huge battle on horses, where it’s really not clear who’s shooting at who—just lots of stunt men on lots of horses shooting, once in a while one of them falling over. Dark, choppy, damaged. Very charitably, $0.75.

Sing Cowboy Sing, 1937, b&w, Robert N. Bradbury (dir.), Tex Ritter, White Flash, Al St. John, Louise Stanley, Horace Murphy, Snub Pollard, Karl Hackett, Robert McKenzie, The Texas Tornadoes. 0:59.

This time, the ruthless gang leader shoots the man running a “freight company” so they can get the contract and take over the town. The woman in peril is the daughter. Tex (not a Ranger this time) and a different goofy sidekick saves the day, after getting thrown in jail. Note cast overlaps: White Flash always plays a horse, but the sidekick on one picture may be the sheriff in the next, and so on…even the villains tend to reappear. Also the murky gun battle. This one’s damaged, choppy, and really pretty awful. Purely for historical value, a token $0.25.

The Mystery of the Hooded Horseman, 1937, b&w, Ray Taylor (dir.), Tex Ritter, White Flash, Iris Meredith, Horace Murphy, Charles King, Earl Dwire, The Range Ramblers. 1:00.

My notes here consist of “arrggh…” But that may be unfair. Slightly different plot (this time it’s a bunch of hooded horsemen—not just one—terrorizing folks and in particular a should-be-worthless mine), same-as-usual woman in distress and Tex with a sidekick. Once again he gets arrested. Once again there’s a different villain than you’d expect. Once again…oh, never mind. At least the singing’s a little more normal. $0.50.

Arizona Days, 1937, b&w, John English (dir.), Tex Ritter, Sid Saylor, William Faversham, Eleanor Stewart, Snub Pollard, Horace Murphy, Earl Dwire, Bud Buster. 0:57 [0:41]

This one’s truly frustrating. Tex and yet another sidekick join up with a traveling show (essentially buying their way in—Tex pays debts owed by the show in its last town), so Tex gets to sing on a stage for a change. Then, suddenly, Tex is out trying to collect delinquent taxes from some villainous types. What happened here? What happened here is 16 minutes—a missing reel in the middle of the movie, during which (apparently) the show’s wagons get burned down and Tex has to become a tax collector to make ends meet. Better singing and a different plot (sort of), but messed up pretty badly by the missing reel. Assuming that you pay any attention to the plot in these anyway… Even so, $0.75.

Song of the Gringo, 1936, b&w, John P. McCarthy (dir.), Tex Ritter, Joan Woodbury, Fuzzy Knight, Monte Blue, Ted Adams, Forrest Taylor. 1:02.

The first of the lot and the most unusual. Tex (a Ranger again, I think) is sent to investigate the deaths of a bunch of miners and goes undercover to infiltrate the gang that’s probably murdering them. Most of this is set in a Spanish (or early California?) ranchero with the beautiful senorita as love interest, and the true villain a business partner of the head of the ranchero. Lots of singing, with one song wildly over the top but most pretty good. Oh, and this time Tex gets blamed for several murders, put on trial, and does a Perry Mason bit, sort of. Choppy and damaged, but in some ways the best of this lot. $0.75.

Public Library Blogs: Your help requested, maybe?

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

Monday update: With only six libraries left, please see this post instead. Tuesday update: DONE! Thanks to all who responded so promptly.

As noted in the revised version of this post, I’ve completed Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples–but it won’t be available as a book for a few more weeks.

One reason for that is that I’m lacking really solid service area population figures for a few of the 196 libraries involved. These libraries don’t have administrative data in Worldcat Registry (which I used for most libraries), either because they’re not U.S. libraries, they’re part of a larger administrative unit, or whatever reason. I was able to use library annual reports or other indirect but clear counts for library service area population in some cases, but in others I relied on census data for the town, city or region (as reported in Wikipedia, which I do regard as reasonably reliable for that sort of information).

The service area population for a library doesn’t affect its blogs directly, of course, and isn’t used in any of the metrics for the book. But it is a factor in considering “comparable libraries” when you’re thinking about blogging, so I’d like to have numbers that aren’t too far off.

I’m going to do a little more looking for solid numbers and will try to send email to each of the libraries involved. If you’re at one of these libraries or knows someone who is, could you (or could you ask them to) email me the current service area population? ( You or they might also want to flesh out the Worldcat Registry entry…

UPDATE: I’ve found 2004 NCES figures for all but two of the U.S. libraries, and Simon Chamberlain provided NZ census figures for Wellington. Those lines now appear in italics [changed to strikeout on Monday, August 13], with the new number in square brackets. So it’s only the ones not in italics where I still need numbers–unless you know that the NCES numbers are seriously out of date.]

Second Update: Turns out Clearwater has a number in a page on their blog that I just missed (essentially identical to the number I already had), and a librarian at Pelham has given me a response…so I’m really down to one U.S. and a few other libraries still not quite accounted for. I’m working on emails now. To make the ones still open more obvious, I’ve changed the others to strikeout instead of italics and boldfaced the ones still missing.

Here’s the list:

  • The Village Library of Morgantown, Morgantown, Pennsylvania 19543. [9,200 NCES]
  • West Palm Beach Public Library, West Palm Beach, Florida 33401. [101,000 NCES]
  • Clearwater Public Library, Clearwater, Florida 33755. [110,000 website]
  • St. Joseph County Public Library, South Bend, Indiana 46601. [173,000 NCES]
  • Delphi Public Library, Delphi, Indiana 46923. [7,900]
  • River Rouge Public Library, River Rouge, Michigan 48218. [9,900 rounded,confirmed by director]
  • Hibbing Public Library, Hibbing, Minnesota 55746. [17,000 rounded]
  • Fargo Public Library, Fargo, North Dakota 58102. [91,000]
  • Kansas City, Kansas Public Library, Kansas City, Kansas 66101. [150,000]
  • County of Prince Edward Public Library, Picton, Ontario K0K 2K0.
  • Kingston Frontenac Public Library, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 1X8.
  • The Town of Pelham Public Library, Fonthill, Ontario, Canada L0S 1E0. [16,000]
  • Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library, Bradford, Ontario, Canada L3Z 2A7.
  • Georgina Public Libraries, Keswick, Ontario, Canada L4P 3P7 [45,000
  • Guelph Public Library, Guelph, Ontario N1H 4J6. [115,000]
  • Cambridge Libraries & Galleries, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada N1S 2K6 [124,000, city site]
  • Waterloo Public Library, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 5E2 [113,000]
  • John M. Cuelenaere Public Library, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada S6V 1B7.
  • Brooks Public Library, Brooks, Alberta, Canada T1R 1B9. [15,700]
  • St. Albert Public Library, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada T8N 3Z9.
  • Greater Victoria Public Library, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8W 3H2. [300,000: library website]
  • Sutherland Shire Libraries, Mitcham, Victoria, Australia 3132.New South Wales, Australia [205,000 Au census]
  • Galway Public Libraries, County Galway, Ireland.
  • Wellington City Libraries, Wellington, New Zealand [180,000 NZ census]

I’d really appreciate responses within a week, if possible. If no responses are received, I’ll use the figures I currently have, which are (giving just the Zip/post cod and population pairs):

19543/3,800; 33401/108,000; 33755/109,000; 46601/266,000; 46923/8,200; 48218/9,900; 55746/17,000; 58102/93,000; 66101/147,000

K0K 2K0/25,000; K7L 1X8/152,000; L0S 1E0/15,000; L3Z 2A7/24,000; L4P 3P7/42,000; N1H 4J6/115,000; N1S 2K6/124,000; N2L 5E2/113,000; S6V 1B7/34,000; T1R 1B9/12,000; T8N 3Z9/56,000; V8W 3H2/312,000

Sutherland Shire 392,000; Galway, Ireland 231,000; Wellington, New Zealand 449,000

Any help greatly appreciated!

What about academic library blogs?

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

I’d love to think that one or two readers are asking that question as they read this post announcing the forthcoming Public Library Blogs: 252 Current Examples (title subject to possible slight change).

The easy answer: I’m working on it. Or, rather, I will be working on it after this book is done, either in parallel with another major project or on its own.

The harder answer: I’m working on it, but the rate of progress and eventual outcome may depend on what happens (or doesn’t happen) with my future situation in general.

If things get at least partially settled in a favorable way, I’d guess the project might be done late this year. If I’m spending more time and energy looking for things that return more revenue than the couple of thousand bucks one of these books is likely to return (and that quite possibly over a couple of years), well, it might take a lot longer.

There is one bright spot, incidentally: Looks like I’ll be returning to writing a column in one of my favorite print publications. I’ll have more to say when it’s completely nailed down (and there’s a column title), but I anticipate that will start next January…

Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples–coming soon!

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

The second Cites & Insights Book will appear Real Soon Now: A survey of current English-language public library blogs, mostly consisting of profiles of the blogs themselves.

Here’s a little of the first of three introductory chapters:

The purpose of this book is to guide you to blogs that you might find useful when thinking about your own library’s case—blogs from nearby libraries, blogs from libraries with similar service populations, or blogs that specialize in topics or work in ways that you’ll find interesting.

Most of this book is examples: 252 blogs from 196 libraries, arranged geographically. It’s not a comprehensive survey (and I did exclude non-English blogs for reasons of practicality), but I did attempt complete coverage within a few basic criteria. I was impressed by the diversity and quality of what’s out there.

Which blogs? Those that were listed in one of the two primary wiki lists of public library blogs as of May 2007 and that met a few basic criteria:

  • In English
  • Started before 2007 (since “young” blogs have a pretty high failure rate, and I’m interested in showing plausible successes)
  • Have at least one blog in two of the three “study months,” March, April and May 2007
  • Appear to be a blog in most key respects, or to be a blog portion of a library home page (in some cases, the blog is the homepage)

That resulted in 209 blogs from 196 libraries. I went back to each library and added other blogs (43 in all, and never more than five blogs from one library) that met the criteria but weren’t listed in the wikis.

I believe the book will help librarians to find “similar” libraries to consider when thinking about doing their own blog or expanding their range of blogs, where “similar” could mean geographic location, service population or special blog interests.

There are a couple of fairly remarkable blogs at libraries serving fewer than 400 people. There are more teen blogs than you can shake a dazzling banner design at, along with some genealogy blogs, a bunch of book review blogs, quite a few blogs for kidlit and children’s events…and lots more.

I was truly impressed and delighted by what I found doing the survey. I believe many public librarians will find inspiration and places to look from its pages–and will be able to find a few blogs to check out a lot more easily than plowing through 358 blog links (not including duplicates) in the wikis.

The book should be out in late August or early September, almost certainly at the same time as Cites & Insights 7:10 (September 2006). Specific timing depends on how long it takes for the final editing pass, selecting a cover photo, and doing the final publishing stages–and how long I need to write the rest of C&I and one other column with an approaching deadline. See below for revised estimate.
Oh, and on whether I’m called for jury duty (I’m still on call this week)…and what other emergencies come up.

More details when it’s available. Right now, it’s right around 300 pages and is likely to cost right around $30 to $35.

Update Saturday, August 11: It’s now likely that C&I 7:10 will come out before the book, and that the book will appear in mid-September. I’ve done the final editing pass and produced a nice clean 302-page book–but:

  • I’ve now been convinced that I should let it sit at least a week, maybe two, while I work on other things–the column mentioned above and remaining essays for C&I, for example–then come back to a printed copy with a fresh eye for typos and other errors. Since it takes around two weeks from the time I’m satisfied (and have created a cover and uploaded the files) until the time the proof book arrives, “early to mid-September” now seems like a better target.
  • A few of the 196 libraries–nine in the U.S., 12 in Canada, one each in Australia, Ireland and New Zealand–don’t have service area population numbers that are as good as I’d like (that is, they don’t have numbers in Worldcat Registry and I couldn’t locate good library reports). See the separate post asking for help; I’ll also check some other sources and try to send email to each of the libraries. The service area population doesn’t affect things all that much, but I think it’s a reasonable factor for other libraries looking for “comparables.”–libraries serving 4,000 people have different resources than those serving 400,000. (I’m guessing the “not as good as I’d like” is never even close to that extreme…I’m usually using census figures for the town or city.)

I could hold C&I, of course, but that seems silly. It’s also looking like this book might be available in more than one place–and that might also be true for Balanced Libraries. More about that when it’s finalized.

Post-OCLC: A midterm update

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

I wrote this post on May 21, noting that I’ll be out of work as of October 1 (and readily available as of, say, October 15).
It’s just about halfway between those two dates (depending on which two dates you use). It’s long enough after ALA that things should have settled down pretty well. Seems like a good time to say how things are going.

There’s a short answer and a slightly longer answer.

Short answer: Not so well.

Slightly longer answer:

  • There are three maybe-live possibilities, any or all of which could yield satisfactory conclusions. In two cases, I have no idea when or whether I’ll hear anything, or whether what I hear will be mutually satisfactory. In the third, the conversation hasn’t taken place yet. I can’t even guess as to the likelihood that these will lead to success.
  • There are three offers for things that could be small portions of an entirely piecemeal future. I’m pretty certain I’ll take one of them, where it’s a logical extension of what I’m doing. I’m less certain of the other two.
  • Thanks to an old friend and good conversation, I have a better idea how I might go about an entirely piecemeal future–what I would and wouldn’t be comfortable doing, where there might be a market.

If you missed it for some reason, this post sets forth one scenario that would be a “satisfactory conclusion” from my perspective. It’s not the only possibility.

Also, if you missed it for some reason, let me repeat my bribeincentive from this post:

If you provide the contact that results in an offer/arrangement that I take and regard as excellent (or, for that matter, if you make the offer), I’ll send you (or a library or library school of your choice, that wants them) autographed copies of all my books–now and in the future, as long as we stay in touch. Since at least one of the books is really unobtainable, that’s a unique offer. It’s up to whoever makes the offer/arrangement to let me know you were the contact.

I’ll expand that offer, changing “excellent” to “satisfactory.”

What do I mean by satisfactory?

  • I don’t mean a full-time job or equivalent in contract money (although I wouldn’t rule out the right full-time possibility).
  • I don’t even necessarily mean “a good living” (or, by Silicon Valley standards, a living at all). I don’t expect full-time pay for part-time work.
  • I do mean an ongoing arrangement that pays a reasonable sum for value received–and that provides enough stability that I’m able to do the things I think I’m particularly good at, including Cites & Insights and, if it works out, Making it Work.

That final clause is important. I can probably do enough scuffling for pieces–speaking, freelance writing, maybe teaching and training, maybe consulting–to bring in “enough” money. But that scuffling might make it difficult or impossible to do a good job on the stuff I care most about and the area where I believe I offer the most to the field.

I may be slightly discouraged at the moment. That’s probably unfair. These things do take time. I didn’t make it easy–being unwilling to relocate (with some exceptions), not overselling (or, shall we say, optimizing the definition of) my expertise, disdaining Guru or Expert labels. Oh, and being nearly 62. Not that age makes a difference. And it’s still eight weeks before October.

Is Cites & Insights in danger? Not yet–but I’m no longer willing to assert that it will go on no matter what.