Blogging libraries: Doing the quintiles

This isn’t going to be another lament about lack of sales and attention for Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples and Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples. I did finally encounter a one-paragraph review of the first book which suggests that I failed completely as a writer and marketer–that, at least in that reader’s eyes, there’s simply no value-add in the book. (Also, although neither book is setting the world on fire, sales haven’t stopped completely. Close, but not quite…)

In my snarkier moods, I have a reason why the blogging gurus haven’t mentioned either book. The books represent the only large-scale objective surveys of library blogs, as far as I know–and maybe objectivity isn’t desirable in this case. Maybe there’s a clear desire not to know how library blogs are doing in the real world, other than a few cherry-picked examples. I’d like to think that’s not the case. It would be unprofessional to tell people about how wonderful library blogs are, and encourage them to create such blogs, without giving them honest and broad-ranging information on what’s actually happening with such blogs.

In fact, I biased the studies in both cases to make them more favorable to library blogging. Namely, I completely omitted blogs that were defunct or essentially moribund, along with blogs less than three months old. I did summarize the situation early in each book, but only very briefly.

  • Of 325 public library blogs that were in English and had been around since 12/07 or earlier, 116 (roughly 36%) were omitted but could have been included as “failed examples”: 68 reachable but defunct, 19 unreachable, 29 moribund (with no posts in two of the three months tested). (If you get 209 rather than 252, that’s right: The other 43 were additional blogs from libraries with blogs in the study.)
  • I didn’t provide as much information on academic library blogs, but there were 54 reachable and defunct, 22 moribund, and another 40 “problematic” (many of them unreachable). I’d guess the “failed examples” total about one-third of what might have been included.

I mentioned those numbers but only in passing, focusing on blogs with some evidence of success.

Perhaps I should have spent more time on metrics and less on offering useful examples, so that the books are more clearly surveys with analysis, not just a bunch of stuff pulled from blogs.

What I’d love to do, along survey and analysis lines, is a longitudinal survey: Look at the same blogs one or two years later, adding readily-available information on newly-formed blogs. In such a case, I’d probably skip the sample posts altogether and focus entirely on metrics. On the other hand, I wonder whether that would garner enough support to make it worth even $1/hour for the time it would require…and, let’s face it, I don’t have institutional support for any of this.

Anyway, I’m not trying to convince you or your library to buy either book, either as a $20 PDF or $29.50 paperback. That’s a lot of money if the books don’t add value. What I am going to do is some additional commentary on the metrics–commentary that perhaps should have been in the books.Namely, I’m going to “do the quintiles.”Quintiles?

A reasonably natural way to subdivide a universe along one dimension–into five groups, each making up 20% of the universe. There are even natural adjectives for each quintile. So, for example, for number of posts during the three-month period, the first quintile is “most frequent posting,” second quintile is “more frequent posting,” third quintile is “average frequency,” fourth quintile is “less frequent posting,” and fifth quintile is “least frequent posting.”

I’m going to do a series of posts over the next several days (or weeks–I’m fitting this in with more mainstream writing work) providing information on the quintiles for each metric within each book. I might interleave the two books or I might do all of PLB first, then all of ALB.

I trust a few of you will find this informative. If I did do a longitudinal study (probably combining both sets of blogs), I’d probably report the quintiles for each blog, but I’m not going to do that here.

Watch this space.

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