Projects and rejects 3 – The one that probably won’t happen

The story up to now

  • In Part 1, an old friend reminded me of what I should have known–that I needed to follow my passion, or in less Left Coast wording, do what I care about
  • In Part 2, the big secret was revealed at considerable length–the project I’m working on, most likely entitled The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008.

and now, without further ado (and at much less length than yesterday, I hope), we present:

Part the Third: In which a possibly-useful project is deferred or abandoned for what may or may not be the right reasons.

By now, I’ll presume most of you are aware of my twin 2007 projects: Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples and Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples.

For all the talk about why libraries (every library, or most libraries, or whatever) should be doing blogs and what wonderful benefits they’ll derive, I believe these were and are the first objective looks at what’s actually out there, other than a few handpicked examples.

I believe they were landmark projects, at least deserving of some discussion and criticism.

Two shrubs fall in the forest. No one hears.

They were wholly ignored by the gurus of library blogging. Wholly.

Reacting charitably, I’ll assume that none of those gurus are aware of either Cites & Insights or Crawford at Large, and so were and are wholly unaware of the books.

There are less charitable reactions, to be sure. Kate Davis, one of that remarkable group of Australian libloggers, raised one possibility in a March 14, 2008 post at virtually a librarian.

And, for that matter, a July 12, 2008 post at Marcus’ World seems to argue that social software and other initiatives should not be evaluated–or at least not yet. I’m trying very hard to avoid the phrase “faith-based librarianship,” but when I’m told that we shouldn’t be asking whether new services are effective, I have to wonder. (To my mind, a perfectly legitimate objection would be “You’re not measuring the right things”–which then raises the issue of what those right things would be. To say that we shouldn’t be asking such questions at all–that seems a bit odd.)

Maybe it was a bad idea to begin with

Actually, in details, I’m entirely willing to agree that the books might (should?) have been done differently, with a lot more discussion of analytics and a lot less text from each blog. I thought examples would be useful. Maybe they are, but they made it easy to dismiss the book as “just stuff taken from the blogs.” That’s wildly unfair, I believe, but the I’m biased.

Going forward or not

The public library portion of the project was (is) somewhat interesting on its own merits, but was a lot of work for very little apparent result.

The academic library portion of the project, frankly, got less interesting as time went on. And was even more work for even less apparent result.

So there’s very little in me crying out to take the next step–which would involve longitudinal studies (looking at changes in blogs over time) and a whole lot more up-front discussion.

If there was some form of external sponsorship, or if things suddenly picked up this fall, that could change–in which case, I’d look at the possibility of doing a two-year comparison (2007 & 2009).

Most likely, though, I’ll write this one off as a reject.

So just how badly (or well) did the books actually do?

That’s Part 4. Stay tuned.

4 Responses to “Projects and rejects 3 – The one that probably won’t happen”

  1. Here’s what I’ve thought about the blog books all along. If it’s hurtful, I’m sorry; it’s not intended to be.

    The printed book was simply the wrong information-delivery vehicle for this project.

    Consider: I find a blog that looks interesting. I have to open up my browser and type in its URL, or Google for it; either process is error-prone. I want to compare it to another blog found on a different page. This involves the cognitive load of deciding whether to flip back and forth in the book, or open both blogs in my browser (with the attendant typing of yet another URL).

    If I find a blog I like and want to save, the printed book does not help me remember it where remembrance is most useful: namely, my browser or my or my FriendFeed. Likewise, if I’ve been reading it for a while and want to refresh my memory on what you said about it, I have to go dig up a print book… when I’m sitting at my computer!

    This project makes worlds more sense as a Web project, where to investigate a blog I need only click a link. The trouble there, of course, is finding someone to pay for your work… but you’ve had that trouble already with the print books, no? Perhaps sponsorship might have been more readily available had the end-product been of more immediate utility.

    Balanced Libraries was a book, it makes sense as a book, it works fine as a book. The blog books needed not to be books, even ebooks. (What good would they have been on a Kindle? Not much.)

  2. walt says:

    Not only was that clearly not intended to be hurtful, it wasn’t hurtful. It makes a lot of sense. Thank you.

    I did (and still do) provide the set of blogs on the web, so the URLs could be clicked directly (if you have software that can read an .xls file)–but your points are well taken.

    Hmm. I need to think about that more. Not for those books–they may or may not simply go away at the end of the year–but for other things.

    If I accept your premise and conclude that there’s no way to make “this kind of project” work as a book, then I should also simply drop The Liblog Landscape now and spend my time elsewhere–since there’s no way I can make it work as a web project, frankly.

    (As for up-front sponsorship, “whistling up the wind” is how I regard that possibility, even as I mention it: I’m not in a library school and don’t have grant-writers backing me up, so the chances are nearly nil.)

    Update: Come to think of it, The Liblog Landscape really isn’t “this kind of project”–at least I don’t think it is. And if I did a library blogs project again, it would primarily be about the landscape and changes in that landscape, and only secondarily about finding blogs. I think there was a need there, and I think Dorothea may be right on the relationship of these books to that need.

  3. Agree. Your analysis is invariably fascinating and worthwhile. The laundry lists… maybe not so much.

    And the lists aren’t nearly so useful without your annotations, which are… trapped in ink on paper. 🙂

  4. walt says:

    Thanks. I might comment further on this in Part 4 today (or I might not!)