Saturday, 1 September 2007

UK library blogs - why all the tumbleweeds?

Last week Fiona Bradley asked what I thought was a very pertinent question on Twitter - where are all the blogging UK librarians?

Since moving from Australia in 2006, I have seen the Australian library blogger population flourish, with many exciting bloggers and events. There has been the West Australia Lib 2.0 Unconference, Information Online 2007, and New Librarian 2006.

There is the upcoming State Library of Queensland Unconference, Australian Blogging Conference, Information Online 2009, VALA 2008 and IFLA 2010 has been announced for Brisbane (all of which I would love to be able to attend! why did I move to the UK again?)

There are wonderful blogs such as the aforementioned Blisspix, Kathryn Greenhill, Exploded Library and Connecting Librarian, amongst others.

(I focus on Australia, because obviously the US contingent has been kicking it hardcore for a very long while *g*)

But here in the UK, there is not so much...

There are the few of us legal library bloggers (all, you know, six or seven of us). And there's Phil Bradley and Karen Blakeman. And quite a few universities and public libraries have institutional blogs. And whilst institutional blogs are both great and very important, they're not quite the same as personal library blogs. They cover different issues and are not, generally, so much a place for discussion and community.

Where is the discussion, the barcamps, the unconferences, the passion? There's Internet Librarian 2007, but quite frankly, the program is just not that exciting, dealing with a lot of issues that are a bit, well, 2005 (e-learning, portals and wikis at work, virtual libraries - these are not new and challenging concepts). I envy all of you Australian and US bloggers, with your exciting conferences to attend and projects to get involved in. It just doesn't seem to have caught on here yet, and I'm not sure why. Are we too caught up in tradition and the old ways of doing things? Too resistant to change? Too scared to make a fuss or get into trouble for blogging our opinions? I'm not sure...

Or maybe I'm wrong, maybe there are lots of UK library blogs and events going on that I just can't seem to find. Some secret underground community of subversive UK librarians, maybe? (and if there are, please let me know!)


Jennie said...

Despite it being a bit outdated, the Internet Librarian conference is actually one I'd really like to go to, as like you, I can't find any other courses or talks that are even vaguely relevant...but there's no way my firm would pay for me to go, and travel and accommodation costs just make it insanely expensive to contemplate anyway (fee earners conferences are essential, librarian conferences are just about issuing books, right?). It's almost £500 at the cheapest rate, then throw in flights, accommodation in chances of getting close to £1000 out my work for that are NOT good!!

I think some of the issues causing the tumbleweed effect are:

Lots of things we'd like to talk about involve technologies and developments within our services, discussion of which would be frowned upon by management, just on principle. Even discussing how general developments would affect our service comes into this category.

Some of us don't have official approval for our blogs, and worry that saying anything contentious will get us in trouble if found out! *shifty look*

With so few of us, it's duplicating posts to discuss on your own blog the same issue as is being discussed on others blogs...we'll just join in on the comments section there (like this!)

A lot of the Australian bloggers still seem to work in academic areas, where there's not so much of the culture of 'assume you can't tell anything until told otherwise', but more a 'share and spread best practice' theme.

Wonder if we need a UK Law Firm Librarians wiki...I'm sure we could use a wiki for something regardless...I LIKE wikis!! ;-)

hypatia said...

My firm won't be paying for me to go to the Internet Librarian conference either, but I don't really mind. I think we need to create our own events (lawlib2.0 unconference next year anyone?)

And I agree on all of your points regarding the tumbleweed factor, at least in so much as it affects the legal/corporate sector - I get it less for the public/academic blogs though. They seem to have so much freedom elsewhere, surely they have a bit of freedom here?

I like wiki's, but I'm not sure what we'd have to share there that we don't already share here - maybe a facebook group though? (cause I obviously need more of an excuse to spend more time on facebook *g*)

James Mullan said...

Hypatia thanks for the post I promise to comment on your other post soon as well.

The issue that you post about here has come up a couple of times in the past I believe Information Overload and Lo-fi Librarian have both posted about it. We are indeed a very small group 8 at the last count which I find oddd considering the number of potential bloggers and the interest that was shown in Blogging at the BIALL Conference.

I think some of it is down to the organisations we work for and their cultures. I agree with Jennie that some of the things we woudl like to talk about are technology related and talking about this externally would be frowned upon.

There are of course other opportunities to talk about what we do like at the BIALL Conference, Online, Internet Librarian etc but Jennie's point is hugely relevant in that for some cost and location can be prohibitive.