I know blogging is getting bigger. Blogs seem to have been featured in every magazine and newspaper lately. Everyone keeps saying 2004 was the “year of the blog” yadda, yadda. But the Pew American Life Project recently came out with actual stats on blogging and its effect on mainstream America. They found that blog readership was up 58% over the past year and that over 8 million American adults have actually created a blog. That’s really cool! But what they also found is that 62% of Americans don’t really know what a blog is (and I’d bet the number is higher since some people don’t like to admit they don’t know something). I guess I’m not surprised by the number of people who don’t know about blogs. Most of my friends and family don’t know what blogs are and they really don’t care. I set my dad up with bloglines, but I’m pretty sure he hasn’t used it, and he just wasn’t excited about all of the cool things I told him he could do with his aggregator. And he’s pretty Internet savvy (he read Research Buzz before I did!). So while I feel inundated with news about blogs and it seems like I spend half my life reading stuff on my aggregator, this all has not quite gone mainstream.
Being in this blogging culture, I think we can sometimes forget that a lot of people don’t know what blogs are and have no clue what an RSS aggregator does. And frankly, many of them just don’t care. We as librarians can’t force technology on our patrons. Just because blogs are a great way to get information out and create an online community doesn’t mean that everyone’s patrons are going to be receptive to it. Some library systems have patrons who are dying to see wifi in their library and would love to be able to get a syndicated feed of their library’s news. In other library systems, the majority of patrons still see the library as a place to check out books and not a place they’d bring their laptops to. We can expose our patrons to technology. We can educate them. But just because we are excited about blogging and RSS and wifi doesn’t mean that they will be. You can bring a horse to water…
While I’m willing to let our patrons off easy, that does not hold true for our compatriots in libraries and in library school. What really frustrates me is how many people in information studies programs don’t know about blogs, RSS, and other current information technologies. In my Information Policy class last year, one of my professors actually assigned us to create a blog. And you can’t imagine the percentage of the class who had no idea what a blog was and resented the fact that they had to do something related to technology in a policy class (the nerve!). While I was in library school, I tried to learn all I could about technology, because I wanted to prepare myself for 21st century librarianship — not 1950s librarianship. I know the field is changing and I want ride the shift rather than get left behind. In a field like this, I really can’t understand any antagonism towards technology; especially from new aspiring librarians (or our ALA President-elect)! Most of the positions I’ve seen and applied for have asked for applicants who have web design experience and other kinds of technology-related skills. And these are not systems librarian positions! They’re reference and instructional librarian positions! They’re YA public librarian positions! Being tech-savvy is becoming a necessity in this job market, and I think any library student who doesn’t consider it important to keep up with the latest information technologies is in for a rude awakening come application time.
You think not knowing what a blog is is bad?
I offered brief workshops last year on HTML and CSS. For the former, I got an email from somebody who didn’t know what HTML was, only that it “had something to do with web pages.” For the latter, a fellow student slagged me for not expanding the acronym in my workshop title; “maybe if I knew what CSS *was* I’d come!”
These are going to be librarians? Oh, my profession!