For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
April 21, 2005 - Blogs and Websites
The Douglas County Libraries had the first website in Douglas County -- and one of the first library websites in the country.
One fairly recent addition is our branch-specific "blogs." From our website (www.douglascountylibraries.org) you'll see "Branch pages" on the leftmost column. These pages allow our staff to quickly post what's hot at the library that week.
Blogs -- or "web logs" -- have gotten a lot of press lately. Most of the social apparatus of publishing is actually designed to filter or reduce content. More book manuscripts are submitted than printed. More articles are emailed than make it to paper. More news stories are drafted than circulated.
Often, that's a good thing, even a very good thing. Not every aspiring writer deserves to be published. There's a lot of badly formulated, ill-informed, willfully ignorant, and even malicious opinion in the world. The hurdles to mass media save us from a lot of it, and some might argue, not enough.
But there's a downside to this filtering, too. Sometimes, decisions about what does or does not get published reflect the strong interests of entrenched power. Here, technology can provide alternatives.
One example would be Tienamen Square -- which the western world found out about only because of an unsupervised fax machine.
In the news world, many journalists feel threatened and or challenged by bloggers, some of whom do seem to have wonderful insights or contacts, and can publish their words direct to the web. By itself, that poses no more of a threat to the media than a self-published cookbook does to Random House.
But sometimes, writers are good enough that they find their own markets. And because they have "outsider" status, because their writings are less cautious than mainstream media, bloggers are sometimes, to some people, more believable.
Well, I don't fancy myself a threat to syndicated columnists Garry Wills, Cal Thomas, or Molly Ivins, but I did spend some time last weekend (after that powerful snow pounding we took on Sunday) reworking my personal website, and experimenting with some blogging of my own.
Here's one observation: there is something reassuring about print. When you go back to it, the same words are there that were there the last time. When you go to a website, it's gone, or changed, or buried so deep that it is irretrievable.
Cyberspace is disturbingly similar to my own memory. It is unreliable.
And there's something a little pathetic about some blogs, possibly including mine. These people don't have friends? For whom are they recording their trivia and random thoughts?
On the other hand, I got to explore a bunch of new software tools (Freemind and vym, which are Open Source mind mapping tools) as well as Nvu, a web editor. My old website was looking a little dated. The new one is less so.
I also found a place to store the things I sometimes refer people to (presentations or articles I've done in the past).
My main lesson in all this is that we are still trying to understand all the ways that the World Wide Web is changing things.
Meanwhile, if you want to look over my new design, surf over to www.jlarue.com.