Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Discussing Dan's Da Vinci Code: Librarians joining conversations

So much for alliteration -- the title of the blog post, in case you haven't noticed... Anyway...

Before The Da Vinci Code, ask anyone if they know the author and chances are they'd say "Dan, who?". Love it or hate it, it's a real hot book. Even though I work in the public library, I had to buy a copy in order to read it! (Actually, my wife bought it). See, it's NOT true that library staff always gets to read the latest copy. We put the customers first.

While searching for active Singapore blog discussions (i.e. more than 5 comments and not by the blog owner) about the Da Vinci Code, I realised that majority of posts just mention the title. A few do blog more about it but they generally don't solicit much comments. The exception so far seems to be Idle Days.

Actually I'm discussing Dan Brown's book here to address what Damien commented in my previous post, where I suggested librarians should go and join the conversations and book discussions in the Blogosphere.

He felt that (1) such an approach might be seen as intrusive, (2) NLB would not "sanction" its librarians to blog if we can't measure the outcomes of librarians blogging, and (3) librarians would be disappointed if their blogs are not read.

I spent a long time thinking about it. Here goes:
1) In any meaningful conversations, there has to be trust among individuals.
Key ideas here -- (i) Establishing Trust and (ii) Recognition of Individuality. Librarians cannot pop in and say "Hey, read this book"... well, maybe they can, if they have established trust. If not, they should ease their way into the discussion and not robotically recommend books.

Having meaningful conversations means not being obsessed with what you want to say, but to really respond to what the other person is saying. Recognise them as individuals. There's a post by Michael McGrorty that illustrates my point somewhat.


2) I do not need official sanction to blog. And the question of measurement is not confined to blogging alone.
I don't need official endorsement to blog. It's like asking "Do I need official endorsement to engage with my readers?" Blogging is a means to an end, which is to engage the public so that we (i) reinforce relationships with exisiting readers, and (ii) establish relationships with non-users/ potential users.

I think Damien was asking about how we'd justify our time spent in blogging, i.e. to tell our boss that I've not wasted my time blogging because I've achieved "XYZ" results. The issue of measurement isn't confined to librarians blogging. It's really a question of how we measure the outcomes of librarians engaging the public. Quantitative measures can never address this fully, and qualitative measures aren't really developed for this.

For now, we can use existing measures (albeit not perfect ones). For instance, in loans and visitors to the library. To me, getting librarians to blog can be presented in this simplified sequence:
Librarians blog --> Engage Bloggers (those who read, and even those who don't) --> Establish relationships through book discussions--> Promote reading --> Encourage library usage (loans & visits)

For further discussion on measurement, try reading this blogpost - Measuring investment in blogging (btw, no I don't want to be CEO!)

Inevitably, I'm sure if we discuss this point further, it would lead to the question, "What can I say, or not say in the Blogosphere?". I did post about this earlier. But here's something from Robert Scoble who conveys the idea subtly but much better than I can.


3) Practice, practice, practice!
Blogging is not about numbers. It's like the act of reading -- it's not how many books you've read, but how much you gain from reading.

But heck yes, I'd be disappointed if nobody reads my posts. So the answer is to really practice and improve the art of blogging. Here's what I found:

I have to thank Damien for giving me food for thought. I'd never have gone out and discovered those useful links above on my own. Ah, the power of conversations!

7 comments:

  1. hurtingmonkey2:55 pm

    hi ivan. it may seem inappropriate that i'm posting this comment of no intellectual value. anyhow, here goes. i read your blog & i find your "ramblings" very stimulating and inspirational for a budding librarian like me. thank you.

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  2. Thanks for your kind words, hurtingmonkey. I'm encouraged to write better.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. incidentally, i was exploring why people comment in one of my posts:
    Comments on Comments on Comments

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  5. u do not need the whole world to read yr ramblings...i find your ramblings insightful and proud to be a librarian.

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  6. Hi Ivan,

    I'm honoured by the depth of your reply to my previous posting. :-)

    Thanks for the summary but I would like to point out that points 2 and 3 (appended below):

    "2) NLB would not "sanction" its librarians to blog if we can't measure the outcomes of librarians blogging, and (3) librarians would be disappointed if their blogs are not read."

    are not entirely what I meant to say. I was responding specifically to your comment to your original posting which discussed recognition & reward and opined that "engaging the community via blogs (or whatever relevant platforms) is also part of our current expected results, which would then be incorporated into our Key Results Area".

    Now that we have clarified that bit, here's my take on your current posting, and the key points were as follows:

    1) In any meaningful conversations, there has to be trust among individuals.
    2) I do not need official sanction to blog. And the question of measurement is not confined to blogging alone.
    3) Practice, practice, practice!

    I totally agree with all three points. :-)

    However, taken in the context of what we had discussed in the earlier postings, here's my 2 cents:

    Re: "1) In any meaningful conversations, there has to be trust among individuals."
    To what extent do blog postings or emails approximate a normal 'conversation' between a Library staff and a reader within the library (or even over the phone/web-cam/ICQ/Messanger/face2face for that matter)? People don't usually drone in face-2-face conversations, and the response time between each exchange is also shorter. In fact, an article which I read in the early days of Internet marketing stated that because websites tend to be impersonal, sales people are needed to act as a bridge between the buyers and sellers.

    Re: "2) I do not need official sanction to blog. And the question of measurement is not confined to blogging alone."
    I'm not too sure about the need for sanctions to blog about work-related stuff (I think it's OK if it's just opinions and not classified stuff), but in my previous post, I was just saying that NLB is not likely to have "a blog-based peer review area" in its website, since the preceding post was an opinion about possible Key Result Areas.

    Another issue is whether there would be alignment of user communities which NLB intends to reach out to, and which Librarians running unofficial blogs 'converse' with, e.g. your neighbourhood clientele vs. an international audience?

    I also appreciate the cause-and-effect sequence:
    Librarians blog => Engage Bloggers => Establish relationships through book discussions => Promote reading => Encourage library usage (loans & visits),

    but NLB would benefit only if the Blogger population are locals who can actually access our libraries (unless you meant foreign bloggers being encouraged to visit their own libraries).

    Re: "3) Practice, practice, practice!"
    As I mentioned earlier, I totally agree about this point. Perhaps you could encourage librarians to generate traffic to their own blogs via email or mailing lists (which I believe you are already doing with success) and to write/stamp/print their blog URLs on their name cards (since it's unlikely that we can have it included officially).

    Regards,

    Damien

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  7. Hi Damien, I've to ponder over the comments. You've given me some ideas for future posts. Thanks for the insights!

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