Lost in Austin -- "Why I Don't Blog"
Lost in Austin -- " W hy I Don't Blog"
as W. Leonhardt 0
0 St. Edwards University
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Lost in Austin — “Why I Don’t Blog”
Column Editor: Thomas W. Leonhardt (Director, Scarborough-Phillips Library, St. Edwards University,
3001 South Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78704-6489; Phone: 512-448-8470; Fax: 512-448-8737)
1. I have nothing to say.
2. My ego isn’t that big.
3. I keep a real log/journal/diary.
4. Some thoughts are not meant to be
5. The world is already drowning in
useless information, blogs, twitters, skeeters,
nannas, etcetera, et alia.
6. Life is too short.
7. There are only 24 hours in a day.
8. I have more years behind me than ahead
9. I write a column for Against the Grain.
10. I write letters and cards to friends and
I was going to write about something else
when I got sidetracked, an easy thing to do
while reading an article
embedded with hypertext.
If I’m not careful,
I can find myself
away and I’ve
item that I
thought that I’d been interested in. One of the
links led to a well-known library journal where
my eye caught mention of an apparently
wellknown blogger who had recently moved from
another well-known library journal.
I had never heard of this blogger so how
well known could she be, I thought to myself.
But then I remembered how I have to ask my
wife for help when Will Shortz offers a clue
about a current actor, singer, or celebrity. Sure
enough, one of my colleagues at work knew
who I was talking about even when I got the
eponymous blog title wrong.
This blogger writes anonymously. That
troubles me. If you have something to say (that
is a big IF in the so-called blogosphere), you
should be willing to let the reader know who
you are unless you are revealing a diabolical
plot or state secret and you don’t want to blow
your cover. Deep Throat had both career
and freedom to consider when he insisted on
anonymity but in this case, the nameless cover
demonstrates either that the blog is written by
committee or that the blogger doesn’t
understand that one can be controversial and
respectful at the same time, especially when one has a
good point to make and is encouraging polite
discourse instead of the cheap shots that blogs
seem to elicit.
I googled the nom de plume, a masked
effort by the nameless blogger to be
humorous or ironic or maybe just nameless. Who
knows? No matter, I was directed to the
appropriate Website and there was the blog in
all its glory.
There was probably more insult and
innuendo from both the blogger and the responders
than incisive, witty, or informed opinion. The
high and the mighty and the pretentious
deserve to be brought down a notch or two from
time to time but the leveling needs to be done
with intelligence, wit, sarcasm, and barbed
commentary armed with the facts. Where are
the rhetorical skills that should accompany a
blogger who, judging from the nom de guerre,
wants to provoke? My curiosity has been
satisfied. I won’t be back to this site or any other
blog site. Life is too short.
One of John Stewart’s guests on his The
Daily Show was Arianna Huffington (Google
her and you will find a link to her appearance on
continued on page 80
Lost in Austin
from page 79
The Daily Show). She chided Mr. Stewart for
not having a blog. He was most respectful and
a bit bemused as he tried to explain to her that
his show was how he communicated and that
the material that he and his writers rejected was
dross and that he was afraid that after writing
his show, he had nothing left. The hint that I
took was that he was giving us his all, his best
and had too much pride to put the rejected
material out there for others to see.
One of my daily routines is to walk around
the library. I want to ensure that we are keeping
it clean and presentable. I count the number
of laptops that students are using. I see how
students are using the library, how they are
congregating, where they go for quiet study,
and how trusting they are when they leave
backpacks and computers unattended while
they go to pick up a print job, grab a cup of
coffee, or use the facilities.
As I walk around, I often wander through
the stacks, varying the route among LC classes,
reference books, bound periodicals, and current
periodicals. I despair at times at all that I don’t
know and how little I have read even compared
with the small subset of all printed materials
that we have collected here at St. Edward’s
University. I look at our long run of the Yale
Review and pull a dusty volume off the shelf,
the one that contains issues from 1942-1943,
the one closest to the month and year in which
I was born. I recognize Dorothy Canfield’s
name and I even knew her short story, “The
Knothole.” In the Autumn 1942 issue, Eudora
Welty’s “Asphodel” appears. If I went through
the other issues, I would find countless other
stories and essays that would resonate some
66 years after their initial appearance. What
is going to happen to all of those treasure
troves of fact and fiction when we get rid of
our bound journals as we must? They are not
being consulted and we need to make room for
additional study space. Perhaps I will request
the two volumes that cover 1943, each one of
which would provide a change of pace when
I simply want a piece of good writing to
accompany the smell and sound of a soft rain
somewhere in rural Oregon. And those who
contributed to The Yale Review will not have
done so in vain.
There is the history section taunting me
and my ignorance of the past. The science
section is even more scornful of me, someone
who, in high school, walked out of chemistry
on the first day and signed up for Latin as an
easy out. I could go on but you get the point.
There are more than 100,000 volumes sitting
on our shelves ready to share the learning,
wisdom, and imagination of thousands of writers
— scholars, poets, novelists, humorists. Where
do I begin? Never mind, I have my own sub-set
at home that I have selected to last me through
retirement. And I won’t even get through them
because there are those other books that I have
yet to buy or borrow.
If I want to blitz my friends and family with
a thought or a fact about my life that I think they
might be interested in, I post it on Facebook.
That does not make me a blogger. If I posted
something once or more a day, however, I
would be suspect.
I would rather write letters and postcards
and send them to friends and family. Each
post card message is written especially for the
recipient. Even when writing about the same,
I try to vary the wording for my own sake if
nothing else. If I used up my time blogging,
I might not be able to write my forty or so
postcards a month to readers important to me
and who really care.
So if you are not a blogger but have
considered entering the fray, consider instead
just picking up pen and paper and writing a
personal note to someone you love or whose
friendship you treasure? Studies show that as
we get older, we live longer, more satisfying
lives when we have friends with whom we can
share the good along with the pain. You won’t
Issues in Vendor/Library Relations — Old
Iwas Collection Management, and for years
nformation Resources, which until recently
before that was Collection Development,
once librarians reworked a duty that had mainly
consisted of taking order cards from professors
when they got around to submitting them, used
to center on new books.
That was when new books were so
important that most libraries made sure they were
the first thing you saw when walking in the
front door. In the back, a lot of librarians spent
good long careers choosing the latest books to
fill their library’s showpiece New Book Shelf,
or running the approval plan that re-stocked it
Lately, though, things have changed.
Somehow the idea of new got old.
Like so many other troubles, maybe it began
with journals. Once they became impossibly
expensive, the new journals
were nothing but a headache,
a series of headaches
really. You couldn’t find
them in the OPAC. Then
it was one serials review
after another. Meanwhile,
do we sign on to the Big
Deal or not? Then
someone invented JSTOR and
Project MUSE. These
were exciting projects. We
were getting somewhere.
Serials were fun again. Old serials, that is.
Then libraries re-discovered their special
collections. Not that they’d forgotten them
exactly, but the closest thing to today’s airport
TSA routines used to be applying to use the
relics kept under lock and key in wood-paneled
rooms that had the only decent tables and chairs
— often unoccupied — in the entire library.
Leave everything you have with me, please.
Here’s your pencil. By the way, we close at
4:30. See you Monday morning.
But digitization workshops and the Web
turned that around and libraries figured out
that they could put themselves on the map by
mounting online displays of, well, their maps,
not to mention their old letters, diaries,
manuscripts, music, records, books, whatever.
With new books, you weren’t allowed to do
that and nobody would have tried in any case.
As usual, Google changed
everything. They went public
in 2004, came away with a
billion dollars or so, and set
out to spend the cash. Within
a few months they’d launched
Google Print, which by now
as Google Book Search, a
project the company
charmingly refers to as still in
“beta,” has digitized some
seven million books, is on
course to digitize all the rest ever printed, and
in the course of that to upend every last corner
of the book world.
New books are there, yes, but anyone who
cared to could have found them anyway, on
Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, on publisher
sites, and other places. All they’d find though
is what the publishers served up to entice a
reader to buy the book. Maybe an excerpt. A
chapter, even. The jacket. The price. Some
blurbs. Not much more.
Most by far of those seven Google
million books, though, are old. People’s attitude
toward old books has always landed, usually,
somewhere between uninterest and disdain.
In The Devil’s Dictionary, in fact, Ambrose
Bierce’s definition for the word “old” was: “In
that stage of usefulness which is not
inconsistent with general inefficiency, as an old man.
Discredited by lapse of time and offensive to
the popular taste, as an old book.”
Suddenly the joke is on Bierce, though,
because today all the action is in old books.
Google’s $125 million settlement and
134page agreement with the Author’s Guild and
Association of American Publishers was
mostly about old books, the ones out-of-print
but still in copyright, rights largely abandoned
by authors and publishers until Google in effect
decided to republish them. Now everyone is
recalculating the worth of old books whose fate
continued on page 81