The opening section in Walt Crawford's most recent issue (August 2007) of Cites & Insights really resonated with me. Entitled On the Literature, he begins with, "I believe that gray literature—blogs, this ejournal, a few similar publications and some lists—represents the most compelling and worthwhile literature in the library field today." He goes on to describe how he uses blogs for his primary source for information on contemporary library literature, and cites his recent book, Balanced Libraries, as evidence of that.
I, too, get most of my current library info from blogs; both the original thoughts of their authors, but also pointers to the best of the traditional print literature. I try to stay current with the print literature, but it's so much more convenient to receive postings in my aggregator (though I do of course receive what TOCs I can via RSS). I recently read an article about IM reference service, and actually started at the list of references to see if any blog postings were referenced. Not a one. While the article was solid, I wondered if the authors had read the most current information from the front lines - the reports from the bloggers. Why no mention of the coverage of this topic in the Library Best Practices Wiki for an organic way of keeping up-to-date on this (or almost any other) topic?
Later in this same section, but also creeping into a later seemingly unrelated section, are quotes from bloggers on why blogging is so much better at disseminating current tech information than the traditional literature (mostly a matter of currency) and why librarians decide to publish in which medium. Stephen Bell is quoted (out of context by me and with emphasis added) as saying,
I can’t say any individual has developed a blog that has emerged as the ‘voice of academic librarianship,’ ” noted Bell in response to my query. “Why? If I had to advance a theory I’d say that as academic librarians we are still geared towards traditional, journal publishing as the way to express ourselves. I know that if I have something on my mind that I’d like to write about to share my thoughts and opinions, I’m more likely to write something for formal publication (e.g., see this piece.)
That couldn't be further from the truth for me! If I've got something on my mind now, I want to get it out there now, now months later. It's exciting for me to get a good thought-provoking post up (rarely though that may be ;-) and see what other people have to say about it. It's satisfying to see my name in a peer-reviewed journal a year after I started the submission process, but it's not exciting. Lorcan Dempsy, responding to the same opening in Walt's essay, understands that too:
Gray? Gray! Blogs, reports published on the web, web journals: these are brightly colored and shining. They are connected to the life of the web - link and search - and are visible, referencable and available.
In contrast most of the formal library literature is a very dreary affair. Dull publications, hidden for the most part from the web. Determined not to have any influence outside their niche. Gray, Gray, Gray ....
I guess all I'm trying to do here is side with Walt. There's great information in the traditional literature, but there's also wonderful information, sometimes even written by the same people, in the blogosphere. I read it and I'm proud of it. I write it, and I'm proud of that too. But I'm preaching to the choir here, aren't I?