State of the Blog: Year Four

This month will mean that four years have slipped by since I put fingers to the keyboard to start a blog. I am hitting this anniversary at an odd point in my writing life since, well, the blog is not exactly a priority at the moment. While I’ve had cycles of writing and not writing before over the course of the last four years, this one has pushed the blog to near back burner status.

Over the years, I’ve had a couple different approaches to writing here. I’ve had frequent updates, longer essay posts, open threads, and probably some posts that don’t fit any of those categories. Overall, I’ve mainly kept it focused on library issues with the occasional personal post. That’s probably why I haven’t written much in the last month since the kinds of things that hold my interest for writing these days are far, far away from libraryland. I’m engaged to get married in the fall, my interests in country and ballroom dancing have grown as I’ve gotten better at them, and video games feel more rewarding (whether it is achievements in World of Warcraft or the thrill of battle in Team Fortress 2) as a leisure activity. When presented as a choice, spending time blogging tended to lose out in the recent past.

In trying to root out my writing ennui, I feel a distinct lack of inspiration that I used to get from the libraryland blogosphere. If I was to guess at a point of origin, it’s about when Will Manley disappeared off the scene. His daily posts and lively discussions were a good pulse on current topics and I miss them to pieces. Moving forward in time from that point, I still have people on my ‘must read’ list but they seem to be writing less these days as well. Even then, there are still excellent bloggers out there (some of whom I’ve grown to adore), but nothing they are saying wants me to set aside time and type up my thoughts on their post. I just nod, maybe share somewhere in my social media web, and then move on. There are times when Google Reader just becomes an exercise where I choose between skimming and clicking on Mark All Read. 

As I write this, I am realizing that this is perhaps the first time in a long time that I haven’t been in the midst of a bunch of projects, presentations, conference, and whatnot that had kept me tethered closely to the library world. I look at the notecards on my project board (divided into two sections, “NOW” and “FUTURE”) and it hasn’t changed in the last couple of months. I have a talk for a library science class in May and a note to remind me to check in with John about EveryLibrary… and that’s it. In the last three years, I would have had three or four ideas or projects in the each section. Perhaps I pushed myself too much in the past (I can remember some of the looks I got when I told people how much I was doing at any given time) and this is the inevitable burnout that was destined to happen. It’s something I’ll need to figure out over time.

(Funny enough, after writing the above paragraph, I actually wrote down a few I had forgotten and added them to the board. The big moment will be trying to figure out what to do with them. Since I’ve put up the board, I’ve kept every notecard I’ve posted on it, whether it panned out or not. I’m toying with the idea of making all of those notecards available to anyone who would want to pick through it and use one of them. If I’m not going to use them, they might as well go to a good home. -A)

I can’t say that I’m done blogging forever (so some people reading this can put their party hats down now), but I feel that this blog will be entering another era of change in terms of tone and content. I hope you’re willing to come along for the ride, no matter where it takes us.

Happy 4th of the Blog.

State of the Blog: Three Year Anniversary

Well, it was sometime last month that my third year passed for the blog. I was thinking about writing something to mark the occasion but never arrived at the moment to do so during the month. I was somewhere between my apartment here in Bordentown and, well, somewhere else. Either in Philadelphia for PLA or Washington DC for CIL or staying with my girlfriend or traveling to a wedding, the month was nearly always in motion. When I get to traveling like that, I tend to do non-work non-library related things when I am home; I just want to enjoy the solace of being at home without feeling like I have do something. When you’re out and about, the feeling of doing nothing at home is a welcome contrast.

In taking this pause to reflect on the last year’s worth of issues and projects and think about what the next trip around the sun will hold, the one constant and easily predictable issue will be e-content (and most notably, eBooks). The thought of another year of eBooks winding its way through the library world news cycle has me weary already; quite frankly, I can’t figure out if it is issue fatigue or a moment of clarity. Perhaps it was a moment of frustration, but when I was preparing my eBook talk for CIL, there was a very dark moment when I felt a revelation: I hate eBooks. I hate publishers. I hate authors. I hate librarians. I hate readers. I hate the people who make the ereader devices. I hate DRM. I hate torrent sites. I hate self publishing sites. If it touches anywhere on the eBook world, I just wanted to put it into a giant pile and jump on it till it was tiny pieces. Then I would take the tiny pieces and jump on them till they were reduced to their atomic components. And then set that on fire.

You get the idea.

I could be that I’m just tired of the library-publishing eBook cycle: the publishers pulling something wrapped in the “we love libraries” mantle while librarians grumble, bitch, and moan while buying the eBooks under the “we need to provide for our patrons NO MATTER WHAT” manta. It has the drama and predictability of a Telemundo soap opera minus the stirring soundtrack reaction prompts. And, to further the television comparison, despite so many other possibilities it seems like there isn’t much else worth watching. But even that lends itself to issue blindness: there are libraries doing extraordinary things with eBooks, but most people would rather cling to the drama aspects.

I realize that this post has taken a turn off the beaten path of blog anniversary entries. What in my mind started as a simple reflection of the year’s worth of writing turned into a rant about the most unfairly all consuming issue of libraries in the past year. Perhaps I should take that as a sign of some sort.

In any event, I look forward to continuing to write and I hope you continue to look forward to reading this blog. I really couldn’t do it without you the reader. Thank you kindly and I appreciate your patronage.

State of the Blog: 2 Years and Going

I wanted to make a quick note of my second anniversary blogging.

I finally got to meet Blake Carver last week at the Computers in Libraries conference. It’s been a long time coming but I credit him with giving me my first big break by bumping one of my blog posts to the front page of LISNews. That encouragement has set me down the writing path that I have taken in these last two years. I really can’t thank him enough for that. (I will plug his business, LISHost, for those considering starting their own websites.)

I’m looking forward to what the next year will bring.

I’d like to thank everyone who subscribes for their support, those who take the time to comment for making this blog better, and everyone who finds their way here. I love writing in this blog and I’m happy that there are people who enjoy reading it.

(Man, I should do this for a living or something, right?)

Once again, thanks for your time and support.

State of the Blog: eBooks, Donations

At the top of the blog header, I’ve added a new tab called “My eBooks”. It represents something completely new on the blog because, well, I’ve never done it before. Some time ago, I was thinking about gathering up the entries I liked the most during the year. I’d hesitate to say that it is a “Best Of” compilation, so I went with the phrase “Selected Entries” for the cover language. This weekend, I went about arranging and formatting them in Open Office, exporting the resulting document into a PDF, converting the PDF to both MOBI and EPUB formats using Calibre, uploaded them to a publicly shared folder on Google Documents, and linking to them from the new tab. The file formats should allow it to be read on every current ereader on the market.

The only problem I had was during the conversion process from PDF to the other two formats. My original table of contents kept getting every line turned into its own page, leaving one sentence with the page number at the top of each resulting page. I couldn’t find a good remedy for this, so I ended up just making the table of contents an image. This stopped the page problem, but it may make the formatting seem like it jumps in size from the table of contents to the first entry. It’s an acceptable solution for me.

I also had some minor formatting issues within the original document itself, so I hope my editing helped. I tested out resultant PDFs on my iPad to see how it looked. So, at least it looks alright on the iPad.

I made the cover art using Inkscape. The resulting design was just something that popped into my head, a compass with the blog’s initials plus the year represented. Nothing fancy, really.

I decided to make it a free download to whoever wants it for two reasons. First, I’m really an open source kind of guy. I like being able to give away stuff like my thoughts and ideas to people who can use it. There are people who can testify to this fact when they get a Facebook message or email out of the blue where I rattle off an idea or concept I have. Personally, I feel that ideas are things that you should give away. They are too valuable to be kept to oneself, especially when it can help out someone else.

Second, I’m not indifferent to the vanity nature of the project. I’ve created a product for which there is no discernable market desire; I’ve just created it for myself as a way to carry around some of my favorite entries on my iPad. It would seem a bit silly to charge for that, especially when all of the entries can be found on the blog for free.

On the flip side of this thought, I have considered the self-publishing route on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Lulu (which would cover the iBookstore). The purpose of placing the ebooks online for money is to raise funds to offset costs in attending conferences. I’ve been exploring ways to raise money for this specific use for some time and I’d like to utilize any medium possible. While the ebooks would be available on the blog for free, for those who wanted to actually pay for a copy there would be an option. It’s the idea that people will pay for things that they find valuable (for example, libraries). I’ll have to check in to the details of self publishing on those platforms, but in the meantime, it’s available for free here.

I had been considering a PayPal donate button as another option. I’d rather not go with ads, but I know that people have debated this issue on other blogs. Thoughts? How would you feel about it for your own webspace?

End of the Year

After a few days of starting and stopping, I’ve decided to declare a holiday from blogging till after the New Year. There are some offline things that have been really grabbing for my attention and I want to give them some time in the sun (so to speak). My blogging pace has increased a lot over the past couple months, so I should recognize that some rest is in order. I’ll just put anything I want to comment on until after the new year.

You can still follow me on Twitter and/or my Facebook Author page. People can contact me there if there are problems with the Secret Santa. Also, the View From Your Desk Tumblr blog is still accepting your library work space pictures. And be sure to get yourself a Endangered Species t-shirt if you didn’t happen to win one!

ALA T-Shirt Contest Finale!

With 551 entries, I have chosen the five winners randomly using the website Random.org. They have been contacted by email, so give a little look in your spam folder to make certain. I’d like to thank everyone for entering; I wish I had more t-shirts to give away. For those who didn’t win, you can always buy the shirt from ALA. It raises money for advocacy efforts and we will certainly need that in 2011.

In other news, I’m happy to say that the Secret Santa has begun with a smooth start. There are about 50 people this year, down from last year, but I’m already writing notes about using DrawnNames for next year. So far, so good, so here’s hoping for a smooth Secret Santa!

Happy Holidays everyone!

Andy’s Library Shirt Giveaway Contest!

A month or so ago, I had an idea for a t-shirt design that I thought ALA could like and use. I contacted my friend Jenny Levine and told her what I had in mind. After talking with ALA Designs and bouncing it back and forth, I’m pleased to say that they will be turning my design idea into a t-shirt! Behold!

ALA-EndangeredREV

The design won’t be available at the ALA store until December 20th, but the good folks at ALA have been nice enough to offer me some t-shirts to give away to my blog readers. So, here’s the deal: between now and 11:59pm on December 20th, you can submit an entry via the link below for a chance at one of five t-shirts. The link only asks for your email. On December 21st, I will choose five numbers via random number generator and contact those people by email as to what size and where they want it sent. Limit one entry per person, US residents only. (Sorry, my UK buds.)

Andy’s Library Shirt Giveaway Contest Entry

[A link because free WordPress hates iframes]

Big thanks to Rachel Johnson and Diane Buck at ALA Graphics for their patience with the design emails and offering t-shirts for a giveaway. You can “like” the ALA graphics Facebook page if you want to get the latest news on new and upcoming ALA products. (While you are there, you can also “like” my author Facebook page.)

Good luck!

[Note: the design itself does not have a black border to it. I just turned on the border on the picture embedding because the background is white as well. Click on it for the full non-black border effect.]

State of the Blog: Google Reader

I thought a little “behind the scenes” look would be a fun change.

trends

For those who may have a curiosity as to where I get some of my content, that’s my running thirty day total in Google Reader. To be fair, not all of the Reader items are library related. I have a couple of Google alerts for specific terms and subscriptions to some pop culture and technology feeds. This also does it represent combing through a half dozen other news sites that I look through for tidbits that might spark an idea for a blog entry. I also comb through Twitter and Facebook for additional ideas.

When it comes to library and librarian blogs, I like a wide range of voices to choose from. I’ve started incorporating blogs from other library types (academic and school, mainly) and specific library aspects (reader’s advisory, cataloging) so as to broaden my world view. I won’t say that I’m able to understand everything I read, but I’m working on it slowly.

In sharing some of my own continuing education, my question to my readers is this: what online (or offline) sources do you use to get news in the library world? What works for you?

Vacation Mode: Oct 2010

I'm not there. I wish I *was* though.During this vacation week, I’ve been relaxing, visiting friends, doing some writing, and playing a lot of video games. Sure, it’s a staycation, but I’ve been looking forward to some unstructured time. I have some things I’ve been wanting to work on, so it gives me some time to do so.

One of the things I’ve been playing with is a Tumblr blog called “Idea Lab”.  It’s hooked into my Twitter feed so that any updates I make on it are tweeted; I’ve refrained from integrating it to Facebook since it doesn’t feel like a proper fit to it. Plus, I’d like to offer people a filter for how much content from me they get.

A couple of features that I like about the blog so far:

  1. It’s more personal and spontaneous than this blog, allowing me to send pictures, record audio, and dump whatever articles and links I want to share.
  2. It has a feature to let people ask me any question. I’ve left the option on to allow for anonymous questions so I’ll have to see how well that goes. If you want to give it a go, try it out here.
  3. It gives me a nice place to store idea seeds for further posts and hopefully (maybe) ignite someone else’s creativity. I do enjoy a nice discussion.

Since the Tumblr interface so damn easy to use, I have some other collaborative blogs in mind to make. When I put them out there, you’ll be the first to know. If you want to suggest one, I’d love to hear it!

Salem Press Library Blog Awards

Salem Blog Award First Large I am very pleased to say that this blog was awarded First Place in the “Public Library Blog” category of the Salem Press Library Blog Awards. Considering the caliber of the other blogs nominated in the category, I am very humble to receive the award. I’d like to thank the people who nominated me, Salem Press for running the contest, and everyone who has been kind enough to compliment my writing (whether you agree with it or not). It’s the last of these things that gives me the confidence to keep writing; and for that, I really can’t thank those people enough.