Tag Archives: blogging

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Social Media

23 May

goodbaduglyThe following first appeared as an article for the Social Media column (edited by Lara Killian, AHIP) in MLA News, the monthly membership magazine of the Medical Library Association. Originally, I planned to simply repost it here without any additional thoughts or comments, but in the past 24 hours, a couple of things have occurred that make me wish to add just a quick note. First, I read the New York Times article, The Internet is Broken: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It. It’s an interesting piece about Evan Williams, a co-creator of Blogger, one of the founders of Twitter, and the founder of Medium. Much of the article focuses on the the struggles of the latter as a successful business model, but the underlying theme is about the Internet and what social media has fostered, negatively, in our society.

The second thing that happened was last night, someone who I’ve never encountered in my entire life but who clearly disagreed with something that I posted on Twitter, called me a paid troll, an idiot, and a waste of oxygen. I’m grateful that they stayed away from any comments about my body and my dead mother, but … I blocked the individual before he could think of that. I’ve used Twitter for years. I know that it has an earned reputation as a platform for bullying, for hateful comments, and for even inciting violence, but until last night, I’d been immune from any of that. Twitter is a way for me to aggregate news sources, share interesting and helpful information with friends and colleagues, see pictures of puppies, and even form a few new friendships. I’ll not shy away from it due to this incident, but I imagine that I’m not alone when I observe the horrid behavior of too many people today, virtual and otherwise, and shout, “STOP IT!” 

But enough with the commentary. Here’s the piece that I wrote about why I’m a blogger. It’s been one of the best professional and personal decisions that I’ve made. It’s the Good, to the Bad and the Ugly.


Way back in September of 2012, I started writing a blog, “A Librarian by Any Other Name.” I chose this name because my official job title had recently changed from “research and scholarly communications librarian” to “informationist.” I didn’t particularly care for the latter term, but it came with an administrative supplement grant from the National Library of Medicine, which was my impetus for starting to blog in the first place. I also chose what I thought was a fun name for my uniform resource locator (URL)—librarianhats.net—to capture the fact that librarians have many job titles, in part because we wear so many different “hats.”

I began my blog to track my experience and progress for the grant. I’m not very good with note taking in any traditional sense, but I do like to write a narrative and I enjoy the world of social media, so blogging seemed a good choice. It became a way for me to share not only with other members of my research team, but also with other librarians and/or interested readers. When the project ended, I realized that I’d developed an audience and that I really enjoyed writing for my followers, so I continued.

Since that first post, I’ve written 192 more and had 62,224 visitors from 156 different countries. Reviewing these statistics makes me feel both proud and humbled. I’ve received many kind words of appreciation, engaged in interesting discussions about blog post topics, and discovered lots of colleagues with similar ideas and in similar situations. As a direct result of contacts made through my blog, I’ve accepted at least 1 invitation each year to speak at librarian conferences, allowing me to travel to fun places and meet many wonderful people. All of this happened because I started writing about what I do and what I think about as a librarian, an informationist, and, most recently, an evaluator for the UMass Center for Clinical & Translational Science. I believe it’s one of the best professional decisions I ever made.

Want to start your own blog? Here are some lessons I’ve learned:

Be yourself

My blog is a mix of the professional and personal me. I found early on that it was difficult for me to write completely objectively, as I might do for a professional publication. Besides, this wasn’t the point of Librarian by Any Other Name. I wanted to share my personal experiences and thoughts, but in a professional manner. As such, I adopted a style that allows me to be myself: fairly informal, folksy, and hopefully funny at times, but also on point in regard to sharing content that my audience will find interesting and relevant. Finding your voice may come easily or not, but with time and practice, it develops.

Be consistent

In her piece, “Making Time to Stay Social,” Lara Killian, AHIP, notes the importance of making a schedule and sticking to it. This is important both for the writer and the audience. People follow a blog when it stays current. In the same way, they stop visiting when a site sits dormant for long periods of time. When I first started A Librarian by Any Other Name, I wrote and posted a new piece each week. When I finished the initial project and especially when I changed jobs a couple of years ago, I found it harder to maintain this schedule due to both time and material. Once or twice a month is now my norm. The key is to maintain engagement.

Be brave (if you want to)

Early on, I made the decision to announce every new entry to A Librarian by Any Other Name on multiple platforms. I wanted people to find it. I wanted to develop an audience. My primary audience—in other words, medical librarians—prefers receiving information via different means. Some subscribe; some follow on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google; and still others click from the link that I send in an email to several email discussion lists. Some may feel this is overkill, but the reality of social media platforms and information flow is that if you want an audience, you need to utilize multiple channels. You may have naysayers who think self-promotion is simply ego, but it isn’t. If you’ve taken the time and effort to write something that you want others to read, you need to tell them it’s there. After all, it’s social media, not a diary.

Final thoughts

Too often, we struggle in our profession to be visible. We feel that we are overlooked and undervalued, and that what we do is misunderstood. The easiest remedy for this is communication. Blogging is one means of accomplishing this goal—and a whole lot more.

Follow Along

7 Jan

blog bubbleI’m a HUGE fan of Twitter. I know that many of my colleagues, associates, and people in general still don’t get it. They don’t understand how a continuing stream of bits of information could be relevant to anyone. Mostly, I find that those who either don’t get or don’t like the social media tool always sum up their feelings by stating, “I don’t care if you brushed your teeth today.”

Concerns for halitosis and dental hygiene aside, these short-sighted and shallow accusations of Twitter are just that. But this isn’t a blog post to share the merits of Twitter. I need to write that piece for another blog (NAHSL) later this week. Instead, this is a very quick collection of BLOGS that, in many cases, Twitter led me to. In other words, the 140 characters shared by someone on Twitter ultimately took me to the following substantive resources that I check daily. The blogs themselves are not all updated on a daily basis, but I decided that this year I would put them into a folder on my bookmarks toolbar and look at them each morning. Anything new that these people write never ceases to inform, inspire, energize, and/or entertain. I share them with you here in the hopes that you will choose to either follow them as well, or perhaps create your own “Top Ten” to share with others.

  • Get Moving: Fitting Fitness into Your Day is the blog of Boston.com’s senior health and wellness producer, Elizabeth Comeau. You can follow along with Elizabeth on her own journey to live a healthy life, as well as find many links to important news stories related to health and wellness. Elizabeth gets the first listing in this list because today marks her one year “blogiversary”. Congrats, Elizabeth! You can also follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @BeWellBoston.
  • FUDiet is the blog of, admittedly, my favorite researcher at UMass Medical School. Librarians are not supposed to choose favorites (I think I’ve typed this before), but I have a bias towards Sherry Pagoto, PhD, a clinical psychologist and researcher in the areas of health, nutrition, fitness, depression and obesity. She lets me work with her, she planks in the Library, she makes me laugh. Ranking #1 for sure! Her blog and her social media movement, #PlankADay, are not to be missed. If you want to know the FACTS about health and fitness, follow an expert. Follow Sherry! @DrSherryPagoto
  • The Brilliant Blog is home of the musings of author, journalist, consultant and speaker, Annie Murphy Paul. Annie is a regular contributor to numerous news sources including Time, CNN, Forbes, MindShift, Psychology Today, and The New York Times, to name a few. She writes fascinating and thought-provoking pieces on the science behind learning and intelligence. You can also find Annie on Twitter at @anniemurphypaul
  • I started following Laura Vanderkam’s blog after reading her book, 168 Hours. I need all the help I can find, all the tips offered, to help me manage the multiple projects I have going on in my life, both at work and away from here. Laura provides these through her books, her videos, and her blog. Felling overwhelmed? Take a few minutes to read her stuff. You really DO have more time than you think. @lvanderkam
  • Librarians know Daniel Pink. Members of the Medical Library Association were lucky to have Dan speak at our annual meeting a few years back, as well as host a webcast just for us! When it comes to understanding people and how to put that understanding to practice in my people-oriented work, his books are at the top of my list. And his blog is a great way to keep those ideas going in between the publication of said books. @DanielPink is also on Twitter.
  • I would be remiss if I didn’t include my colleague, Donna Kafel’s, blog in this list. Donna oversees the e-Science Community Blog, a multi-contributor source for all information related to librarians, eScience, and data. I slip in a post there myself, from time to time. If you’re an informationist, a research librarian, any kind of librarian working with data, you can find a lot of relevant information here. The NER eScience Portal tweets, too – @NERescience.
  • Speaking of data, David McCandless and Omid Kashan’s website and blog, Information is Beautiful, is… beautiful! Leaders in data visualization, these guys regularly publish amazing pieces on all kinds of topics. It’s a fun stop in your busy day. Info=Beautiful, @infobeautiful
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education hosts a number of great blogs, but the one I choose to list here is Percolator: Research that Matters. From politics to morality to academia, Percolator is worth your attention. Grab a cup of Joe(sephine) and enjoy! You can keep up with all news from The Chronicle on Twitter at @chronicle.

And now, perhaps the two most important blogs to follow (save my own, of course!):

  • Because a life without music is no life at all, read Kim Ruehl’s blog for great writing on music and community. Kim writes regularly for No Depression, FolkAlley, NPR, and Yes! magazine. Though you can find her work at each of these places, I like to follow her own website. One-stop reading.
  • Ask Amy. Go ahead, ask her! She will answer. The Chicago Tribune’s nationally syndicated advice columnist, Amy Dickinson, is a sure thing for a 2-minute daily ponder regarding some important life lesson. Wondering what to say to your tacky neighbors (nothing, you McSnippy!), your whining children (just do the chores, you lazy kiddos!), the last guy to not return your calls after a date (seriously?! move on!)? No worries, someone has surely asked Amy and she’s provided just the right advice. If you work in a cubicled environment with other people (as opposed to being a zoo keeper), Amy can help you get through the days a little bit easier. Her memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville, is also worthy of a list, just not this one. Even better, buy the audio version and Amy will read it to you herself. Follow Amy on Twitter @AskingAmy and catch her from time to time as a regular panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

Yes, I can see that you’re hard-pressed to make an argument that each of these blogs is relevant to the librarian life, but this librarian’s life would be much less of what it is without them. Thanks to each of the writers for writing them!