January 1, 2010
LLB Turns Five Years Old: Another Day, Another Post
Five years, that's got to be something like 35 years in blog-years -- never thought I would be here today writing this post.
Way Back When. I launched LLB on January 1, 2005 just to add a law librarian blog to the mix of blogs being published by the Law Professor Blogs Network I co-founded in 2004 -- never thought either would amount to much at the time. Initially I was blogging solo, then I added co-editors to help out, first Cincinnati Law's Ron Jones in 2006 and now DePaul Law's Mark Giangrande (since 2009), plus many great contributing editors over the years. At the time the law librarian/law library blogosphere was relatively uncrowded. Not so anymore. There's plenty of great blogs regularly publishing now, many by (much) younger professional law librarians full of energy and fresh new ideas. The widespread use of RSS feeds for web destinations, the somewhat late arrival of AALL blogs (compared to what was going on in 2005), and the popularization of other social media forms of communication have made it much easier for law librarians to stay informed and to share their opinions about professional developments. Some of the earlier law librarian/law library blogs have gone silent or publish far less frequently than they once did. That's understandable. Blogging is no longer the Next Big Thing. It's now a relatively mature form of web communication with many alternative social networking formats offering excellent options.
We keep plugging away on LLB but god knows for how much longer -- perhaps five years is more like 70 in blog-years. It can feel like that sometimes, particularly last year when I went through the hell that was a 5-month spell of cluster headaches because my doctor in her infinite wisdom decided my meds had to be changed. Blogging on lithium -- the same drug used to put asylum inmates in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest into a zombie state -- was "a trip." At least electro-shock therapy wasn't involved. If it was up to my long-suffering blog widow, Lynette, I would have stopped a year or two ago. I'm surprised she hasn't tried to perform a lobotomy while I'm asleep. Maybe she has. Maybe it has been successful! If you were a zoombie, would you know it?
Blogging can be a grind, but when it is, it's a grind of my own making because I believe the blogging platform is best suited for regular posting, not occasional publications nor micro-bursts into the ether. When the ABA Journal was soliciting blog recommendations for its top law blogs last year, it called for blogs that published at least three times a week. By implication, the ABA Journal was recognizing what was appropriate for this form of web communications. LLB has never missed a day in five years. That doesn't mean every day's RSS feed contains must-reads; clearly that's not the case. They're just blog posts, nothing more, nothing less, and in my case they are oftentimes the result of an early morning caffeinated rush to see what's been going on before I head off to the "day job." We, or at least I, make no attempt to be the first to publish something. Oftentimes, what's really interesting is others' responses to breaking developments so I tend to hold off rushing to publish something so I can read and link to both the development at the moment and others' opinions on the matter. LLB is not necessarily breaking the news but does try to add some context to it.
Times Have Changed. One thing has changed over the years. In the early days, LLB focused on news and developments as a current awareness service of sorts for law librarians and others. We did little in the way of analysis and commentary. Now that the landscape of web communications has changed, we certainly have gotten more opinionated. Looking back over last year's posts, the library-vendor relationship, the anti-competitive effects of the legal publishing industry and its consequences on financing the provision of legal information resources in the current economic climate, the search for alternatives now and the very likely transformation of legal publishing in the not too distant future have been themes that stands out on LLB and in the law librarian blogosphere generally. I've added my 2-cents but I doubt it has been worth even that much.
Last year's utterly unscientific LLB polls and surveys, which greatly benefited from reader participation, for example, produced some unexpected results -- phone calls to me by industry financial analysts from New York and London. WTF as the kids would say. Why is there such a vacuum of information? Shouldn't these folks be calling an official consumer advocate for law libraries? Oh wait, we don't have one. But LLB isn't one either. It's just one blog, one among many in the law librarian blogosphere. I know because I try to read as many as I can. I certainly learn from reading them; think "Jane, you ignorant slut" -- "Dan, you pompous ass!" where I am Jane or Dan in point-counterpoint fashion like this one from SNL's archives after reading a post someone else has written on a topic I covered -- a much better informed and more thoughtful post. Looking back I think it is fair to say that 2009 is the year the legal information professional blogosphere became the consumer advocate for legal resources users, individual and institutional.
It is a shame that one has to slap a vendor around a bit in a blog post when this middle age law librarian, who is well beyond his prime, puts on his "Jack Cafferty" hat to speak his (and only his) mind and later learns via private emails and telephone conversations that there are many like-minded law librarians who are fed up with the consequences of the current structure of the legal publishing industry and want change, want concerted, multitasking input from the professional community in the transformative programming being executed now or just over the horizon. It's not unusual for vendor reps or middle management types to sit in my office in our little county law library in southwestern Ohio saying "I hope we don't piss you off" or asking that our conversations be "off the record." Such is the current state of affairs; 2009 is also the year AALL demonstrated just how ineffective our professional association is as a vocal advocate for its member institutions and their patrons, legal information users. This is a pathetic situation and an unintended consequence of blogging for the last five years.
Cafferty and I were both born in Chicago. Hum... Mark Giangrande is also from Chicago. Maybe there's something in the water but the comparison ends there. Cafferty's outspoken and provocative style of commentary makes mine look amateurish by comparison. But then I am an amateur. Cafferty is a pro: "I get paid to ask questions I don't know the answers to and to complain about the things that bother me." Me? Well I've just taken a curmudgeonly turn of late complete with a very small handful of stubborn ideas and opinions. I can't speak for LLB's co-editor Mark Giangrande but I've known Mark for well over a quarter of century now and know he applies his decades of professional experience and expertise to evaluate curent developments. I learn something new every time he publishes a commentary or analysis and hope you do, too.
"Every Damn Day." Celebrated Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko (1932-1997) once said his column wasn't a gem each and every day it appeared but it did appear every day-- actually I think he said "every damn day" when I ran into him in the hallway of the Chicago Tribune Tower in the early 1990s and asked Royko how he did it. Chicago Tribune readers turned to Royko's column to see if that day's edition was worth reading.That's the way to view LLB. Of course, Royko also wrote in one of his columns, “It's been my policy to view the Internet not as an 'information highway,' but as an electronic asylum filled with babbling loonies.”
For the time being, this babbling loony and Mark Giangrande will continue blogging despite both of us barely holding on to being 50-something (and all that entails) -- thinking out loud sometimes (in my case, certainly getting crankier with age) and trying to stay current on matters of interest to us. Hopefully some of the topics we blog about are also of interest to you. In my case, tossing something into a blog post is oftentimes just a way of preserving it for later recall -- no short term memory left! Eventually I'll forget how to login to our blogware provider and then that will be the end of this for me.
Thanks to All. Mark and I would like to thank LLB's many readers and contributing editors for their continued support and their always welcomed suggestions on the fifth anniversary of Law Librarian Blog. For the record, one of our former contributing editors, Julie Jones, coined "LLB" as a shorthand reference for this blog many years ago. I would like to personally thank Julie for that. Counting spaces, that's 15 less keystrokes to make each time we mention LLB. Odd how little things like that matter.
Another day, another post. -- Joe Hodnicki