A content analysis study of leading librarian blogs shows how blogs are used for professional development, political advocacy for libraries, research and other information dissemination uses. An examination of blog posts, comments, and blogger responses to reader comments show major areas of interaction. Unstructured interviews with librarian bloggers illuminate how these bloggers view the role of their blogs now and blogging into the future.
Librarian Blog Study
Librarian weblogs are gaining in popularity within the profession of librarianship (Sauers, 2010; Coombs and Griffey, 2008, Draper and Turnage, 2008; Murray and Bell, 2007). The latter corresponds with the growth of weblogs, or blogs as they are commonly called, as a tool for online communication in an array of academic disciplines and fields (Luzón, 2009; Davies and Merchant, 2007; Walker, 2006). However, few studies with analyses of the content of librarian blogs can be found in the scholarly literature. This article helps to fill the gap in the literature by reporting on the findings of a content analysis study of major librarian blogs that was conducted to determine the range of communication genres and uses found within the blogs.
The Librarian Blog Study examines the communication taking place within a purposive sample of 12 librarian blogs. A qualitative content analysis of these blogs was conducted to locate activity of the blogs under four genres — research, social, political and professional development. Furthermore, the study analyzes the genre within these librarian blogs to examine the communication exchanges of participants of librarian blogs (bloggers’ posts; comments to posts by readers; and, bloggers’ responses to comments). The study explores how the needs and wants of those engaged by librarian blogs are met or addressed and possible future uses of librarian blogs.
What are blogs?
Blogs are Web sites that feature frequently updated entries or posts that appear in reverse chronological order. Early in the development of blogs, a common practice among those who maintained blogs (known as bloggers) was to embed hyperlinks (links) to related information in their posts, and to keep a list of addresses to blogs (blogrolls) they recommended.
As time progressed, bloggers introduced more sophisticated software and Internet technology innovations into their blogs. The “comments” function allows readers to send reactions or comments to the blog posts and “trackbacks,” kept record notifications of Web addresses that linked to a blog post. Sauers (2010) in his second edition librarian’s guide to blogging outlines these and other features available to library blogs such as RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and Twitter feeds.
The Librarian Blog Study examines how some librarian blogs are being utilized for communication within the profession and addresses the following research questions:
What types of communication are taking place in blog posts, comments, and responses by librarian bloggers based upon four defined genre categories — research, political, social, and professional development?
What are the major foci of the library blogs as demonstrated by their use of the four genres?
How do some librarian bloggers view their blogs now and into the future?
One of the earliest and most widely cited publications about blogs is written by Blood (2002). She identifies three broad types of blogs  that she defines around the postings of the maintainer of the blog: a) those that she states “mainly resembles short–form journals’ with personal life entries and “with links subordinate to the texts,” b) “notebooks,” which she defines as “sometimes personal, sometimes focused on the outside world” with post entries that are longer than the first blog type, but shorter than a typical written essay, and c) “filters,” which she defines as being of varying lengths but always focused on the primacy of the link and serving as a guide to the Web, and the weblog owner’s personality “is revealed obliquely, through its relation to the larger world.”
Luzón (2009) analyzed 15 academic blogs selected from different disciplines for a study on use of links in these academic blogs. Luzón identifies four main types of academic or scholarly blogs: a) political that share political ideas or opinions; b) research sharing for feedback or collaboration; c) conversing about academic life, networking; and, d) hybrid of all or some of the above . In her study she finds links are used for scholarly communication purposes including to build communities, to development intellectual identity, and to facilitate conversation that leads to greater collaboration.
Herring (2005, 2004) conducted extensive research on blogging using both content and discourse analyses methods. In the 2005 study, she and her co-researchers conduct a quantitative analysis of 203 randomly selected blogs. In the study, she finds that most of the blogs focused on individualistic self–expression rather than an orientation toward outward events. Further, the study finds that blogs,
... along with other emergent genres expressed through interactive Web technologies — occupies a new position in the Internet genre ecology. Specifically, it forms a de facto bridge between multimedia HTML documents and text–based computer–mediated communication, blurring the traditional distinction between these two dominant Internet paradigms, and potentially contributing to its future breakdown. 
Blogs are credited with having various academic benefits. Walker (2006) describes the attributes of three types of academic blogs: a) “Public Intellectuals” — “many academic bloggers use their blogs as a platform for political debate ...” b) “Research Logs” — “The ‘pure’ research log is a record of research conducted and ideas that might be pursued,” c) “Pseudonymous Blogs about academic life” — “... this proliferating branch of the academic blog is characterized by a tongue–in–cheek refusal to revere the ivory tower experience ... .” 
Dennen and Pahnyak (2008) find that blogs support a form of Web–based collaboration for academics and others,
Blogs enable people to interact and collaborate in four different ways: (1) publishing; (2) coauthoring/coediting; (3) social bookmarking; and (4) online discourse. In the most basic of senses, blogs provide a mechanism for an individual author to publish his thoughts or links to resources he has found in a forum where they can be accessed by others. Publishing may be considered one component of e–collaboration in that the blog author is submitting his work to a public audience for comment and use. In other words, it is an e–collaboration enabler. 
Studies of librarian blog posts and comments find that both posts and comments help shape online scholarly and professional communication (Aharony, 2010, 2009; Farkas 2007). Aharony (2010), in her content analysis study of a set of 30 library and information science (LIS) weblogs during a three–month period in 2008, found that comments in many of the blogs were concentrated on general issues, but other categories that comments covered were professional areas of interests such as library technology, Web 2.0, open access, and conferences. She concludes, “Obviously, the LIS blog readers who participate and add comments to the posts took advantage of this platform and discuss topics which are relevant to librarians’ work and profession.” 
Farkas’ findings were similar to Aharony’s when she conducted a survey of 839 library bloggers in August 2007. In the study, she finds that “The blogs with the most reach, read by thousands of people, focused on how libraries can use technologies to improve services. Given that technology changes so rapidly, many popular bloggers are the first stop for librarians.”  Survey research by Stephens (2008) finds similar findings around online community development and professional development as purposes for librarian bloggers.
Coombs and Griffey (2008) pose the following rhetorical question and answer about the uses of blogs in libraries, “... what is it about the blog form that is useful for every library type? There are a few reasons that stand out: to act as a portal for news for patrons, to accommodate internal communication, or to serve as a technological tool where you are leveraging the technology behind the blog for a specific end.” 
But, how exactly are librarians utilizing blogs as a technological tool and for what end? Are librarians using blogging for scholarly communication, for communicating internally or to their outside communities of users, or as a forum of e–collaboration? Since the latter half of the first decade of the twentieth century, there’s been little library blog research to determine what information is being shared in the blogs. This study, described herein, conducts a content analysis study of a sample of major librarian blogs to determine what the content genres of the blogs are and what that reveals about the possible uses of librarian blogs.
Blogs included in the Librarian Blog Study
The Librarian Blog Study is a qualitative content analysis of a purposive sample of librarian blogs identified as useful for continuing education and professional development for librarians. The sample of blogs comes from a list identified by Quinn (2009). Quinn  developed the list of 15 weblogs from ones owned by individuals rather than organizations, and “... several factors, including visibility (as determined by numbers of comments, mentions by other bloggers and Technorati profile), longevity, and activity level, as well as content.”
The researcher/author of this report conducted an initial review of the 15 blogs identified by Quinn in preparation for the Librarian Blog Study, which led to a reduction of the number of blogs best suited for the study from 15 librarian blogs to 12 librarian blogs; see Appendix A, List of Blogs in the Librarian Blog Study. The three blogs removed from consideration in the study were removed for the following reasons: one blog was eliminated that primarily reviewed books and other resources, another blog was eliminated that disseminated news gleaned from other outlets, and a third blog was omitted because its maintainer ceased activity early during the year of 2010, which was approximately midway in the duration of the period of analysis for the Librarian Blog Study.
Sampling within the blogs in the Librarian Blog Study
Sampling of the content within the 12 individual blogs for the Librarian Blog Study was drawn by a random sample over a 24–month period (January 2009 through December 2010) distributed each month for the 12 blogs for posts having two or more comments. In addition to the randomly selected posts, all the comments and responses of the randomly selected posts were placed into the content analysis of the Librarian Blog Study. In cases when a blog did not contain a blog post for a particular month that resulted in two or more comments, the random drawing was carried over to the following month or another month until a post with two or more comments was found; this led in a few cases to drawings up through January 2011. Blog comments sometimes flowed into the year 2011. See Table 1 below, which shows the total number of entries in the Librarian Blog Study (N=2,478 entries including posts, comments and responses).
Table 1: Librarian Blog Study
Blog Total Posts Comments Responses 1 151 15.89% 24 63.58% 96 20.53% 31 2 283 8.48% 24 75.97% 215 15.55% 44 3 423 5.67% 24 87.71% 371 6.62% 28 4 221 10.86% 24 70.14% 155 19.00% 42 5 285 8.42% 24 84.91% 242 6.67% 19 6 133 18.05% 24 63.16% 84 18.80% 25 7 162 14.81% 24 79.63% 129 5.56% 9 8 109 22.02% 24 74.31% 81 3.67% 4 9 158 15.19% 24 79.75% 126 5.06% 8 10 236 10.17% 24 79.66% 188 10.17% 24 11 123 19.51% 24 71.54% 88 8.94% 11 12 194 12.37% 24 82.99% 161 4.64% 9 Total 2,478 11.62% 288 78.13% 1,936 10.25% 254
Genre theory in the Librarian Blog Study
Miller  defines genre as typified rhetorical action based in recurrent situations. Swales (1990) characterizes a genre as “a class of communicative events” having “a shared set of communicative purposes” and similar structures, stylistic features, content and intended audiences .
The Librarian Blog Study applies genre theory to categorize content of the blogs in the content areas of posts, comments, and responses. These content areas of the blogs may be perceived as both text and discourse that involves the blogger or individual author of posts sharing an online journal to communicate to the outside world, an audience through the Internet, which often leads to an exchange of comments and responses. Blogging is social action that can appropriately be categorized as genre, according to the tenants of genre theory.
Genres for the Librarian Blog Study are based on composite definitions of genres or categories found in the literature about blogs, including genres or categories found in literature about scholarly blogs and librarian blogs. The four genres are research, political, social, and professional development. The genres used in the content analysis of the Librarian Blog Study and their operational definitions, based on professional and scholarly literature, are listed in Appendix B.
Content analysis methods in the Librarian Blog Study
Weber  defines content analysis as “a research methodology that utilizes a set of procedures to make inferences from text. These inferences are about the sender(s) of message, the message itself, or the audience of the message.” Krippendorff  defines content analysis as “a research technique for making inferences from data to their contexts.”
The content analysis of the blogs in the Librarian Blog Study is a qualitative evaluation, which categorizes each of the randomly selected posts and all of the resulting comments and responses for each of the individual sample posts into one of four defined genres — research, political, social and professional development.
The content analysis validity of the coding categories or genres in the Librarian Blog Study is based on “a priori coding” , which in the case of the Librarian Blog Study is coding derived from previous conceptual constructs of blog content from professionals and academics that is found in previous research and published literature.
Each entry in the Librarian Blog Study is qualitatively assigned one predominate genre. The Library Blog Study researcher/author read and coded each of the entries for the 12 blogs in the random sample covering the 24–month period and assigned genres based on the established genre definitions. Descriptive statistics were used to count and assess the blog entries within each genre represented in the blogs and to provide further analysis.
The Librarian Blog Study researcher/author and an independent coder conducted an intercoder reliability pre–test on a sub–sample of the blogs to be studied using the Holsti Test, achieving a reliability coefficient of 83.33 percent. Librarian and information science researchers, as well as communication researchers, follow social science standards in conducting research. Scholars in library and information studies and communication studies  find that acceptable standards for content analysis research should attain an intercoder agreement coefficient of between .90 or higher and no lower than .80 to be considered reliable.
Unstructured blogger interviews in the Librarian Blog Study
During the summer of 2012, the content analysis portion of the study was triangulated with individual, semi–structured interviews with bloggers to obtain from them a self-assessment of their blog’s activity and purpose. Requests for an unstructured interview were sent to all 12 bloggers in the study by the researcher/author. Seven of the 12 blog owners agreed to be interviewed. Results of a preliminary content analysis for his or her own blog were shared with each blogger before each interview was conducted.
The librarian blogs identified and chosen for their high activity level for inclusion in the Librarian Blog Study demonstrated that assessment by the large number of comments received by the 12 blogs during the study’s two–year period. The 228 posts randomly chosen in the study received 1,936 reader comments and the bloggers responded to these comments 254 times. See Figure 1.
Figure 1: Breakdown of entries across all blogs.
The 24 blog posts from each of the 12 librarian blogs (288 total posts) were randomly chosen that had at least two comments each, but the average number of comments received by each blogger’s post was much higher with an average of about seven comments made to each post. The level of comment activity was even higher for some of the librarian blogs as shown by a graph of number of comments per blog, with one blog receiving 371 comments or an average of 16 comments per post. See Figure 2.
Figure 2: Number of comments per blog.
The level of blogger responses for the 12 blogs was somewhat higher than the number reflected in the results (254 blogger responses) because bloggers sometimes responded to multiple reader comments in one response entry, which was coded and counted as one entry. Responses by the bloggers were present in all the blogs; but, some bloggers showed a greater response rate to readers than others See Figure 3.
Figure 3: Breakdown of entry type by blog.
The findings of the content analysis in the Librarian Blog Study show that the primary genre occurring in the librarian blogs as a whole is “social” at 53.07 percent or 1315 entries, followed by “professional development” (30.83 percent or 764 entries),“political” (13.96 percent or 346 entries), and fourthly “research” (2.14 percent or 53 entries). See Table 2.
However, professional development was the second most prevalent genre among the blogs as a whole. In addition, the content analysis study found the professional development category was the lead genre in two of the individual blogs as will be discussed later in the findings.
Table 2: Librarian Blog Study
Entries by genre.
Blog Total entries Research genre 1 Political genre 2 Social genre 3 Professional development genre 4 1 151 3.31% 5 23.18% 35 39.74% 60 33.77% 51 2 283 0.71% 2 12.72% 36 33.57% 95 55.00% 150 3 423 0.47% 2 19.86% 84 30.02% 127 49.65% 210 4 221 0.90% 2 31.67% 70 61.54% 136 5.88% 13 5 285 0.35% 1 9.82% 28 67.02% 191 22.81% 65 6 133 19.55% 26 8.27% 11 45.11% 60 27.07% 36 7 162 1.85% 3 22.22% 36 61.11% 99 14.81% 24 8 109 3.67% 4 18.35% 20 66.97% 73 11.01% 12 9 158 3.80% 6 6.96% 11 62.03% 98 27.22% 43 10 236 0.85% 2 3.39% 8 64.41% 152 31.36% 74 11 123 0.00% 0 1.63% 2 71.54% 88 26.83% 33 12 194 0.00% 0 2.58% 5 70.10% 136 27.32% 53 Total 2,478 2.14% 53 13.96% 346 53.07% 1,315 30.83% 764
Social genre in the librarian blogs
The social genre is a reflection of the academic social networking that occurs within the content of all the blogs in the Librarian Blog Study. The social genre is represented in courtesy remarks such as salutations between friends and colleagues that may live hundreds of miles apart or expressions of gratitude by those who comment to a blogger for a particular blog post.
Other common occurrences that were coded as “social” in the content analysis of the Librarian Blog Study were items by the bloggers sharing information in their blog posts about vacations or personal travels, and other personal activities. In the Librarian Blog Study, for instance, one blogger shared with her readers what she called “My Foursquare ‘Aha’ Moment,” after experimenting with the Foursquare social media technology for a time, and realizing how advantageous it was to her during a personal visit to Washington D.C. In her blog, this resulted in a conversation with comment readers about personal and professional discoveries they had made using Foursquare. In the post the blogger wrote,
I’ve been using foursquare for a while and having fun with it, but my “aha” moment finally came last month on a tip to Washington D.C. Foursquare (and services like it) use GPS built–in to your smartphone to locate you ... The first happened when I checked in at the National Building Museum and foursquare showed me that “Fiesta Asia Street Fair” was a nearby trending place. This piqued my interest, so I looked it up on the Web and found out it was actually the National Asian Heritage Festival, which was happening just a few blocks away on Pennsylvania Avenue ... I caught another glimpse of the power of information plus location when we went to dinner that night. I checked in at Rosa Mexicano and got a little popup with historical information about where we were courtesy of The History Channel ...
Social genre content in the librarian blogs within the study reveals interesting overlays of the personal and professional lives of bloggers through posts, and through entries of commenters when they identify with the experiences or ideas written about in the posts. For example, another blogger in the librarian blog study wrote several posts about combining career aspirations with having a baby and a family life that received dozens of comments from readers. Some of these comments were coded “social” and some were coded “professional” — here’s a reader’s comment from one of those posts that was coded “social,”
... I hear from women all the time how they hated putting their children in daycare, how they cried everyday, etc. I think the main difference is I love my job @ a library, and find fulfillment there. I think it would be difficult to leave the baby if I did not find what I do enjoyable and important, or did not like the daycare ... I waited until I was established in my career to have a child, so I have reached the point that I have some control over what I do at work, and when ... The time I spend with my baby now is excellent — and we are both blossoming with the new situation. Thanks for the post.
Political genre in the librarian blogs
The “political” genre accounted for a considerable amount of the content in the librarian blog study. Three of the blogs or a fourth of the blogs in the Librarian Blog Study, showed the political genre as the second highest in frequency of occurrence (see Table 2).
An item randomly drawn from the study’s sample, coded in the “political” genre, is exemplar of this genre category. In the post the blogger writes a post that takes a position on a controversial topic within a larger public dialogue. The blog post itself, written in short essay–length form, spoke out against a decision by an “open access” company that decides to sell software to a proprietary entity, which led to a public outcry within the library blogosphere. As a result of this particular post, dozens of comments from readers were rendered as a reaction to the post, engaging in a dialogue and sharing multiple perspectives on the topic. Here is one entry from the latter exchange,
I think part of the gray is also an alignment of values. There are some entities that support the mission of libraries that seem to be in it for the profit — either for themselves or their stakeholders. There are others that are closer in alignment to the education and information dissemination practices of librarianship. I tried to capture this discussion in a pair of blog posts [hyperlinks] a couple of years ago. If anything, the situation may be even more black–and–white today ...
In typical blog fashion, the post and comments in the aforementioned exchange contained hyperlinks to other information or commentary on the issue to disseminate among readers.
Blog topics involving customer or user advocacy, pro or con, around companies’ or vendors’ products and services were frequent “political” content that appears across the 12 blogs in the study. In the Librarian Blog Study, for example, in the content of blogs there appeared viewpoints about the responsiveness of the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) to library users. On one blog post, this statement is shared,
I’ve said before that OCLC sometimes acts as if it doesn’t understand the work it’s in. It’s the services, not the data. It’s also true that librarians too often undervalue OCLC’s services and too often do not understand that an organization’s bottom line is an equation that needs to include the resources (as in money and people) for innovation. The cost of the future of ILL [inter–library loan] transaction, for example, includes the past, present, and future costs of the future ILL. It cannot stay as it was in the beginning, because our services have changed. It needs a “sustainable business framework”.
Another frequent political genre theme that appears in a number of the 12 librarian blogs studied concerns library closings and inadequate funding of libraries. For example, a blog post shared a list of “Save the Libraries” campaigns from school and public libraries across the United State that faced budget crises and/or threats of closings. The blog resulted in numerous comments from readers, some of them sharing stories of efforts by ordinary people, students, and even the America Library Association to defend the survival of libraries.
The former political genre themes are dominant in the Librarian Blog Study; however, other political issues emerged within the librarian blogs, which came from readers rather than the maintainers of the blogs. One such comment, with political implication regarding the digital divide, is from a student reader in response to a librarian blogger post about all the things that patrons could do utilizing a library’s Web site, who had this to say,
My university offers a nice Web site, with online subject reference guides, networked support staff, online sign–up for learning programs, and digital collections. But they’re also a university library; at local branches here in Pennsylvania, we’re worried that they can even stay open. Half the time there’s not even a human at the upstairs checkout of my local library.
Research genre in librarian blogs
The research genre or category was the smallest content area found in the Librarian Blog Study (2.14 percent). This genre contained information primarily about applied or action research that librarians conducted as individuals or as part of a team at their various institutions. For example, several bloggers regularly disseminated information through their blog posts to update their research about technology and Web 2.0. One such post disseminated information about an Internet “23 Things Summit.” The summit sponsor, WebJunction, describes “23 Things” as “a revolutionary staff development learning concept centered on social collaboration tools.” According to the blog post, “23 Things” which was successfully created by librarian Helen Blowers while at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County had been adopted in 15 countries worldwide at the time of the posting.
The Librarian Blog Study contained one blog that held content on legal research from the perspectives of academic law librarians. Among the major topics covered by the aforementioned blog, as well as other blogs in the study, are the areas of copyright, privacy, and e–books. The aforementioned were at times addressed separately, but, all three at times converged when the blogs covered the topic of the Google Books Settlement that appeared multiple times in the study’s random sample during the time period of the Librarian Blog Study. For example, one blogger who attended a conference held at Columbia Law School on the Google Books Settlement provided a post of his onsite notes covering the conference and a comment from a reader to his post, a Chicago Law School professor and a presenter at the conference, added his slides to the blog site on the same day.
Professional development genre in the librarian blogs
The professional development genre emerged as the second highest genre identified in the librarian Blog Study overall with 764 entries or 30.83 percent of the total blog content entries. The professional development genre had a strong showing of content focus, 25 percent or higher in eight out of the 12 blogs in the Librarian Blog Study. And, two of the blogs in the Librarian Blog Study showed the professional development genre to be the top focus of their content with approximately 53 percent and 50 percent each (see Table 2).
Through cross–tabulation and mode statistics it was shown that comments and responses for the professional development posts in the study “stayed on topic” and remained focused on that theme 45 percent of the time. This is a substantially high percentage considering any gratuitous remarks sent by readers to the bloggers were coded as “social” rather than professional. The cross–tabulation and mode statistics reflect that a high percentage of the exchanges about professional development stayed focused around peer–to–peer instruction and learning interactions.
An area of emphasis within the professional development genre of the Librarian Blog Study is peer–to–peer instruction and/or sharing about technologies. It is an area that emerged repeatedly between the librarian bloggers and the readers with whom they exchanged information. The professional development blog genre covered a range of topics in the blogs from content on the use of a technology that had a long history such as tips on use of microphones to posts giving advice on how to use or find alternatives to constantly changing Web–based social utilities such as Ning or Delicious.
As an example of peer–to–peer sharing about technologies, one post disseminated a list of more than one hundred “free” Web 2.0 tools that the blogger recommended could “help your library save money.” The post received about 50 comments in response, and one grateful reader sent the following comment to the blogger for the latter post,
Thanks for the great list; I’ve heard of many of these, but not all. I concur on the malware bytes software others have suggested. It’s gotten me out of a bad spyware situation many times, and also picked up/removed nasty spyware that the other tools you mentioned didn’t catch.
Some of the comments to the “free” Web 2.0 tools list from the blogger cautioned that some of the tools on the list were for personal home use only, other responders gave dissenting reports or unfavorable ratings to some of the technologies on the blogger’s list, and still others added to the list of recommendations.
A frequent topic area of emphasis found in the professional development genre of the Librarian Blog Study content analysis is the frequent sharing on their blogs of conference or workshop presentations. As examples, the study found information from one library blogger from an America Library Association “un–conference” or online virtual presentations and another blogger shared slides from a presentation that he had given in Australia.
Unstructured interviews with librarian bloggers
All seven out of the 12 librarian bloggers in the Librarian Blog Study who consented to be interviewed agreed with the preliminary findings about the genre content in their own blogs. All of them agreed that professional development genre is a large focus in what they blogged about and in the dialogue interactions that happened on their blogs. As one blogger said,
... politics and professional ethics resonate with me ... I have a background in tech training positions so all that corroborates with professional development.
Another blogger made the following observation,
... my blog shows emphases in political and professional development, especially in combination with social networking. Especially in 2009 and 2010 I was commenting on some important topics ... and I was involved in some mentoring.
Still another blogger said,
Politics comes up more when discussing education ... impact of ‘no child left behind,’ budget cuts ... When I write about politics, it’s about how politics impacts schools, students, and libraries. I stay away from partisan issues like endorsing candidates.
During the interviews, the purposes that the bloggers gave for their blogs and the roles that the blogger saw themselves having varied, but summations they gave were similar in major ways. For example, one blogger interviewee stated, “Information sharing is still important, but topical instead of resource sharing.” Another interviewee said,
Earlier, I saw my job was to post things from the Internet that I found interesting that I thought others might want to see. Now, my job, as I see it, is to contextualize topics from or dealing with the Internet.
Yet another blogger said, “I blog to spur people to think ... to reflect ... blogs exist for that purpose.” Still others had personal ambitions for blogging, such as “growing my business,” and “opportunities for peer–to–peer sharing and self–publishing.”
A key question asked of the librarian bloggers was a probe for who they were reaching in their communication or who are their readers? See Appendix C for a list of types of users that the librarian bloggers identified as their frequent readers. Some mentioned that they have used “feedburner” or other software to determine the number of blog subscribers they have, which ranged upward to about 50,000 from the United States and internationally. Others said they no longer keep track of their readers. It was underscored that not all readers of the blogs are subscribers and some interactions as a result of the blog posts occur “off–line” from the blog such as through e–mail or telephone.
The librarian bloggers interviewed plan to continue their blogs. They also were optimistic about blogging generally having a future role although perhaps not as much as the recent past. One librarian blogger explained the change this way,
People’s attention has scattered with Twitter ... I’m still excited about blogging, but don’t devote as much time on it. I miss long form writing ... Twitter is a leveler for people, even more than blogging ... for people who want to have conversation go toward that, people who don’t want to write lengthy.
Another librarian blogger interviewee said about the continuation of blogging,
The surviving blogs are those with unique perspectives. Blogs incorporate social commenting and that’s an important aspect of it ... even businesses are using Facebook more and more instead of stand–alone Web sites.
A common characteristic of the librarian bloggers was personal enjoyment of writing. Although most lamented increasing constraints on their time and ability to concentrate on long form writing for their blogs, they still expressed an allegiance of one kind or another to it. As one blogger said,
I enjoy writing; I keep a personal journal. Blogging allows me to do my thinking in public. We should all be reflective practitioners.
Blogs have developed and increased in popularity among librarians, as well as among other academics and professionals, but little research has been published about librarian blogs. The Librarian Blog Study’s examination of the content genres of librarian blogs and uses by both the blog maintainers and readers contributes to research in this area.
The Librarian Blog Study shows that professional development was a major focus of the blog content during the period of study. The findings of the Librarian Blog Study support the findings of previous research such as Aharony (2010, 2009).The findings of the Librarian Blog Study contribute to knowledge regarding the attraction of blog readers to blogs that support professional continuing education around technology, conferences, career advising and other areas.
In addition, preliminary findings of the Librarian Blog Study show that blog posts and comments “stay on topic” through lengthy exchanges between bloggers and readers, which sets the stage for further research into librarian blog content to determine, for example, what professional development areas are covered that are most attended to by readers.
In the Librarian Blog Study, the professional development content genre emerged in greater frequency than any other in combination with the social genre. Studies indicate that academics are often attracted to blogging for its informal communication style (Dennen and Pahnyak, 2008; Stephens, 2008; Halavais, 2006). Blogging opens up communication to an informal, relaxed style that appears to be beneficial in the interactions in the Librarian Blog Study. Further research is needed to determine the possible benefits gained from the combination of the social networking aspect of blogging with the professional development genre that occurs in librarian blogs. Other genre categories in the Librarian Blog study, politics and research, are major focus in some of the blogs in the study, pointing to a need for further study into the combining effects of blogging with these areas.
The librarian blogs in the study were chosen as a purposive sample for their reputations and high activity level. On several occasions, during interviews the librarian bloggers commented on the responsibility they felt because “users regard my blog as something they can trust.” Scholar Gill Kirkup  describes some bloggers as a new “public intellectual,”
... blogging offers the potential of a new genre of accessible academic production which could contribute to the creation of a new twenty–first century academic identity with more involvement as a public intellectual.
The librarian blogger interviews conducted in this study were useful for triangulation to check the internal validity of the content analysis portion of the study. In addition, the interviews provide insights into the opinions of these leading librarian bloggers regarding their views on the future of blogging. The Librarian bloggers express optimism about the changing, but continuing, roles of their blogs and similar blogs into the future.
About the author
Dr. Grace Jackson–Brown is Assistant Professor of Library Science with Missouri State University. She holds a Ph.D. in Mass Communication from Indiana University — Bloomington, and an M.L.S. from Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas. Her research interests are computer–mediated communication, social media, information literacy, and multicultural issues in libraries and media.
E–mail: GJackson-Brown [at] MissouriState [dot] edu
Dr. Jackson–Brown wishes to acknowledge and thank Todd E. Daniel, Director, Rstats Institute, Missouri State University and Marilee L. Teasley, graduate student, Department of Psychology, Missouri State University for the statistical assistance they rendered for this article.
1. Blood, 2002, pp. 6–9.
2. Luzón, 2009, p. 76.
3. Herring, 2005, p. 26.
4. Walker, 2006, pp. 130–131.
5. Dennen and Pahnyak, 2008, p. 55.
6. Aharony, 2010, p. 75.
7. Farkas, 2007, p. 40.
8. Coombs and Griffey, 2008, p. 12.
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Appendix A: Librarian Blog Study — Blog list
1. “The Blue Skunk Blog,” by Doug Johnson
2. “David Lee King,” by David Lee King
3. “Information Wants to Be Free,” by Meredith Farkas
4. “Free Range Librarian,” by Karen G. Schneider
5. “Librarian in Black,” by Sarah Houghton–Jan
6. “Library Law Blog,” by Mary Minow and Peter Hirtle
7. “Librarian.net,” by Jessamyn West
8. “Library Bytes,” by Helen Blowers
9. “Phil Bradley’s Weblog,” by Phil Bradley
10. “The Shifted Librarian,” by Jenny Levin
11. “Stephen’s Lighthouse,” by Stephen Abram
12. “Tame the Web: Libraries, Technology and People,” by Michael Stephens
Appendix B: Composite definitions of librarian blog genres
Shares research for feedback, collaboration; Use as a platform to record and organize research thoughts/ideas; Engage in discussion about any discipline–specific topic to facilitate interaction about research; Exchange information about research
Political ideas and opinions
Use as a platform for political debate; Discussion of information about government, politics, controversial library issues
Social or academic life networking
Conversing about academic life; social networking or exchange of information or ideas on everything from the “everyday” to the profound; Informal conversation or discussion that might happen around the water fountain or during coffee breaks
Sharing of information about career management, learning, mentoring
Appendix C: List of reported categories of librarian blog readers
Blog users currently with the library profession
Techie types; Web technology users
Librarians from all types of libraries
Blog readers from academia (higher education)
Blog readers who are from multi–disciplines (not only higher education)
International blog readers
Library science students
Niche group of blog readers who are interested in same topics as blogger
Google users who find blog through a random search
School library media specialists
Librarians involved with information technologies, social media
Businesses or firms that have an information technologies department
Received 17 January 2013; accepted 23 January 2013.
Copyright © 2013, First Monday.
Copyright © 2013, Grace M. Jackson–Brown. All rights reserved.
Content analysis study of librarian blogs: Professional development and other uses
by Grace M. Jackson–Brown
First Monday, Volume 18, Number 2 - 4 February 2013
A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.
© First Monday, 1995-2013.