Rich Site Summary (usually called Really Simple Syndication) is an invaluable tool for fans of blogs. RSS feed readers consolidate all your favorite blogs and RSS-enabled websites at one convenient location. I use Google Reader and like it pretty well; I have 46 subscriptions at this point (down from 70+ before I started at SLIS). Some of these are defunct—Mongo’s Montreaux, for example, is on hiatus until Mongo leaves his temporary position with the U.S. Government; Sepia Mutiny has shut down, but I keep the bookmark so I’ll remember to go back and read old posts; and I keep hoping that Jonquil will start blogging again—but the majority are live.
There’s no way I would be able to keep track of all the blogs and syndicated sites I read without the Google Reader. Some of the bloggers post irregularly enough that I would have given up on them long ago without the convenience of an RSS feed. Most bloggers I follow post daily, and some make frequent posts throughout the day. An added benefit of the Google Reader is that I can keep an item unread and return to it later, to read at leisure. I can also email myself a particularly good link; today it was a recommendation for a new YA novel, Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan.
Blogs, when done well, are incredibly communal. Group blogs are obviously so; but individual blogs can accumulate circles of readers that form surprisingly tight-knit communities. The comments on a really good blog can develop into insightful and far-ranging conversations. It’s kind of like a guided tour of the internet.
It’s easy enough to find librarians who blog, but there are also some less obvious places to find topics of interest.
- Boing Boing (http://boingboing.net ) has dedicated pages for books, music, video, comics, etc. and even has a family-friendly area that lists activities, books, and media for kids. It really is a repository for wonderful things; I get most of my book recommendations from BoingBoing. There’s some overlap with Wired, so the editors talk a lot about tech trends, science fiction, comics, and maker culture; but they also discuss intellectual property rights, weird science trivia, cat memes, and civil rights. They also occasionally have items with direct relevance to library students (“The (New York Public Library) Manuscripts and Archives Division is offering an (unpaid) internship to aid the Digital and Project Archivists for the Timothy Leary Papers for the Spring 2013 term to students from a Master’s program in librarianship, archival studies, or preservation with an interest in the born digital materials in the papers… http://boingboing.net/2013/02/05/ny-public-library-internship.html )
- The Middle East Institute Editor’s Blog (http://mideasti.blogspot.com ), by Michael Collins Dunn, discusses current events in the Middle East; art, literature, and music from the Arab diaspora; Middle Eastern linguistics; and pop culture (political graffiti in Cairo, the cartoon Mish-Mash Effendi, the latest antics of Haifa Wehbe, an attempt to ban the 1,001 Nights, accusations in 2010 that the Lebanese-American Miss USA was in fact a Hizbullah mole [file under IDEK], the latest salafist complaints in Egypt about raks al-sharki a.k.a. bellydance).
Dr. Dunn has some excellent posts about the libraries in Timbuktu; see January 31, 2013 “Some Good Stuff on Mali and Timbuktu” , “Good News from Timbuktu?” , and January 30, 2013: “Were Most Timbuktu Manuscripts Hidden?”.
Timbuktu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Al-Qaeda linked extremists destroyed saint’s tombs, burned books, and put libraries to the torch before French troops intervened on January 28. One of the extremists’ targets was the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research, an institute founded by the Malian government and housing documents from as far back as the 13th century. There are also hundreds of small privately-owned libraries that have been passed down generation to generation for hundreds of years.
For more on this story, see “All Things Considered” for February 5, 2013. Timbuktu is about 1,000 years old, was on major caravan routes, and has been invaded repeatedly; safeguarding books is an old tradition there. The books at Ahmed Baba were smuggled out in empty millet and rice sacks and taken by cart, canoe, motorbike, and truck to Bamako, about 600 miles away.
- Roger Ebert (http://www.rogerebert.com ) blogs movie reviews; usually five or six every Thursday. I’m a huge movie fan, but I don’t have a lot of time—I still want back those three hours I spent watching The Mahabarata—so these reviews are an invaluable guide and time-saver for me. They’re also great for anyone likely to be approached by people asking “What good movies are out there?”
- There are a lot of fannish bloggers who deliver solid recommendations for books, music, and film. Starlady writes regular brief reviews; Copperbadge critiques media less often, but is always on point; and Cofax is always good for a link. This is a really good way to accumulate recommendations for genre fiction; one blogger was writing recaps/reviews of Diane Duane’s Star Trek novels not too long ago. It’s also a great way to find new music; I discovered the Arcade Fire, Sigur Ros, and OK Go because fannish bloggers wrote about them.
And these are some good librarian blogs:
- Jessamyn West (http://www.librarian.net/): Library technologist in rural VT. Most recent post, Jan. 28; interview with Michael Barera, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library’s “Wikipedian in Residence.” See also the rather entertaining post, http://www.librarian.net/stax/3920/how-not-to-write-about-libraries-some-guidelines-for-reporters/
- K.G. Schneider (http://freerangelibrarian.com/): University Librarian at Holy Names University in Oakland, California. Most recent post Jan. 21; tech trends. Usually lengthy, always interesting, and sometimes useful information.
- J. Vance (http://libetiquette.blogspot.com/): Librarian and faculty member at Middle Tennessee State University. “The number one, most-trusted source for authoritative tongue-in-cheek librarian etiquette tips on the Internet.” Most recent post Feb. 4: “Librarians should never admit to liking sports, commercial television, or Oreo cookies.”
RSS feed readers allow you to develop wide-ranging interests and keep current on all kinds of things. (Did you know that there’s a Yemeni version of “Gangnam Style”? It’s not as good as the Mongolian one, honestly, but if you see only one fanvid, it should be the version made by students at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Although the one made by some students at Nunavut Sivuniksavut is really cute.)
As trivial as memes can sometimes be, pop culture is still culture, and a good librarian is never ignorant for long : )