Blogging is growing up: why be merely commentators when we can be activists?

I get really wound up when people dismiss blogging as a dead medium. I feel the same instinctive aggressive defensiveness that older professionals must feel when we New Professionals suggest their ideas and methods might be out-moded, because I like it and I've invested so much in it, and I'm ill equipped to move on from it. Recent events have given me cause for optimism that my faith in the medium is justified, because in the library world there appears to have been a subtle shift from those of us in the biblioblogosphere just being 'describers' to becoming 'doers' as well. There's just as much conversation, but a little more action too.

Even in the short-time since Laura and I did our Echo Chamber presentation (and if you missed it, we will hopefully be doing it twice in November both Up North and Down South, so stay tuned for that) a whole load of people seem to have gone out and broken free of the Chamber - particularly gratifying for us is that Lauren Smith (aka @WalkYouHome) was catalysed by the presentation into thinking she COULD actually make a difference herself, and SHOULD actually start trying to make things happen. Since then she's turned into a veritable one-woman media savvy library saving machine... Guardian articles, appearances on Radio 4 and 5Live, a Save Doncaster Libraries campaign getting wide recognition and generally actually making a difference - and, in fact, the use of 'one-woman library saving machine' in that description isn't accurate as she's clubbed together with several other library bloggers to launch Voices for the Library.

Voices for the Library involves no less than 8 librarians, many of whom have previously provided much comment and analysis of library problems (via various online platforms) but all of whom now felt moved to get out there and DO stuff. The result is an excellent website which is getting thousands upon thousands of hits, is being promoted in Library Campaigner Alan Gibbon's blog (great to see librarians and non librarians working together), and contains loads of stories and accounts highlighting the value of libraries and more particularly, librarians. More than that it has a page entitled 'What librarians do' - I love that, I've argued so many times I'm bored of hearing myself say it: if people knew what we do, they'd value our services and use them more. It's ignorance of our actual existence in 2010 that is at the route of a lot of the problems regarding library perception, and it is OUR job to right that perception.

Right before I started this blog, I presented at my first proper conference on the subject of how we're defined by our building, as librarians, and how unfair that was (and, indeed, is). I was quite happy to see my job as flagging up the problem. But actually it is my job to try and change that perception, at every opportunity, and by multiple means - not just talk about how that's what we should do. When the echolib thing first started, I was happy to just identify the problem. But now the presentations we're doing are offering up solutions, and because the Prezi is acting as a living archive of suggestions, more and more solutions will be added over time. And if just one person in the audience at each event (we're booked up for four so far over a 12 month period and we may end up doing more) is moved to try and change stuff in the way Lauren has been, then things really will start changing.

People are quite immunised to the argument that if we all did something little, something big would happen. People say, well I could take the train to this conference so as to save the planet, but if everyone else takes the plane anyway it won't make any difference. But what people seem to be proving recently is that actually you don't need EVERYONE to do something for it to be effective - even just a few people are able to be agents of real change. Me taking the time to explain to someone what librarians do next time I'm asked why I need a degree in it, rather than shirking the question, will make a tiny difference. But if the three or four hundred people who read this ALL take the time next time they're asked that question, and continue to do so as time goes on, that'll make a small difference and a worthwhile one. That's really the LEAST you can do - take serendipitous opportunities to enlighten people. And if you're feeling gutsy, go a little further and create opportunities for yourself. [preaching mode disengaged :) ]

Since I wrote all of the above, @reddite tweeted the following: "There is a difference between wanting libraries to be saved and wanting to save libraries". I'm really excited that people in the biblioblogosphere seem to be understanding of that difference, and moving from the former camp to the latter.