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* Monday, June 20, 2005

Blogs, Voice, and Reputation

So last week I was lucky enough to have dinner with the Scan 3 – Alane, Alice, and George of It’s All Good fame. If you read their blog, you know how dinner was. Lively, fun, entertaining, and most interesting. They’re exactly like they seem in their writing, which I’ve found to be true of most bloggers who give good voice. If you have the chance to be in the same room with the three of them, I highly recommend it. I can’t say enough about the level of understanding these folks have about libraries, where we need to be, and how we need to get there.

Then I was given a whirlwind tour of the OCLC Research team’s digs and even their actual research. They’re working on some very cool stuff, some of which we’ll start seeing out in the wild very soon. I wish I could have spent more time with every person I met there and heard more about their various projects, but I had to catch a plane home.

It was a most interesting experience for me because I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with OCLC. They’re the 800–pound gorilla in the room for me, kind of like libraryland’s Microsoft. But over the last couple of years, I feel like I’ve been watching a transformation, an evolution of the gorilla. It’s not that they didn’t have smart or dedicated people in the past, because they did. From the sidelines, it looks to me like OCLC is finally looking outwards instead of inwards, that they’ve noticed there’s a whole web thing going on out there and that ultimately, they (in particular their member libraries) need to be part of it.

This is best exemplified by Lorcan Dempsey, his blog, and his mantra that OCLC needs to make its data work harder, the way Amazon and Google do. I first took this new attitude seriously when they released the Environmental Scan, even more so when Open WorldCat was released. For years I was mad at them for keeping WorldCat so closed and isolated, so this was a most welcome change. It seems like now all of those smart and dedicated people are thinking bigger, more collaboratively, and just more expansively than they have in the past. That’s a Martha Stewart good thing, bolded, italicized, and underlined. Last week they announced the e-serials pilot project to expose full-text electronic journals in WorldCat and the just-announced ‘Ask-a-Librarian’ pilot in WorldCat, and just wait until you see the WorldCat wiki (it’s too-damn-cool, and it should rock hard).

While you’re at it, check out Thom Hickey’s blog Outgoing, and you’ll see the rest of one of the two best employee blog implementations in libraryvendorland (the other being the Talis employee blogs). I can’t believe more library vendors aren’t doing this, but they’ve got two great models to help get them started. In addition, employees from both companies often leave comments on my site or send me email asking questions or further exploring issues I’ve raised, and I know they do this on other sites, too. I feel like they’re really listening (not just to me because I’m not so egotistical as to think they need to be, but just that they’re listening overall) and thinking about what’s being said about their products and services out in the big, wide world [web]. If someone takes the time to write about something your company did or said (or didn’t do or didn’t say), it says a lot when you respond to them on their own site. All library vendors (and libraries) should be tracking what’s said about them in the blogosphere via RSS (another point I stress in my presentations).

So, why am I telling you all of this? For a few reasons. This post is aimed at several different audiences.

1. The marketing/PR folks at OCLC: I have no idea how or why the Scan 3 were able to start blogging outside of OCLC’s site, and I have no idea how you feel about it, but hopefully you know that their blog is worth its weight in gold several times over. This one blog has done a world of good to rehabilitate OCLC’s reputation and humanize your organization. More people talk about OCLC, point to what OCLC is saying, and follow what OCLC is doing (and give you free advertising for it) because of the honest and direct voices on It’s All Good. I actually use them as a case study in my blogging presentations. I have no evidence that you plan to change the setup but just in case, don’t. No one has indicated to me any problems or grumbled anything, but it never hurts to note how things look from the outside. After all, there’s a reason I was invited to tour Research, and there’s a reason I’m writing this post of praise for what they (and the Scan team) are doing. It worked for everybody.

2. Libraries: if you watch It’s All Good and Lorcan’s blog, you’ll notice all of the things I’ve observed in this post. Voice, authenticity, humanizing a used-to-be-faceless-organization. Blogging can give you all of this. Even if you don’t need to rehabilitate your library’s image, let’s face it, library web sites could use a little personality. If you’re not already blogging, you should consider it, especially if you already have a “what’s new” page. That’s where you want to start. Bonus points: starting a blog automatically gives you an RSS feed.

3. OCLC Research (and really the whole staff): keep up the great work! It’s really refreshing to see this change, and I look forward to even greater things from you.  No pressure.  ;-)

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Blogs, Voice, and Reputation:

» Blogging from the 'centre' from CIE Thoughts
Alane over at It's All Good points me to an interesting post by Jenny Levine, in which she talks about the value of OCLC's various weblogs. I agree with many of her comments, but the post set me to... [Read More]

Tracked on June 22, 2005 10:53 AM

» OCLC Blogs from Lorcan Dempsey's weblog
I usually don't talk about library blogs and blogging. However, it would be strange not to note Jenny Levine's reflective, and kind, comments about blogs by OCLC staff. I often think that it is a pity that the Cluetrain Manifesto is presented in such a... [Read More]

Tracked on June 22, 2005 11:50 PM

» Keeping the conversation going from panlibus
It was good to read Jenny Levine's ShiftedLibrarian post following her dinner with the Scan 3 ? Alane, Alice, and George of It?s All Good fame and her subsequent tour of OCLC Research. She goes on to talk about how... [Read More]

Tracked on June 23, 2005 09:59 AM

» Blogging with Jupiter... about content syndication and the public sector from CIE Thoughts
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Tracked on June 30, 2005 06:42 AM

» Keeping the conversation going from panlibus
It was good to read Jenny Levine's ShiftedLibrarian post following her dinner with the Scan 3 ? Alane, Alice, and George of It?s All Good fame and her subsequent tour of OCLC Research. She goes on to talk about how... [Read More]

Tracked on July 29, 2005 01:21 PM