Warning. Extreme navel gazing is about to ensue.
This week has been one of those hard weeks. I’m not prone to annoyance, and I generally face life with an optimism that borders on the pathological. But what with one thing and another my personal bubble of good will and sanguinity weakened and finally burst into a shower of self-pity last night. This is probably my least favorite emotion. Not only is it distinctly on the “not happy” side of the happiness continuum, but it’s also just about as embarrassing and unhelpful as a state of mind can be. It’s the kind of emotion that makes strangers edge away to find somebody else to meet and causes friends to wonder how best to change the subject or, better yet, excuse themselves and go home.
Thankfully, in the rare cases when I plunge into intense self-doubt and questioning, I can rarely sustain it for long. But last night the question was to blog or not to blog, or perhaps to change the kinds of things I blog about. And I think this question bears thinking about even now that I’m not “in the pit of dispair” (as one albino once said, horsely).
I’ve always just been feeling my way here. There’s no plan, just a general sense that I want to explore these topics in public. At one point this blog was mostly a space for me to remember what I’d seen or learned as I finished my first year as a librarian. Then I thought for a while that it should be more “libraryland news”-ish (and I discovered two things pretty quickly: I’m not interested in writing that way, and almost nobody is interested in reading the “news” I write). More recently I’ve been writing a combination of “things I’m thinking about” and “things that are happening to me,” with the balance starting to lean toward the latter in recent months.
And I think it’s this most recent shift that I’m questioning now not only because it’s potentially not as interesting but also because it may make my task of balancing the personal and the professional even more difficult than it would be otherwise. For one thing, if I focus too closely on what happens at work, people at work (by which I mean people on campus, not just in the library) may get nervous, especially now that I have more than 3 or 4 readers. In fact, just about the only editorial criterion I use before publishing a post is one of fairness: is what I’ve written fair to the people I work with and respect. I take this criterion very seriously both because it’s, well, fair and because I really do respect and enjoy working with 99% of the people on my campus. I can honestly say I’d never worked in a place with such a large proportion of wonderful people prior to coming here. The last thing I want is for these people to get nervous.
I’m also on a campus where blogging is not the norm. Its conventions and implications haven’t been explored before. What does it mean to explore topics in public? Who is the audience? What happens when I first say Twitter seems ridiculous and then end up completely addicted, all within a few months and all in public? Is it appropriate to publicly explore work-related issues in the same way that I publicly explore social networking tools? More importantly, how far do you trust somebody who could, if she wanted, publish the goings on at private meetings? How comfortable are we, as a library and as a campus community, with the idea of letting others in on our half-formed ideas? What happens if our half-formed ideas turn out to be wrong? Do we want others to know that we had a moment of weakness? What are the implications of having projects written about as they happen rather than presented in cohesive form at conferences or in articles? Does the library or the campus have the right to ask that material be added to or subtracted from a blog? Weighing the benefit of generally good publicity against the danger of airing dirty laundry, how much should personal blogs be encouraged, allowed, or governed? What does it mean for our campus when bloggers develop ever-widening circles of friends and contacts in libraries all over the world? What does it mean when communication sidesteps the conventional (and perhaps mythological) pathway of employee to supervisor to boss to wider world? I can imagine any of these questions swirling around in the minds of co-workers and higher-ups. In fact, this is just scratching the surface of the possible questions and fears.
Just as I’m always just feeling my way with this whole blog, I’m also just feeling my way through this post. I don’t know where I’m going with this except to say that these questions are real, and they’re important, but they’re not easy.