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Opportunity Costs of Blogging

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As the Oregon Legal Research blogger, I’ve stretched the scope of my “blog focus” to include writing for and answering questions from pro se patrons, public librarians, lawyers, community activists, law librarians generally, and today, for other county law librarians:

Some of these other law librarians, especially those who also work in solo-librarian or small-staff law libraries have asked me, “how do you find the time to blog?” My response is two-fold:

1) With great difficulty and often in fits-and starts. A 3-line blog posting has been known to take me all day to finish on a busy day, if a budget is due, meetings attended, a class taught, a tour given, my assistant is out, a deadline (for so many things) must be met, etc. More to the point, a lot of us work in what can only be called a Fishbowl Libraries. We’re open 8-5 and we’re ON 8-5. My door, and my assistant’s door, is open 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. Walk-in traffic takes priority, the telephone and email reference are close behind. The rest gets done when we can (which accounts for my being here on a Sunday).

2) You decide what services are most necessary for your library, give those your energy, and let the others go. We all make choices (or have them thrust upon us). When I attend a meeting of local legislators, community leaders, or attorneys and someone says, “I read your blog!” – well, that helps my library in so many ways. For my law library, blogging reaches more people than other means of communication, such as newsletters, podcasts, etc., which may work well for another library (though I do write FOR newsletters and journals; I just don’t publish one from my law library).

Most of us in public law libraries, especially county law libraries, wear multiple hats and report to multiple administrators, with varying levels of authority and power. I am not atypical in having to report to a Presiding Judge, a county bar association law library committee, a county budget administrator, a county chief administrator, a panel of elected county commissioners, and the county voters, not to mention having to serve as liaison to a half-dozen county departments. I should add to this list the state legislature because they ultimately hold the purse strings. This situation is not a bad one, and in fact makes for a very interesting job, one that is part political, part librarian, part circus emcee, and part citizen advocate.

So, that’s how I blog – and have done so since late October 2005. If you don’t blog, don’t apologize for not doing so. I’ve yet to meet a public law librarian who isn’t working overtime at something that is necessary for his or her library, administrators, and patrons. I’m one of the lucky one, actually. I work for a well organized county with excellent administrators and support staff, thoughtful elected officials, and judges who are there if I need them but who don’t micromanage if I don’t. What more could I want (other than a shorter commute – yeah, 3+ hours is bit much, but I do get to read a lot 🙂 But I love where I live too (Portland) and that long commute is my choice too.

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One response to “Opportunity Costs of Blogging”

  1. Bonnie says:

    As a law librarian blogger myself, I also get asked this question with some frequency. And I totally agree with your response. Yes, we’re all busy and it’s hard to make time to blog, but I’ve found that it has been well worth it.

    I would also add that, for me, acutal blogging doesn’t take that much time. It’s finding things to blog about – reading other blogs and RSS feeds – that is more time consuming. But, as a reference librarian it’s important to keep current, so I’d be doing that anyway.

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