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Professional writing: libraries of Western Sydney by Caitlin Williams

In relation to Caitlin’s questions:

Both blogs and professional journals offer opportunities for sharing information, opinion and issues. My view is that it isn’t really sensible to have a preference for one or the other because although they are both communication tools, they are tools with differing characteristics and therefore each is suited to a particular context.

As an example, consider a motor bus and a ferry. Both of these tools are designed for fundamentally the same purpose – to carry passengers from one place to another. However, just as the motor bus is unlikely to get far on water, so the ferry is unlikely to make progress on land. Equally, if one has the choice of a taxi or bus, or a ferry or private launch, whether or not you enjoy or desire the company of others or to be alone is likely to dictate which you will prefer to use.

My view is therefore that the most useful measure of which is to be preferred will depend on how well its characteristics meet the aims of publication and audience.

I’d suggest that some useful indicators would be as follows:

Blogs
* provide immediacy of both output and response.
* can have varying access levels from completely open to very limited access
* are able to reach all users at the same time, regardless of location (assuming connectivity)
* don’t require contribution in a particular style
* generally do not word-limit contributions
* facilitate immediate linking to related materials, background information, etc.
* can maintain access to contributions in one location over an infinite time period
* have virtually unlimited search possibilities over the full text of contributions
* make transfer of whole or part contributions practicable
* allow quick reference to the whole content of other contributions mentioned in passing
* are cost effective
* promote open access and democratic debate or discussion
* improve accessibility for those with disabilities
* will generally provide more opportunity for the novice or outlier to be published

* require on-line connectivity
* are open to abuse in direct proportion to the level of access afforded
* when not carefully moderated can degenerate very quickly
* are prone to considerable repetition
* are easily subject to “off-topic” diversions
* when contributions are not mediated the level of debate may be fairly low

Journal Articles
* generally must conform to a minimum standard of style and language use
* are selected for their relevance, impact, authority, topicality, etc.
* are subject to mediation and the protection from inappropriateness this allows
* usually have more considered and evidenced content
* allow for the possibility of consultation and revision before publication
* tend to have more status and credibility than blog submissions
* arguably, provide more potential for serendipitous access
* will usually be discoverable via a professional & humanly mediated indexing service

* involve both delay in publication and response
* impose limitations of style, length, etc.
* are less likely to provide for publication by novice or tyro contributors
* are relatively costly to produce and distribute
* often split contributions on a topic over several issues, reducing fluidity
* will not arrive to all subscribers at the same time
* print sizes, backgrounds, etc. can prove problematic for some with disabilities

In terms of stimulating debate, I’m not sure that there is a substantial difference in their potential. If there is such a difference I would suggest that the blog is more likely to incite debate and the journal is more likely to invite it. To put it another way, I think that you will find more disagreement and argument in a blog but that such argument or debate will generally be of a much lower standard than that which you will find in journal articles. The reasons for this are easily seen if the characteristics that I’ve suggested for the two mediums are seen as reasonably accurate.

In summary, I’d suggest that a combination of the two mediums might be really stimulating, i.e. an electronic journal, subject to peer review for major articles but including the facility for others to contribute both articles and commentary with some limited mediation aimed largely at guarding against abuse.

International Librarians Network

Merrylands Library - photo by Caitlin Williams Merrylands Library – photo by Caitlin Williams

Our current discussion topic is professional writing, and one of our colleagues in Sydney, Caitlin Williams, asked if we would be willing to share a post she recently wrote for the website of ALIA Sydney, a group of the Australian Library and Information Association that runs local events in Sydney. Cailtin wrote a piece highlighting the excellent work being done by libraries in Western Sydney.

Caitlin adds “As a ‘newbie’ to the library and information industry and having never had to opportunity (yet) to submit to a professional journal or magazine, I found writing on a blog to be suited to sharing and expressing my views. I hope you can also write about something that is close to your heart in the library world!”

Caitlin also provided the following discussion questions:

  • Do you prefer the social and nature of a…

View original post 45 more words

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