Better buy BLIW

How will librarians of the future learn from librarianship in our time?  That’s assuming they exist in some form (hope so!) and are interested.  And what resources are available to help new librarians now get an overview of the whole profession?  BLIW is the very thing these researchers need.  Yes, Librarian of the future, we of the 21st century do go in for acronyms.

Librarian X from jazzmodeus on flickr, licence cc-by-nc-2.0

Anyway, BLIW is British Librarianship and Information Work 2011-2015.  Born in 1928 and issued every 5 years, BLIW contains chapters on all aspects of librarianship, each written by an expert in the field. Sadly the title no longer has a mainstream publisher, but this new volume can be had from at a very reasonable price.

My contribution was the chapter on social media.  I don’t claim to be an expert on social media, but I have plenty of practical knowledge and experience of researching this area, so I felt confident that I could produce something suitable.  It was really enjoyable, and rather strange, to write.  The most peculiar aspect, for me, was being asked to write in the past tense.  It felt odd writing about what was happening now as if it was a long time ago, as if I was a character in some future-set science fiction.  Comforting, too, in such uncertain and troubling times.

Stormtrooper reading Star Wars.  Musgo Dumio_Momio on flickr, cc-by-nc-sa-2.0.  OK, this is ‘a long time ago’ not our future, but I like the picture.

I also had to ask myself many questions about what I was trying to achieve in the chapter.  Social media is so dominant in our cultural landscape and yet so transient; it is part of everyday life yet it provokes strong emotions and is highly controversial.  I had to decide how to define social media, decide which platforms to discuss, and work out what I expected Librarian X and friends to know and what needed to be explained to them.   It was also important to cover all library sectors, not just my own interests, and to be fair to views that differ from my own.

One final challenge: ouch! explains why the enriching and referencing¹ was a slow and painful process.

Anyway, librarians present and future are strongly advised to seek out this ‘great survey of the work in our profession’.  This quotation comes from a very positive review by Linsey Blandford, in K & IM Refer.  Ms Blandford has particularly high praise for Charles Inskip’s chapter on information literacy and concludes that the book ‘acts as an effective summary for students and new professionals, as well as those working within a particular sector’.

¹BLIW chapters are characterised by lavish use of footnotes, which helps make the book such a useful guide to the literature.


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