Wednesday, November 04, 2009

More Meta

In Betsy Bird's SLJ article "This Blog's for You" (and I thank her for including Read Roger in the list of "Ten Blogs You Can't Live Without"), she asks a bunch of swell questions:

Do kids' lit bloggers influence publishing decisions? Are library systems basing their purchasing decisions on our recommendations? Should they? And to what extent is a blog about literature for youth a reliable source of information?


My short answers to the first three are not a lot, ditto, and no. As to reliability: while I don't see a lot of misinformation on children's lit blogs and am in fact impressed by the care which with bloggers source their facts, we first need to ask what we mean by information--and it's the answer to this question that tells us why blogs are not, generally, as useful to librarians as Betsy's first three questions would have them be. The glory and the bane of book blogging is its variety. Glory because lots of talented people are saying lots of different things about different topics in different ways to different audiences. Bane because this same riotous abandon confounds any but the most limited usefulness. While an individual can pick up the odd book-buying tip from reading the blogs, a library can't--it needs more systematic information than the blogosphere provides. A library collection based upon blog recommendations would be a mess.

If somebody needs a master's thesis, I wish he or she would take a look at whether or not there is such a thing as a blog-friendly book. We've had lots of discussions about bloggers all pushing the same books at the same time (a phenomenon exacerbated by blog tours) but I wonder if this is less a result of publishers pushing certain titles than it is that some books more than others will appeal to people who like to blog about children's books. Many bloggers are emphatic about their desire to write about books they personally love (and again, if a youth services librarian built a collection on the basis of what he or she loved, the library would be useless to the actual kids allegedly being served). There's a whole sub-genre of children's literature that has found its best audience among the adults who serve children (The Wednesday Wars, for example); does the same thing go on among bloggers?


23 comments:

Anonymous said...

After the hubbub regarding the VINE, a big trade house had an intern email to ask if I would review their books on my blog. I consider my blog the anti-blog. I started it out of frustration with the uber bloggers since they felt unfocused and had no appeal. I asked if I was to be paid for my services and use of my blog for their authors. Publisher does not pay for reviews. I declined immediately. Why is a big trade house asking for charity from authors who they are not publishing nor blogging about in return? Talk about backwards. Authors should feel honored to work for free for a random publisher who wants to use that author's blog for publicity? Doesn't the marketing/publicity dept personnel get paid? Where are they? That's right..they're too busy yakking it up on Twitter or FB.

Rose Stuart said...

I use children's literature blogs as a supplement to journals. Sometimes they bring a book to my attention that I would not have come across otherwise. Where I find blogs more helpful is in areas that traditional journals don't cover as well, such as children's music.

gail said...

"There's a whole sub-genre of children's literature that has found its best audience among the adults who serve children" Oh, my, yes.

Franki said...

This is a great conversation. For me, blogs are an addition to the review journals I read. One more way to stay up to date on what is out there. I think reading lots of opinions/thinking helps me to see possibilities in books that I wouldn't have seen on my own. I think I am reading as a classroom teacher--really trying to find the books that make the most sense for the kids I am currently teaching.

Jennifer Schultz said...

I have a handful of blogs (3) that are helpful in collection development. Two bloggers frequently post about upcoming books (one specifically for YA and the other picture books-middle grade; both review for print publications and both have written guides for children's/YA literature), and the other is a multicultural blog written by children's/YA authors. I've been reading these blogs for several years-long before I started doing collection development. If it seems like it's a book we should have, I will look it up on our distributor's website, where I have access to the major print review journals (we also have print subscriptions).

The blogs I read are helpful in the way that the spring/fall announcements issues and prepub alerts are helpful; they give me "heads up" on what is coming. When I do collection development, I create different carts for picture books, nonfic, YA, chapter books, yada yada, for each month. Then I create an "Essentials" cart for that month-books that I really must get for that month (I also have different carts for board books and other specific books/genres/issues). A blog review or a description in a preview issue/prepub may get a title in one of my carts, but I really need to read the print reviews before I make a decision.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer. You make a cart? Could you elaborate for the uninitiated? It sounds very interesting.

emay said...

Roger, can you explain what you mean by "systematic"? If you mean that the reviews in the journals are more thorough or intelligent, I haven't had that experience with, say, Booklist as opposed to Fuse #8. And if you mean that journals are more comprehensive and review everything, well, I have yet to see any of my books reviewed in the Horn Book!

Roger Sutton said...

I'm not talking at all about the quality of individual reviews, Emay. What I mean is that the print journals have systems in place that librarians know about: they know that Booklist reviews all recommended children's/YA titles, and that School Library Journal and the Horn Book Guide review all new trade hardcovers. The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and the Horn Book Magazine are more selective, but review within certain time limits--the latest we will review a Fall 09 book in the Magazine is January 2010, for example. With the blogs, you have no idea of what they will review when, nor do they confine themselves to new books, so you can't count on them for ordering help in the same way as the print mags.

Monika Schroeder said...

I agree with Roger. For my book purchasing I rely on the main review journals. As you all know, among those reviewers the opinions can be very diverse and sometimes even directly opposite but over time I learned which reviewers I tend to agree with. I read some blogs and subscribe to several listservs for more information but I don't buy a book because one particular blogger liked it.

Reading five review journals takes a lot of time and most school librarians have busy schedules. They might not have the time to follow several blogs in addition to reading the reviews. Some librarians might also only rely on one or two magazines which makes the work of those publications so important and I appreciate the care and thoroughness of their review process.

Jess said...

While the bulk of my selections come from reading HB, SLJ and Booklist (which my library subscribes to), but I was a blog reader before I was a librarian with a budget. There are several bloggers whose opinions I trust and whose reviews prompt me to take a closer look at a title. They might alert me to an upcoming title before it gets a print review, or remind of something I overlooked when I was flipping through SLJ.

Anon asking about carts - we do our ordering thought BWI and Baker & Taylor, and they both allow you to create multiple online shopping carts under your login. I usually have a cart for each month.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see. Thanks Jess.

Misrule said...

The difference for me is that many of the newer book bloggers—some of them very well known and regularly cited—often have never previously reviewed for review journals and gone through an "apprenticeship", so to speak, with the editors of those journals. They've not been edited, they've not had direction on the parameters of the journals' review policies, they've not gone through the process by which many of us learnt about the craft and ethics of reviewing. I've read some dreadful reviews (inaccurate, patronising, careless and self-serving) on some very well-regarded book blogs and I can't help but think that what is missing is that professional process.

Anonymous said...

Misrule, I suspect that some of those bloggers are actively fleeing those pesky professional restrictions. They yearn to indulge their snark. Sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes I don't.

IF said...

Snark and ego do not a useful review make. They both grow tiresome.
IF

Anonymous said...

IF, not a useful review perhaps, but an entertaining one. Which is what some bloggers want to produce and what most want to read, I think. I'm not a librarian nor a bookseller. I am unlikely to buy most of the books I see reviewed-- so what am I reading for except the entertainment value of the review itself?

As I said, I sometimes get tired of the snark and the self-indulgence, but I think that points to a post's failure to entertain me, not so much that I am looking for a professional review and not finding it.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. I meant to sign the comment above.

Anon 12:33

Anonymous said...

On my blog, I write mostly about books that I've used with my book groups (grades 3 through 9) or storytimes, giving the reactions of the kids in the groups as best as I can remember. Sometimes I will write my own personal review of a book prior to the book group meeting, then write a second post detailing what the *kids* thought of the book. So the idea is that I'm giving an additional, real-world perspective on some children's books, not a review that one would use for ordering purposes.

IF said...

It's true, there can be an entertainment value. And, how meta is that: reading about reading for entertainment for entertainment?
IF

Anonymous said...

What you say may be true for a public library or for an older librarian, but I am a fairly young private school librarian and blogs are becoming more and more my MAIN source of book-buying inspiration. Blog-reading was already a part of my non-work life, creeping ever more into my day anyway. Reading SLJ takes forever. I can read some blog posts here and there on my computer or my phone much more efficiently and it is absolutely influential in my purchasing. I would say that in the last six months, the majority of my purchases came from reading on blogs - I usually read further reviews within Titlewave or Amazon before final decisions but the impulse comes from recommendations of bloggers I trust.

Anonymous said...

who will be brave enough to NAME a specific blog (or blogs) she relies upon?

Anonymous said...

who will be brave enough to name a specific blog (or blogs) on which she relies?

Anonymous said...

who devises the code words which one must type in before posting? they have a vague esperanto-ish quality - almost familiar but not quite. provocative! maybe they just come with the system - part of the apparatus?

IF said...

Anonymous 9:10
With more experience, you may realize that you miss a lot by relying nearly exclusively on blogs. There is no thorough, systemic, way of accounting for useful and distinguished new books at this time in the world of blogs. By restricting yourself to them, you blind yourself to the opinions of many people with extremely useful expertise in the print world. Try them both. Don't limit yourself. Less is not more, in this case.
IF