Bibs & Blather
Sponsorship, Semi-Retired and Other Quandaries
This issue of Cites & Insights and regular issues for May and June 2010 are sponsored by the Library Society of the World (LSW)—as is my attendance at the ALA 2010 Annual Conference in June.
For those of you who read Walt at Random, that’s probably all you need to know, as the rest of this has already appeared in posts beginning March 13, 2010. For the rest of you—those who don’t read Walt at Random or don’t remember the posts—read on.
On March 11, I had a brief phone conversation with the person at LYRASIS who’s in charge of the Library Leadership Network. The gist of this conversation was that my services would no longer be paid for after March 2010.
Here’s part of what I said in a March 13, 2010 post at Walt at Random:
I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do next, but some things are clear:
Ř I could really use a sponsor for Cites & Insights (or, I suppose, a whole lot more donations than I’ve gotten so far!). That’s no longer “extra money.”
Ř If someone knows of something (possibly very part time, definitely not more than half time, definitely not involving relocating, possibly project-oriented) that suits my peculiar set of skills as a library writer, editor, speaker and systems analyst, I’d be delighted to hear about it. (Anybody setting up a center for serious evidence-based librarianship? I’d love to do some qualitative as well as quantitative research on how library blogs are working and what’s working best, for example, but that can’t happen without explicit advance sponsorship: Selling the results is clearly not working.)
Ř There’s mild urgency on one point: I’m supposed to be speaking in a program at ALA Annual this year, and with a nearly complete loss of earned income, it’s a little hard to justify the costs of the conference…
Ř Yes, I’m delighted to be semi-retired. No, we’re not going to starve, be put out of house and home, or go begging. On the other hand, “semi-” suits me; I’d like to keep actively involved in the library field and believe I still have much to offer. It would be nice to have some portion of that involvement recognized as valuable in the form of compensation.
Feel free to get in touch (waltcrawford at gmail dot com)…
I also sent related email to contacts I’d contacted three years ago, when I was terminated with much longer notice and generous severance benefits, and to a list of library bloggers whose work formed a key part of the best articles I was doing for Library Leadership Network.
Two days later, after various discussions on- and offline with family and friends, I posted “Getting to ALA, Keeping a hand in—or not.” The gist:
One fairly immediate issue has to do with whether I’ll be at ALA in Washington. This concerns budget, but also a promised speech during the conference (which would, apparently, be my 2010 speech–I seem to be back to one per year). That relates, somewhat indirectly, to a longer-term question having to do with the status of Cites & Insights (and, I suppose, this blog).
Namely…the question of whether my work is meaningful (and appreciated) enough to continue, or whether I should abandon it and spend time entirely on other things, maybe more local. Part of going to ALA or other conferences is keeping in touch; the question is whether that’s worthwhile.
A dear friend asked whether I really thought my work was appreciated. I responded, well, yes, I seem to have pretty good readership and a few people tell me so now and then…
Then this dear friend nudged me: “So, are they buying your books or donating to help keep Cites & Insights going? Does so-called appreciation really mean anything?”
Well, four people so far have donated to keep C&I going.
As to book sales to individuals…perhaps the less said the better. If you exclude library-held copies as reported in Worldcat.org, that leaves an even dozen sales of But Still They Blog, 50 for The Liblog Landscape, 28 for Academic Library Blogs, 52 for Public Library Blogs, and 214 for Balanced Libraries…and, well, no more than seven for the various paperback annuals of C&I…
So far, I don’t really have a convincing answer for my dear friend. Or one that convinces me that “keeping a hand in” justifies the cost of ALA…
The dear friend is suggesting that maybe it’s time for me to wholly retire from the library field. Is the dear friend right?
Key comments on this post related to following my own bliss and my usefulness within the field—but the LSW action was action. (It’s still going on: They’re accepting donations through April 5, 2010, and I’m accepting PayPal donations until I have a long-term sponsor lined up—right on the C&I home page.) Five more people have sent direct PayPal donations; I believe the number who collaborated on the LSW idea is much larger.
It’s now clear that I have enough support to pay for ALA Annual. I’ll be there from late Friday morning through Sunday evening. Since the terms of the LSW fundraising are that additional funds should be applied to C&I sponsorship, I’m counting all LSW fundraising as C&I sponsorship for now (but using most of it to pay for ALA).
Can I say what an extraordinary gesture this is? Can I say how much I admire the librarians, most of them much younger than me, who make up the non-association that is LSW?
I did say some of that, in the third post in the series, “Seriously: A post in progress” (March 18, 2010). Excerpts:
…To my surprise (and pleasure), some of the Library Society of the World non-members quietly organized a project to send me to ALA–and help support C&I with any extra money they raised. Between other donations that came in directly and what they’ve already reported, we’re close enough to the likely costs that I have no doubt they’ll get there.
Oh, I’m still looking for sponsors, possible projects, possible ways forward, and have a couple of things brewing, but I’m cheerier about the whole thing, even if the long-term road is no clearer than before.
The thing about LSW is that it’s an unorganization, mostly (not) composed of relatively younger librarians. I’ve been semi-involved for some time, although I distanced myself for a while because of a personality conflict (not resolved, but since ignored ’cause it’s really irrelevant to LSW in general). Two folks earned their LJ Movers & Shakers badges this year because of LSW (Josh Neff and Steve Lawson), but there are a bunch more M&S honorees within LSW–and, to be sure the raft of Shovers & Makers, LSW’s own non-award.
I like dealing with LSW because they’re interesting people who have interesting things to say and because they don’t, usually, treat me as either a scummy non-librarian or a boring old fart. They take me just as seriously as they take themselves–which, within LSW (now primarily but not exclusively a FriendFeed group), means “serious professionally, but not personally.”
And in the FF thread (hidden from me at the start) about the ALA funding, there were some nice things said by people about how I’d recognized what they were doing early on–in one case, maybe, before anybody else took her work seriously. I’ve cited quite a few LSW people within Cites & Insights and, at times, columns in print magazines–and I’ve cited them because they have worthwhile things to say. In other words, I’ve taken them seriously.
This should be no big deal. When a 23-year-old fresh out of library school has significant things to say about what libraries are or should be doing, the 23-year-old should be taken seriously. So, most assuredly, should a 35-year-old library director…or even a student who’s just entered library school or is thinking of doing so.
I read a lot of blogs. When people say interesting, thoughtful, provocative, worthwhile things, I flag them for use–and I treat them seriously. Doesn’t really much matter whether the blogger is young, a newbie, shy of refereed professional publications, or an Established Major Name…
If I was still doing the Library Leadership Network, I’d be planning a piece on the network of contributors who provide most of the content–and that network of contributors is, largely, somewhat younger and heavy on LSW folks. My resources for C&I, a superset of that network, are similar. I take them seriously because they have serious things to say–sometimes, and sometimes usefully, said in less-than-serious ways.
That doesn’t mean I always agree with them or expect them to agree with me. Indeed, taking issue with something someone says can be part of taking them seriously–if you regard them as frivolous, why bother disagreeing?
There’s more, to be sure. Chatting with LSW folks helps keep me a bit younger, and helps keep me involved.
This latest situation reminds me that it works both ways–that what I do does matter to others. They treat me seriously, too.
Seriously. Oh, and seriously, thanks.
LSW’s actions did two things, the second considerably more important than the first:
· Made sure I’ll be at ALA (and do my 15-20 minute talk at a Sunday morning program).
· Told me that what I do is valued.
Long-term issues still remain. I’m trying to put together some posts on Walt at Random explicating “some of the possibilities I’m considering” in more detail. (That didn’t work out at all the last time I did it, but times change.) Since I’m still trying to put those details together, I can’t give you a list here, beyond what’s in the first post above.
I think a combined quant/qual study on how public library blogs actually work—and, specifically, what blogs and kinds of post seem to succeed best—would be very valuable to the field. I’ve given up on the possibility that it’s worth doing on spec, with value recognized in book or other sales. For it to work, it has to be funded as a research project. The abysmal sales for But Still They Blog—which, as with all the other books except Balanced Libraries, has so far received no additional sales in March—doesn’t encourage me to do any of that stuff except with advance sponsorship. I suspect that library schools will swallow up any money that’s out there for doing research, and maybe that’s the way it should be.
I did spell out some issues on this ejournal itself, where I believe I do add substantial value to the field and in some ways would like to keep doing so. Here’s the gist of the March 22, 20910 post on “Keeping C&I going”:
As long as I believe I’m actually adding value and that value is appreciated, I’d like to keep a hand in–to maintain some involvement in the library field at the national/international level. (As opposed to dropping out and maybe joining the local Friends, getting more involved at the local level.)
The LSW response and other responses to that second post convince me that some people, at least, value Cites & Insights and the other work I do in the field. That appreciation (and, I guess, personal appreciation) is enough to get me to ALA Annual this year, at least for part of the conference. It’s also enough, already, to assure that C&I will keep going through…well, through ALA Annual.
The longer-term question is whether the perceived value translates into enough to justify the time and other expenditures, as compared to other things I could be doing (or others would like me to do).
If the answer is Yes, I’d love to keep doing C&I for some time to come.
The best way to express that answer is through sponsorship–or, I suppose, through the Andersonomics answer, where some modest number of fans loves my work so much that they pay enough to keep it going. What does he say? 1,000 fans at $100 each per year: Presto, a pretty decent living.
Fan-based support is one possibility. 1,000 at $100 is so far beyond the realm of possibility (or need) that I won’t mention it again. 200 at $50 would, for “fan-based” sponsorship, be a more than acceptable level. But I don’t see that happening, at least based on results to date (even with LSW’s work).
Last night, a close friend (no, not the same close friend mentioned before) asked how much it actually costs to keep C&I going. There are two answers, and only one is really relevant:
1. Direct cash outlay: Very little. LISHost hosting fees, domain fees, the cost of Acrobat upgrades (I probably wouldn’t need Acrobat otherwise), some portion of the cost of broadband, etc. Certainly a three-digit annual number; depending on how you break things down, probably a relatively low three-digit annual number.
2. Time, effort, “opportunity cost:” Large. I don’t track exactly how much time I spend on C&I directly or indirectly, but it’s probably in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 hours a week overall. I’ve had suggestions of other things I should be doing with some of that time (cough more chores cough but also various local things that could yield revenue)…
What does that translate to in dollars? That’s tricky, because it’s part of a larger whole–and the revenue portions of that larger whole have mostly disappeared…
When I had sponsorship, it ranged in the medium four digits a year. Would that be enough now? Maybe–for “bare” sponsorship (that is, with credit on the front & back of each issue and on the website. For expanded sponsorship (with ads in C&I or “words from the sponsor”) probably not–and that level of sponsorship certainly wouldn’t encourage me to keep going to ALA beyond this summer. (Taking C&I behind a pay wall or requiring paid subscriptions isn’t a plausible option, I don’t believe.)
An appropriate sum would need to be negotiated. That sum could include speaking or writing for the sponsor, at some appropriate level.
Who could sponsor C&I? My general answer is “anybody I don’t normally write about,” so as to avoid possible conflict of interest. That answer includes, as a minimum:
Ř Bibliographic utilities or their competitors
Ř Vendors of integrated library systems (or disintegrated library systems, for that matter)
Ř Book wholesalers, distributors or other library suppliers
Ř Foundations (with one obvious exception, but there’s no way Pew was going to sponsor me anyway)
Ř Publishers (with possible exceptions).
Ř And probably others I haven’t thought of…
Will C&I go away if there’s no sponsorship and donations dry up? I honestly don’t have an answer to that question. Appreciation is nice, but at some point it doesn’t pay the bills…
What else is there to say? I have a couple of vague nibbles. There are some project possibilities, again pretty vague at this point. My wife has an interesting suggestion about using my print-on-demand publishing experience to help others, probably locally, partly on a voluntary basis, possibly for fees—and some interesting comments about the values of turning most of my attention toward local possibilities in general.
I have no plans to return to full-time work. But I’m also not quite ready for full-time retirement, particularly from the field.
This issue sponsored by the Library Society of the World (LSW).
This issue incorporates The Australasian Journal of Library and Information Science (formerly The Australasian Journal of Library Science), combined issue v. 3/no. 4 and v. 4/no. 2.
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