Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
ISSN 1534-0937
Libraries · Policy · Technology · Media

Selection from Cites & Insights 5, Number 6: April 2005

Net Media Perspective

Google and Gorman

Whether you call it Google Library or just part of Google Print, Google’s massive scanning-and-OCR project has just begun. My “non-comment” in January was all I intended to say—but it turns out I had said a little more in an informal conversation with an American Libraries editor. This story probably won’t go away for years and deserves more attention.

Google Print: Prototypical Reactions

In some ways, reactions to Google’s announcement of its deal with five major libraries were almost prototypical: “Here’s how techies, librarians, and others respond to some big new project that could impinge on their lives.” Consider some stages—summarized without naming specific names, and if you think that means these are straw men, you’ve been hiding in a cave somewhere:

Ø    Google makes an announcement that could mean that eventually the text of more than ten million books may be searchable on Google, either enmeshed with billions of other documents or separable as a book-oriented search service. Google does not promise to make these books available in “ebook” form and doesn’t really provide many details.

Ø    Some doom-crying librarians say it’s the beginning of the end for libraries: If all the books are on Google, why would anyone need a library?

Ø    Some exultant techies say it’s the beginning of the end for print books and traditional catalogs: After all, what could be better than full-text searching and a universal collection of ebooks? And it’s all free!

Ø    Some librarians (and others) denounce Google, the project, or both, for a range of reasons—some sensible, some exaggerated, some over the top. We hear accusations that the Google project means libraries are being commercialized and users will lose privacy. We read that this plan furthers the Anglo-American hegemony of the web and is an insult to other cultures, specifically France. We’re told that Google is an incompetent search engine—as opposed to the true statement that fielded searching works better for many forms of scholarship than Google’s full-text searching. Some critics assume the books will be “disbound” (that is, their spines will be cut off) and discarded after scanning, because that’s the way a lot of fast, cheap scanning has been done in the past. Others assert the scans must be extremely low resolution. (These statements appear after statements to the contrary from program participants have appeared.) We hear charges that Google will be the gatekeeper for all knowledge, perhaps aided by Google’s ambitious plans.

Ø    A few “librarians” publish columns that seem to imply that this project will make physical libraries, or at least their book collections, redundant—and celebrate that “fact” because it will free librarians to become something better. Such as searchers, I guess.

Ø    Some publishers or publisher groups complain that scanning books and making them searchable online violates publisher copyright—even though Google has said that nothing more than a tiny excerpt of copyright material would be available and that there will be links to ways to locate and buy books, and even though sensible publishers know that online access has (so far) consistently increased sales of print books.

Ø    Some librarians and others offer thoughtful comments falling somewhere between “the sky is falling” and “the skies are opening,” recognizing both the potential and the limitations of the project—and recognizing that it’s barely begun.

Ø    Meanwhile, the project proceeds along a course that seems to offer no likelihood of undermining libraries or publishers and every likelihood of increasing library use and book sales. Libraries get their books back presumably unharmed (I’m certain these libraries are monitoring that issue) with the promise of digital copies they can use for other purposes.

Google Print should be a win-win-win-win situation for Google, libraries, readers, and publishers. I still doubt it will be as successful as some hope, and I am among those who believe that Google’s results aren’t as focused now as they were when the index had a mere billion or two documents. I don’t believe full-text keyword searching with “relevance” ranking can or should fully replace fielded searching of bibliographic records with authority control—but I do believe that full-text keyword searching is another powerful tool for formal and informal scholarship and learning, and that Google does it at least as well as any search engine.

The “page 140” scenario

Michael Gorman is among those who I believe has made exaggerated negative statements about Google and Google Print. One of those statements keys off a paragraph in Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality:

One writer asserted that a good way to choose a book in order to learn a new subject is to open it to page 14, page 54, and page 140. If the reader cannot make sense of each of these random pags, the book is too complex. The proponent of this theory has spectacularly missed the function of a good linear text[s] intended to impart knowledge. By the time a reader has read pages 1 to 140, he or she should understand the subject much better than when on page 14. Indeed, if a book is designed to inform on a subject that is new to the reader, that reader has every right to be suspicious if all of, say, page 154 is instantly accessible. What is the point of reading the text in that case?

I’ll stand by that paragraph. Where things go awry is when that logic is used to suggest that locating words of interest on page 154 is of no use. Quite the contrary. Let’s say I know nothing about the connection between quantum theory and superstrings—heck, I don’t know what the words mean. Let’s say that, in 2014, I go to Google Print and search “quantum theory” “superstring”—and get back a paragraph on page 154 of a book on physics.

Chances are good that the page won’t make a lot of sense to me on its own. But I will get two things:

Ø    A citation for one book that discusses these exotic terms. With that citation, I may be able to click through to a service that will show me a call number, which may lead me to related books, one of which might be at a level I can understand. (I may get a direct link to a source for the book itself, for that matter.)

Ø    Maybe enough text to provide some indication of whether the level of the book will suit me. Maybe not—but there’s at least a chance.

Sometimes, of course, a paragraph may give me the hints I need to proceed toward more effective research. Sometimes, the paragraph may strike me as complete gibberish. Chances are, if the project succeeds, I’ll get more than one paragraph from more than one book, including not only books digitized from libraries but also current books being provided by publishers. Somewhere within those results, there may be help to move me on my way: Not necessarily the answer, but a starting point.

Sample reactions and comments

As related in a February 15, 2005 post on LibraryLaw blog, Ernest Miller had an interesting response to publishers’ assertions that the Google project infringed on copyright: The results of the project “could be seen as a really efficient index”—and in a similar case that was found to be fair use. “Looking at GoogleLibrary as an index, displaying only snippets, I think a strong argument can be made for fair use…”

A few days later, Mary Minow at LibraryLaw blog wondered whether libraries were considering the commercialization aspect of “turning over massive collections for digitization by a commercial player.” She’s right—“we must ask the right questions in the early stages.”

Steve Johnson offered a brief overview in “How Google will scan the world, 1 book at a time,” February 25, 2005 in the Chicago Tribune. He suggests Google has ubiquity as a goal—“and as Bill Gates has learned, when you become unavoidable, you also become resented.” Johnson quotes Sidney Verba (Harvard) on Google’s plans and the fact that “the libraries will also get their own copies of their texts turned binary.” Johnson also quotes Michigan’s comment that its own digitization project—one of the best in the country—would take “more than a thousand years” to digitize the 7-million-volume collection at the current rate; Google expects to do it in “a matter of years.” Finally, there’s Verba on the “threat” that Google Print poses to libraries: “The nice thing about this project is that it’s a kind of, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ People will go to Google, and they will find books, and they will then go to the library and get the books.”

Barbara Fister’s March 2005 piece in Library Issues notes some of the controversies surrounding the project. She says Google’s scanning of post-1922 books is “almost certainly a violation of the law” and offers this trashing of the entire public domain:

Three of the five libraries participating are only digitizing books clearly in the public domain. That means if students do encounter books through a Google search, chances are they will be so out of date as to be useless. Even classics will only appear in inferior editions, without the benefit of contemporary introductions and annotations, careful editing or the inclusion of recently-discovered material.

Fister goes on to offer thoughtful consideration of some of the real issues, noting and discarding the extreme views (the wonder of universal free access to all books, and the horror of drowning in a sea of undifferentiated information). I’m not sure I’d agree that full-text searching is “nearly useless for the novice researcher,” but she’s right that subject cataloging, classification, and citation networks offer surer and generally better ways to find solid research—at least when they work. She also dismisses the idea that cyberspace would substitute for physical libraries. “Google may have market dominance among Internet search engines, but it isn’t out to replace libraries.” True—and Google’s clear about that.

Dorothea Salo offered a valid warning about some Google Print hype in a March 11, 2005 Caveat lector posting. She notes that scanning and OCR don’t turn a print book into a usable digital object, at least not if the book has interesting characteristics. Salo goes so far as to say, “Scanning/OCR is the easy part… It’s everything else that’s hard.” She cites some obstacles to creating fully usable “book replacements” without lots of hard work. I believe her posting (and some other non-hysterical but critical articles and posts) are important cautions for those who believe Google’s going to make 14 million ebooks available—but I’ve heard nothing to suggest that Google has such an intention. If the intention is to provide medium-quality searchable text, screen-quality (but non-printable) pages for old books and snippets for newer books, and links to ways to find the actual books (along with, presumably, contextual ads along the side), scanning and decent-quality OCR may be just what Google needs.

I do know that Google is neither a replacement for catalogs and professional indexing, nor the only good web index, nor yet again a worthless pile of junk. I do know that Google is a stock corporation, which will tend to interfere with its laudable long-range planning—but it may be sufficiently closely held that this doesn’t pose a problem (and it’s profitable enough that Google Print may constitute a worthwhile long-term experiment). I do know that many librarians and technogeeks will happily overreact to any new announcement in a variety of ways, sometimes too cynically, sometimes too optimistically—sometimes both at once.

Michael Gorman called this and similar projects “expensive exercises in futility” and “a solution in search of a problem” in a Los Angeles Times op-ed—and later, in the March 2005 American Libraries, said, “Any user of Google knows that it is pathetic as an information-retrieval system—utterly lacking both recall and precision, the essential criteria for efficiency in such systems.”

I’m not saying Gorman got it all wrong. He didn’t. I agree that calling Google “the gatekeeper to the world’s knowledge” is “a combination of hype and hubris.” I agree that, for many purposes, free-text searching is “inherently inferior to controlled-vocabulary systems.” But Gorman goes overboard, as already noted—and, I think, goes too far in saying that the project will do nothing to assist digital preservation. (Since copies of the scans are being given to the libraries, and if those copies are open to suitable uses, that’s a step in the right direction—even if Google Print itself does little to preserve the copies.)

Quite a few bloggers and others on the internet commented on Gorman’s LA Times piece. Some of them did so intemperately, favoring passion over literacy and thought. Some of them blasted Gorman, sometimes far beyond what his piece deserved.

Gorman and the Blog People

Using my standard practice, I should be calling Michael Gorman “Michael.” I’ve met him on several occasions (after all, we did coauthor a book). But Michael Gorman is incoming president of the American Library Association, provided profound service to the library profession as editor of the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, Second Edition and succeeding works, and was a leader in introducing technology within academic libraries for many years. So Gorman it is.

Gorman is at a level where he can get an op-ed published fairly easily, and Library Journal just loves controversy. The February 15, 2005 Library Journal featured a “BackTalk” entitled “Revenge of the blog people!”—and that’s when things started getting crazy.

I don’t see how you can be a public university library director without growing a thick skin. I certainly don’t see how you can participate in ALA-level politics, particularly running for president (twice) without learning to ignore most insults. Part of developing a thick skin—the part I’ve never been good at—is remembering that “ignore” means “don’t respond.”

Gorman responded. Boy, did he respond. Here’s the first paragraph of his response:

A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web. (Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of “web log.”) Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People.

I’d guess some flames were ignited and posted before people even read the second paragraph, given the intemperance and overgeneralization of that lead sentence. But wait! There’s more! He summarized his op-ed in no uncertain terms, saying of Google that “it gives the searchers its heaps of irrelevance in nanoseconds” and going on, “rubbish is rubbish, no matter how speedily it is delivered.” Later: “It turns out that the Blog People (or their subclass who are interested in computers and the glorification of information) have a fanatical belief in the transforming power of digitization and a consequent horror of, and contempt for, heretics who do not share that belief.”

It is obvious that the Blog People read what they want to read rather than what is in front of them and judge me to be wrong on the basis of what they think rather than what I actually wrote. Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs. In that case, their rejection of my view is quite understandable.

If Michael Gorman had interspersed a few “many” and “some” and “the more intemperate” qualifiers in the op-ed, I would only say that his comments about Google are somewhat simplistic. I agree with Gorman that such comments as “Michael Gorman is an idiot” and claims that he’s “antidigital” or a “Luddite” are themselves overstated—and typical of the reasons I stay away from /. and, usually, Kuro5hin. I can empathize with the claim that some bloggers “read what they want to read rather than what is in front of them,” since I still feel I’ve been a victim of that tendency. But, but…there’s way too much generalization here, and that first paragraph is such a torch that one can hardly be surprised when flames resulted.

Not all flames

I read many intemperate responses to Gorman’s intemperate op-ed, even though I carefully avoided particularly flame-prone parts of the web. I was astonished by the number of supposed librarians who dismissed Gorman’s achievements and career on the basis of this one piece of writing, labeling him with the terms above and worse. I was saddened by the number of badly written, worse thought out comments that seemed to justify the worst Gorman could say about blogs and bloggers. A few days into the s**tstorm, Gorman characterized the op-ed as “satire”—but most people didn’t read it that way, and neither do I. (At best, it’s unusually hamhanded satire for an essayist of Gorman’s skills.)

There were also quite a few thoughtful responses, the kind I’d expect from many library bloggers and list participants. Brief notes on a few of those, taken chronologically as usual:

Ø    Rochelle at Tinfoil + raccoon (February 24) agreed, “Plenty of blogs are pure crap, as are plenty of print publications… It shouldn’t be a case of bloggers v. traditionally published writers. Or Google v. libraries. Or book v. ebook. Or World Book v. Wikipedia. It should be a case of quality and authority v. crap. I’d rather teach those critical skills to people so that they can figure it out for themselves, rather than limit sources of information.”

Ø    George Needham, part of the It’s all good team (three OCLC bloggers), wrote a wonderful brief satire on Gorman’s attitude toward Google Print in his February 25 post, “Revenge of the codex people.” I can’t possibly summarize this piece of carefully planned (and, I’d guess, carefully edited) work; go to and find the February 25, 2005 archives. If you haven’t already read it, do: it is indeed “all good.” A March 3 followup notes “what a blast I’ve had” reading comments and email—and noting why blogs are “not only fun, they’re important. They allow us to have a dialogue with people with whom we might never have a chance to interact in person. We actually do learn things, skeptics notwithstanding, and learn more about our colleagues…. My main concern is that I see the world being polarized in yet another way, among those who think electronic resources are a panacea and those who think they are a plague. We need to create and inhabit an ‘and’ world, not an ‘or’ world. It doesn’t have to be print or digital, it can be print and digital.” Ah, George, it does my heart good to see you using my long-standing motto, even if indirectly.

Ø    Michael Stephens of Tame the web offered “An open (yet personal) letter to Michael Gorman” on February 25. He responds to one of the BackTalk subheads, “Who are the Blog People,” by describing himself as a librarian and blogger: “I love libraries—especially the public library. I’ve been with the St. Joseph County Public Library in South Bend, IN for almost 14 years… I have worked hard to improve services to our users via my particular passions: staff and public technology training, using new technologies to meet user needs and the juncture of tech, people and libraries.” As part of a generally eloquent commentary, Stephens responds to Gorman’s general attack on the quality of blog writing and blogger reading:

I am a doctoral student at the University of North Texas in the inter-disciplinary Information Science program and I have spent quite a bit of time reading scholarly works and professional articles. Since June I have been gathering information on online communities and the interactions of people within them. I have written literature reviews, proposals for research, critiques of articles and multiple blog posts on my experiences and thoughts about libraries and librarians. The community of practice I have seen spring up within the LIS Blogosphere has inspired me to participate, write better and seek opportunities to show librarians how such a simple thing as Weblog software can ease the dissemination of information and generate knowledge.

Ø    Blake Carver only has a “blog lite” (his LISnews journal), unless you want to consider LISNews itself to be his überblog, but he contributed an eloquent post—partly in Gorman’s defense—at Web4Lib on Feburary 25, as part of a heated thread on that list. “Blogs are indeed often unpalatable, and always untrammeled by editors. While he meant this to be insulting (or was it satirical?), us bloggers should be able to admit these are legitimate complaints. Though at the same time these are some of our greatest strengths… Most blogs are not great works of literary history, most bloggers are not great writers, but that’s not the point… The funniest part of the entire article was just how much this article was [like] a post I’d read on any day [at] LISNews or any other blog. A post that would probably get moderated as flamebait…”

Ø    LITA-L had a similarly heated thread, including some comments from people as dismissive of bloggers as Gorman himself. Fred Stoss agreed that, paraphrasing slightly, those who can, publish; those who can’t blog. Leo Robert Klein responded, in part, “I think this doesn’t take into account a great number of Blogs where the writers do publish—and publish on a regular basis.” Brenda Battleson—a colleague of Fred Stoss—noted blogs as “a means of getting ideas ‘out there’” and offered references to correct those who think blogs are for those who can’t get published. She noted uses of blogs at her university and cited some particularly worthwhile blogs.

Ø    I noted that most of what I make available for public consumption (specifically, this here semi-literate journal) bypasses editorial control and traditional publishing, “putting me pretty squarely in that ignorant semi-literate group of folks with nothing worthwhile to say.” Steven Cohen cited that and my serious consideration of starting up a weblog as “one of the neatest reactions to the Gorman attack on bloggers.” I wouldn’t go that far, but there’s little doubt that Michael Gorman’s attack served as a tipping point in the creation of Walt at random (, which is a weblog. I’m not a “blog person.” That’s a separate issue. I am, as of April 1, a widely published writer who also produces a weblog. Make of that what you will.

Ø    Andrea at LibraryTechtonics posted a fairly long and clearly well thought out commentary on February 27, 2005. She explicitly does not dispute what Gorman said about Google in the original LA Times piece: “honestly, as a technologist and a librarian, I agree with just about everything said about Google not being the über-answer.” She regards the LJ piece, however, as “yet another misunderstanding about blogs, blogging, and bloggers, but significantly more devastating coming from the publicly perceived leader of the library community.” She goes on to define blogging clearly—“A blog is a technology that allows people to publish to the web quickly and easily. Blogging is the act of publishing to a blog”—and to note that those who hold blogging to be a “philosophy, a way of life, a moral imperative” are a subculture, [probably] not the majority of bloggers. Andrea (yes, we’ve met—a considerable pleasure!) calls herself “a librarian with a blog,” not a journalist (on the blog). “I was an English major, I write well, I mind my grammar, I check my facts, I ask before I quote or paraphrase.” That’s her practice—more careful than mine and those of some bloggers, but also more careful than those of some journalists (which she explicitly says she is not). She goes on to offer several thoughtfully stated reasons she’s unhappy with the LJ piece. I suggest you read it yourself at

Ø    Marylaine Block devoted Ex Libris 242 (March 4, 2005) to the controversy, titling the piece “Family feud.” Block likes Gorman and voted for him for president. “That doesn’t mean I will support him when he makes sweeping, defamatory comments on an entire class of people he doesn’t appear to know much about.” She notes that some of librarianship’s most respected writers are producing weblogs “and library publishers are finding some of their hottest new writing talent by reading library blogs.” She lists a few of the leading library weblogs and quotes her husband, “one of the few people in the world who could equally love an exquisite rare beef roast and the cafeteria version of it. The trick, he said, was to regard them as two entirely separate dishes.” I might be like her husband in some ways—I respect a really good cheeseburger much as I respect a really good steak au poivre—and Block goes on to explain why the “two entirely separate dishes” of traditional published literature and weblogs have separate strengths.

Ø    I was charmed by Valisblog’s March 8 “Very belatedly: GormanGate.” Simon (who I haven’t met, as far as I know, but he signs his posts with one name) is another blogger who, like Andrea of LibraryTechtonics, agrees with much of what Gorman originally said about Google. “Google is a great tool for some purposes. It is perhaps not such a great tool if you are using it to locate book-length scholarly materials… Because Google searches on the full text of documents, you run a fairly high risk of locating irrelevant information that, by chance, contains your chosen search terms.” Simon goes on to call the LJ piece “a fairly stupid, poorly written response, that implied that a whole class of people were ignorant and incapable of reading whole texts.” Still, Simon was surprised at the sheer vehemence of much of the reaction. “A lot of people seem to be getting awfully defensive…” (I just realized Simon indirectly complimented me, if only as a co-author. Thanks.)

So what does it boil down to? Gorman attacks Google (in certain contexts). Bloggers attack Gorman. Gorman attacks bloggers (in general). Other bloggers get even more upset. Seems to me like there’s been a fair bit of over-reaction, all the way through this episode. Deep breaths, people. Deep breaths. Even if Michael Gorman thinks you’re an idiot with no attention span, does it really matter?

Ø    Still later (March 16), Jane of A wandering eyre used the whole fiasco as the jumping-off point for an essay on the nature of leadership. It’s a solid, thoughtful essay, one that (again) deserves reading on its own:

Ø    Rory Litwin also felt compelled to consider how Library Juice compares to a blog (in Library Juice 8:6 at vol8/LJ_8.6.html), after noting that he’s also been critical of the “blogging craze” but that he regards blogging as “more akin to casual conversation taken into the realm of the printed word” and doesn’t consider the “blog people” to be a cultural threat:

Potentially more of a threat to serious publishing (and I’m being half-serious here) are publications like Library Juice, which, though not blogs, borrow some of the attributes of blogs while still making a claim to be a part of the world of publishing.

He cites reasons Library Juice is a traditional serial: fairly regular periodicity, ISSN, an editor “who vets contributed articles for quality and fittingness,” mostly not written by the editor, an editorial perspective and some consistency, traditionally citable, and with longer and more “traditional” articles than in a typical weblog.

He also notes the reasons that Library Juice (and Cites & Insights) are sometimes called blogs: Freely accessible via the web; an RSS feed (or at least part of one); “very much a DIY project”; a more casual editorial process than most established print editors; and functionally “part of the blogosphere.” Litwin then admits to being “one of the blog people.” He understands the negative implications but says he’s “going to keep going as I’ve been going.” And he clarifies his “craze” problem: his sense that blogs “have become the default format for any new website, regardless of the appropriateness of a centrally chronological organizing principle.” There’s more, worth reading.

My Own Take

Gorman admits that he “had not spent much time thinking about blogs.” There’s nothing wrong with that. For all the claims of certain hotshots, blogs have not replaced journalism, scholarship, or traditional media. Blogs add more than they replace, and what they add doesn’t work for everyone.

Consider Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap. Theodore Sturgeon was responding to mainstream critics who had dismissed science fiction with the comment that it’s mostly crap. I’ve always used Vivaldi as an example to suggest that 90% of Baroque compositions were probably crap as well (even though most of that 90% has presumably long since vanished). Sturgeon, however, was commenting on published material, and probably half of the material submitted to traditional publishing is rejected. Add that in, and you could suggest that 95% of all writing, or music, or art, or whatever is likely to be crap—at least if you define “crap” as being of no lasting importance or interest outside of a small circle.

There are eight million weblogs as of one count. If there are 400,000 weblogs of lasting importance or interest outside of the blogger’s small circle, that’s remarkable. I doubt the number is anywhere near that high. I would suggest the number is considerably north of zero, probably in the tens of thousands.

Many bloggers write badly. The medium lends itself to “zeroth-draft” writing, where you type an instant comment without thinking it through carefully. Many bloggers think badly, oversimplify, exaggerate, and have incredibly thin skins. Many bloggers equate skepticism with bias and doubting with opposition. Many bloggers think digital is automatically better and have no interest in reading anything longer than a screen of text.

I say “many” with some assurance because “many” can mean anything from a hundred to a million. I’d guess each of the nasty comments in the preceding paragraph applies to at least a thousand bloggers. Taken as a whole, I’d guess they apply to a minority of bloggers, possibly a small minority—but that minority is still a whole bunch of people.

Many bloggers write well, some superbly. Many bloggers edit what they write before they post. I suspect more than a few show their essays to others for editorial review before they publish them. Many bloggers think deep thoughts, clarify, explicate, and stand up for what they believe while accepting criticism and understanding that other people may think differently. Many bloggers understand the difference between skepticism and bias or opposition, and understand that you can regard something as worthwhile while criticizing its flaws. Many bloggers believe in the virtues of multiplicity and see digital tools as opening new avenues without closing the existing possibilities.

Within the library community, I believe the percentage of worthwhile weblogs is substantially higher than the 5% Sturgeon’s Law might suggest.

Here’s a list of 25 people: Steven Bell, David Bigwood, Laura Blalock, Susan Crawford, Walt Crawford, Anna Creech, Lorcan Dempsey, Bill Drew, John Dupuis, Elizabeth Edwards, Edward Felten, Geoff Harder, Sarah Houghton, David King, Elizabeth Lane Lawley, Carole Leita, Lawrence Lessig, Andrea Mercado, Mary Minow, Christina Pikas, Aaron Schmidt, Kristina Spurgin, Peter Suber, Sheila Webber, Donna Wentworth.

The list is presented alphabetically for lack of a better organizing principle. Women make up almost exactly half of the list. That wasn’t intentional, but it’s clear that women are better represented among thoughtful library webloggers (and thoughtful copyright-related webloggers and thoughtful lawyer/webloggers and…) than they are in some more traditional areas of technology visibility.

I’d say 19.5 of the people on this list are primarily “library people,” 5.5 aren’t. (Geez, Liz, I don’t know: What do you consider yourself these days?) A few of the people on the list are older than I am. Several are young enough to be my children.

Roughly half of the people on the list have published books, at least one of them more than I have. Most of the people on the list have published articles—scholarly, popular, or both. Those that haven’t almost certainly will, because that’s one of several things these 25 people have in common: They’re articulate, thoughtful, professional, and write things that are worth reading—at least some of the time. (Hey, none of us bats 1000.) Those who haven’t yet had substantial impact on their fields almost certainly will—there’s not a name on the list from whom I wouldn’t expect significant accomplishments. (Some already have admirable track records, to be sure.)

Do any of these people call themselves “blog people”? Some do, some don’t. But they all blog. Every one of them.

I could easily list another couple of dozen, including many of the names mentioned earlier in this essay. (Sorry, George, Dorothea, Blake, Rochelle, Michael, Simon, Steven, Jenny, et al. No insult intended: I wanted to keep the list reasonably short.)

Michael Gorman is no fool, no Luddite, and no idiot. On the topic of blogs and their writers, Michael Gorman is also no authority.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 5, Number 6, Whole Issue 62, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced by Walt Crawford, a senior analyst at RLG.

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