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Thanks But No Thanks Salem Press

I recently received this message from the folks at Salem Press. Seems they’ve decided our profession – blogs in particular – could use another award:

Congratulations. Your blog has been nominated for a Library Blog Award by readers of it. You should be thrilled so many think so much of what you have to say.

My response to “The Library Blog Awards” was “thank but no thanks – not interested”. Apparently DBL was nominated by readers, so I want to thank those among you (at least one person) who thinks DBL is worthy of an award. The only award I need is to know that DBL has readers who find value in our posts.

Personally I think the profession would be just fine without award proliferation. These awards often go to the same old blogs time and time again, while many lesser known but equally (and sometimes better) blogs go unrecognized. My preference would be for all librarian bloggers to reject the enticement to enter this competition, but perhaps the promised cash prizes will present too much temptation. Perhaps those who win will contribute Salem’s cash to good causes.

This isn’t a critique of Salem Press. I understand their desire to recognize the good work of librarians and bring it attention, and I respect their good intentions. I just wonder if there’s a better way to do it then establishing one more unproductive competition. Perhaps they could promote a different library blog each week with a special column on their home page. Librarians could be invited to nominate blogs they think are worthy of attention. Or let’s just not bother. As I’ve written before, I think the best job of promoting librarian blogs is the annual “Blogs to Read” list compiled by LISNews. Anything else just seems pointless.

Update (June 1, 2010): Salem Press went ahead with its blog awards. If you are interested you can find the results here. A blog that I maintain elsewhere was awarded a third place award in the academic library blog category. Being that it is nothing more than a filter blog, a very predictable blog that is hardly a creative endeavor – and which takes little effort – I question how it could be that much better than many of the other academic librarian blogs – I see many that are far better. And the choice of Resource Shelf as the second place winner in the academic library category? Very puzzling. It’s not about academic libraries. It’s been around forever, so does it need any more recognition? It too is a filter blog. I think that gets back to my original point. Why bother? If Salem wanted to provide a directory of librarian blogs – that seems reasonable. Anyway, I politely thanked them and requested that they donate the $100 prize that accompanies the award to a librarian scholarship fund.

Comments

Comment from Alan Kirk Gray
Posted: March 28, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Wow. From the “no good deed goes unpunished” category, a new winner.

What if you had just told them privately, “thanks but no thanks.” And held off on the gratuitous advice on how they should do what they have chosen to do. And your gratuitous advice about what others should do with their money.

BTW, you lost me at, “the only award I need is to know….”

Here’s some gratuitous advice. Grow up.

Comment from Peter W Tobey
Posted: March 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I have a lot of respect for Steven and so I read his thoughts on our awards seriously. Plus, there have been a few other comments elsewhere that I have paid close attention to. Since Steven was kind enough to invite my response to his post, here it is.

There are two issues that bubble up from this conversation that I think are interesting. One (this one not even hinted at in Steven’s post – but mentioned elsewhere and salient) is that the whole effort is a crass marketing ploy and really isn’t intended to celebrate good blogging at all. The second, more interesting issue – which Steven did raise – is that we don’t need more awards. We need recognition and promotion of blogs that aren’t well-known.

I won’t speak for the other judges here. Their reputations seem to me to speak for themselves and, I assure you, none is motivated by great financial gain or Salem Press’ well-being in this matter. All are first-rate writers, reviewers and deeply involved in library issues. (Brief bios are here: http://www.salempress.com/blogs)

As for myself, I confess to being a marketer. (I’m also an author, was once an editor and publisher and ride a cool blue motorcycle.) Incredibly enough, I don’t find my marketing role embarrassing or particularly crass. Instead, I regard marketing as communication of a purposeful kind. Not necessarily literature, or even art. But not mayhem or theft, either. My work at Salem Press is certainly intended to promote profitability. But that’s not all that marketing, including Salem’s marketing, is capable of doing.

Marketing can do lots of other things, such as promote good causes and enhance reputations. Marketing often serves non-profits, like libraries. I refer anyone not aware of The ‘M’ Word to this very good blog: themwordblog.blogspot.com

The Blog Awards we’re doing aren’t so much a direct marketing effort as a kind of community involvement activity. That is, Salem’s intention was to join the fray, discover more of the conversation and then use our small but national voice to point out little-know and excellent blogs. I thought, from the outset, that this would be a useful exercise and would, directly or indirectly, demonstrate that Salem is aware of some of the issues in the library world and cares about them. Since this was and is true, it still seems like a good idea to me.

The point made by Steven and others about celebrating the already well-known and often celebrated is a good one. But not perfect. First, I’d like to point out that even very well-known bloggers are completely unknown to lots of interested, potential readers. (Like me, for instance.) If we introduce these separated parties, so much the better.

More important, though, is the taint that competition seems to have cast over this thing. And I’d like to chime in on that issue.

I think I agree that the library blogging community’s most pressing need isn’t for more awards. I think it was a mistake to structure the whole enterprise with that emphasis. I think we should have called this the Library Blog Huzzahs. As such we still could award cash prizes. But focus on praise and celebration. In addition to an annual contest, we could do ongoing news about good, little-known bloggers and good well-known bloggers, too. Perhaps some sort of hub where we can point things out that might be fun, interesting or useful. A collaborative blog about library blogs written by interested people. Now, there’s a plan.

I like this alternative approach so much, in fact, that I’m changing our format. It’ll be better this way. There will still be prizes because I like rewarding good works. But the direction of the enterprise will be shifted from a once-a-year beauty pagaent to a more ongoing feast. Stay tuned. This is fun.

Comment from StevenB
Posted: March 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Thanks for your thoughtful comments Peter. It provides me with some better insight into the motivations behind the awards, and as I said in my post, I believe you have only good intentions in wanting to promote the work of librarian bloggers – and giving them recognition and a larger platform for their views. As I commented elsewhere (the other conversation you mention ), I never saw this as a marketing ploy, primarily because of the credible judges representing the profession. All that said, I’m just not a fan of – yours or anyone else who offers them – blog awards – and tend to think this profession suffers from a bit of award proliferation. Clearly not everyone agrees with me – and that’s fine. I don’t expect the profession to change its preferences based on what I have to say.

The real value of librarian blogging is that it creates an opportunity for a conversation between individuals and groups that might not otherwise have that opportunity. I am glad to see that you are giving some thought to how that aspect of blogging can be celebrated and I really like that “Huzzahs” idea. Good luck with that endeavor.

Comment from Gwyneth Jones
Posted: March 30, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Awww i liked the idea!…and was greatly flattered to be included!…and i have to agree with the commenter Alan Kirk Gray about the “gratuitous advice” and that it sounded like the esteemed Steven B was a bit “holier than thou.”

Let us not forget that there IS a democratic nomination process for little known blogs it’s called the Edublog awards..Oh, but maybe because that’s for school-based or education blogs and not public library blogs he feels left out.

Marketing for any library, school or otherwise, is important! Right now, more than ever, we need to have a strong web presence…I just hosted a webinar at the TL Virtual Cafe about school library web presence with library web luminaries Joyce Valenza, Buffy Hamilton, Carolyn Foote, Barb Jansen, and Christina Bentheim. We had over 170 people from all over the world log into our Elluminate Learning Central presentation and it even inspired me to up my game and web presence and “brand” myself The Daring Librarian!

So, The Daring Librarian is not afraid to say….keep the huzzahs and award opportunities coming! It helps get the word out about what we’re doing here down in the trenches.. a little appreciation is AWEsome! (we so rarely get it in our own backyard) and let’s keep our profession moving along!

Lest we forget, the goal is for effective practice and essential elements for making your library instruction, program, and tools more accessible for students and the community. My customers are my kids, parents, community, fellow teachers & librarians. Anything else is gravy!
Cheers!
~Gwyneth

Comment from StevenB
Posted: March 30, 2010 at 7:01 pm

DBL is always glad to receive comments, but it’s not clear why some feel the need to respond with snark. My post on blog awards has a respectful tone, and expressing my opinions and offering suggestions hardly makes it gratuitous. Am I the only blogger out there guilty of taking a position on an issue? If you don’t agree, say so, and offer your ideas on why that’s the case – but please keep it constructive and collegial.

Gywneth – I have to disagree with your point about the importance of marketing. I do agree that we absolutely want to make sure our community members know who we are and what we can do for them. But I think it’s a stretch to conflate that with the need for blog awards. My community members don’t care about my personal blog – my library blog – yes – we need that to build a conversation – an important marketing tool. If I want my community to know about the library and its resources, telling them I won a blog award seems of little value. I think there’s much more we can do beyond blog awards to promote the profession and keeping it advancing.

BTW, I appreciate you reading the blog but you clearly don’t know me – not that you should necessarily (despite your use of the word “esteemed”). I’m an academic librarian and well aware of the edublog awards – I turned down their nomination a year or two ago for all the same reasons. I asked to be left out on purpose.

BTW, webinars to promote good causes and new roles for librarians. Maybe you’ve heard of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community – or not? Check it out at http://blendedlibrarian.org

Comment from Peter Bromberg
Posted: April 24, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Hi Steven,

I didn’t take a public position on this, after giving it some thought, simply because I didn’t think it was a good use of my time to do so. If Salem Press wants to, well, get some press, by creating this new blogging award I wish them well in their efforts. Personally, it struck me as a transparent attempt to capitalize on the work and reputations of others– hitch their wagons to our stars, so-to-speak. That’s certainly a valid business/marketing strategy and one that might work out quite well for them. A strategy built around telling other people how wonderful they are and giving them money probably has a high chance of success.

While I’m not a fan of these types of recognitions in general (that’s my bias), it can be pulled off with class if the awarding body actually has some heft. I’m thinking of LJ’s annual awards for Librarian of the Year, Paraprofessional of they Year, Library of the Year, Mover/shaker, etc. Salem Press doesn’t have the same heft. And what really soured the Salem Press deal for me was the email I got from them listing their judges–and linking each judge to their experience with…wait for it… Library Journal!

The judges, with the exception Mr. Tobey, were listed as:
- Senior Editor at Library Journal
- frequent contributor and reviewer for Library Journal
- long-time contributor to Library Journal
- frequent reviewer for Library Journal

I kept expecting to see “long-time subscriber to Library Journal” listed in the credentials. Which is to say: I was left with the impression that someone at Salem Press really wanted me to strongly associate their award with Library Journal–maybe co-opt some of LJ’s heft. I don’t know if that was their motivation, but that was the impression I got and why I chose not to participate in the contest.

Others can, and do, see it differently of course, and if Salem Press comes out of this with some positive exposure and hard-working, talented library bloggers come out of this with some positive exposure, I say yay! It’s just not something I felt comfortable being a part of.

Comment from StevenB
Posted: April 25, 2010 at 2:16 am

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Salem Press post Peter. As always you bring an intelligent, reflective perspective to the discussion. Yes, Salem Press is absolutely free to create whatever sort of award they like, and you could admire their desire to promote the good work of librarians – although like you I think it is ultimately counterproductive. I didn’t pick up on the LJ connection – and good of you to share that insight. I’m not sure what’s even going to happen to the Salem Award, but I’m already thinking of a way I could create a positive way to promote deserving blogs – without having the artificiality and sour taste of an awards competition. Thanks, Steven

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