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So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish*

After a decade, the “Babel Fish” blog is coming to an end.

December 15, 2019
 
 

It’s been a good ride. For 10 years, I’ve been an Inside Higher Ed blogger. I’ll be sad to leave the blogging team, but after 10 years readers have probably had enough of me. (Ever since the days of sharing my opinions on library Listservs in the 1990s, I have always imagined eyes rolling as my name pops up: not that woman again!) Opinions, I have them.

I’ll carry on blogging at my own site, though without deadlines I suspect I will be a bit more ad hoc about when I post. A more relaxed schedule will give me time to work on that book project that I’ve pushed aside for too long. (It’s -- surprise! -- a college librarian’s take on technology and how it works on society.)

I have a long history with this form of public writing. I remember the day (though I'm not certain of the year) when a student, who is now a seasoned librarian himself, introduced me to this new thing he was excited about. I was chatting with him at the reference desk, and he politely asked to borrow my keyboard and brought up Blogger to demonstrate how easy it was -- much easier than my kludgy attempts to put library news on our site using raw html. I was hooked.

I began to assign blog posts as writing assignments in courses starting in 2005. That year, I also launched a blog for my library and become one of the inaugural contributors to the Association of College and Research Libraries ACRLog, which is still going strong (though I stepped away from it in 2011). Between 2009 and 2015, I wrote a weekly column for Library Journal (in disappearing e-ink, as the links have all broken), and I began blogging weekly for Inside Higher Ed in 2010.

A lot happened in libraries and technology in my decade of blogging for Inside Higher Ed. Open access to scholarly publishing went from something only activists cared much about to becoming a significant part of the scholarly publishing environment. Lever Press, which I helped to brainstorm into existence, now has an entire catalog of open-access books published, with more in development. The Google Books lawsuits were resolved; the GSU e-reserves lawsuits were not. Wall Street was occupied and had its own library until the police tossed it into dumpsters. We lost Aaron Swartz. Edward Snowden blew the whistle. Net neutrality was rescued, but then deregulated out of existence, though the fight isn't over. Social media became increasingly antisocial. The news industry continued to struggle, with half of newspaper journalists pink-slipped over the decade.

Librarians retired a set of standards for information literacy in favor of a more complex framework after much debate. Project Information Literacy released one fascinating report after another. After being a fan for a decade, I was tickled to be invited to serve as their first scholar in residence, to help with a project that is close to my heart. Look for the report to be published on Jan. 15 -- it’s a corker, if I do say so myself.

Some things didn’t change. Students struggled with research papers. Librarians struggled to help. And I had the chance to work out my thoughts in writing, every week.

In 2015 while on sabbatical, I assembled some of my blog posts and articles into an open-access anthology using PressBooks. I was motivated to explore with public scholarship by blogging about my research into online book discussion communities while exploring the potential for using new platforms for open-access scholarship. Since then Minitex, my local library collective, has made PressBooks available as a service to everyone in the area through their libraries. (If you’re part of the Minitex region, check it out -- or if not, see if your regional library consortium has a similar arrangement with PressBooks.) Last summer, I began to think it was time to throw together another edition of Babel Fish Bouillabaisse, which turned out to be good advanced planning as my 10-year gig with Inside Higher Ed came to an end after 492 blog posts -- something over 350,000 words about libraries, learning, technology and society.

Stop by my website if you are so inclined. Do check out Project Information Literacy’s new research report a month from now. If you’re a publisher who thinks this book idea of mine might have legs, get in touch (though email or Twitter; some of my colleagues and a lot of robo-callers know, I’m a bit shy about sharing a number where I can be reached).

And to my readers here, thanks for accompanying me on this journey and for the many years of good conversation.

*Readers of a certain age and temperament will recognize the reference as the Babel Fish and I make way for a hyperspace bypass.

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