Are Email Lists Phasing Out? Responding to KS

Karen raises an interesting question: Are email lists “so twentieth century”?

This arose from a Publib discussion that moved somehow from providing wifi (a seeming no brainer to some; a big issue for others) to use of listservs by 21st century “young librarians.”

I’m not 100% clear where Karen sees this trend coming from. She says email and social software, but I haven’t seen that many of my listservs trend downwards in traffic based on new social software. Currently I read: MedLib, Music Library Association, PubLib, NGC4LIB, NewLib (when it doesn’t give me an ulcer–more on that later), ALSC and I mod for NexGenLib. This is in addition to any ALA lists that seem rather compulsive and job lists that wouldn’t push to RSS.

I’m mostly a list reader. I’ve chime in if I think it’s worth it (and Brian doesn’t beat me to the punch with a good point) but mostly it’s passive. I skim a lot, skipping things if I don’t find them particularly useful to me. It helps that I read very fast and have grown up on forwarded emails. For me, it’s education well beyond the classroom. I’m still shy of thirty and right now–some of these voices are like having an extra set of mentors. I get to see the opinions not only of the people doing library service in a public library, but also in highly specialized libraries. I get to follow along on discussions of where our future insofar as new catalogs are going (although a lot of it is right over my head…which annoys me some days). I get to have an opinion right up there with the movers and shakers.

There are days when I just glut delete– if it’s really important, it will come back around. It’s a listserv–not an email from my best friend. But it’s also a social tool for me. I have a number of good friends who have become so via listservs. I collected tons of job information about Chicago before I moved there. I’ve even participated in a listserv meet up at an ALA conference. Insta-friends (shaken gently, with an extra olive)

Karen makes a point that many listservs are a few voices with varying opinions thrown in by a greater body. Publib is a perfect example of this–but there is enough variety in the voices that for me, while I’m gleaning tips from people I may never meet, I’m getting a handle on a number of personalities and viewpoints. There are a few of the more stringent voices on NewLib who–if pressed–I could probably identify blindfolded if we introduced a hot topic. And certainly I wish John Berry would provide a better look at the conversations we have rather than defaulting to quoting the most incendiary voice of the bunch. Seriously, John, most of us understood why ALA might not want an MLS in the usability testing– do you recall that on the line up for required classes in near recent past? (Although–for some directors it might be a nice addition!) I like the conversation over at Jess’s much better for that particularly topic.

Personally, I don’t see myself leaving many of the lists soon. Certainly topics are repeated and occasionally beaten to death or point of ulcer. Of course there will be the one person who takes any post I make the wrong way and proceeds to completely spoil my afternoon (at least until I can find chocolate) but for me, it’s a great way to find a discussion between people who are doing this stuff daily. Who aren’t even professional writers. These are places I’m less hesitant to ask questions. And it’s easier to watch from the sidelines than many of our other social networking tools, I think, where joining may restrict us to only those we know and can “friend.”

So I, Karen, am a 21st century librarian, diploma still on the new side (has it really been 3 years?) and I listserv. See you on Publib!