Friday, October 27, 2006

Why I Blog 

A bunch of us bloggers were asked to write an essay about blogging for a forthcoming issue of Reconstruction, so here goes...

Library Noire

I have never been a faithful diary or journal keeper, so I have surprised myself by regularly maintaining my blog for almost three years now. When I was a child, I received a new diary each Christmas, and would always begin each year with the best of intentions to fill each page. I inevitably lost interest, however, and my entries would peter out. Even those incomplete records did not survive my childhood because every time I would revisit my old diaries I destroyed them in mortification. Let’s just say, Anne Frank I was not, and my slightly older self was extremely judgmental of the immaturity and quality of my younger self’s writing and I would obliterate them in these Stalinistic purges. (Not enough Time + Distance to = Funny). Although I hated my diaries I always loved to write letters and treasured the ones that I would receive in return. I think I have kept every single one. I have a giant archive, shoeboxes full of them, and they are delightful to read.

I guess I have kept up my blog because it is more like a letter to friends and family than a journal. I blog to amuse my friends and family – my experiences on the job at a large urban library are just too rich and bizarre to keep to myself. Keeping a blog improves my attitude and outlook. Now if anything scary or bizarre or disgusting happens I roll my eyes heavenward and whisper a thank you for the material instead of despairing about the situation. If I slip in a puddle of vomit or I interrupt a man jacking off in the stacks or having a seizure overdose at the internet computers I know I can make a funny or at least interesting story out of it. Blogging regularly is a good mental health and professional exercise, because often on this job if you didn’t laugh, as the saying goes, you would cry.

I consider the public in all of its glorious and degraded forms grist for the mill for my blog, and perhaps I’m violating some unwritten librarian ethic. I hope that I am respectful of the characters because they are awesome, and there are great stories about them to tell. I’ve always adored Studs Terkel’s chronicles of ordinary people and I hope to contribute something in that ilk. To protect the innocent and the guilty I write anonymously, keep the location of my library secret and heavily disguise or even create compilations out of the patrons. I’m no social crusader, but I do hope that I raise awareness about some of the disastrous social policy decisions such as deinstitutionalization, and the fact cities across the nation inappropriately and expediently use libraries as cheap day shelters. We librarians are on the front lines here.

blogs do have that advantage of being a journal that actually gets read. i recently had a /crazy/ situation where after i had cleared my treasures out of my parents old house and after they had an estate sale to get rid of the rest of the supposed junk, just two weeks later, i got an email. the subject line, "i have three of your missionary journals!" when i was 19 i went on a mission for my church, wrote quite a bit about my experience, and lost the journals in a closet apparently. when this woman wrote, she asked questions like, "are you mad your journals were sold at an estate sale?" well, i'm not mad if they get back to me. and "do you mind that i'm reading your journals?" that was easy to answer. i was stoked. it's been more than a decade since i wrote them, so it's not like someone is reading my current inner thoughts, and though the journals are very personal, the fact that they escaped and made it out into the air for someone to enjoy very much stoked me out.
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