There seems to be some very negative views in the blogosphere about anonymous librarian blogs. However, I think that there are cases where it is appropriate to be an anonymous blogger. Many public libraries are very careful about their public image and do not want any information about their library published unless it has been vetted by the public relations department. I chose to be semi - anonymous: my blog does not mention my library system, so that I can be clear that I am representing my own views and not necessarily representing the views of that system. By looking at my associated web presence (such as my Ning profile), one can see what system I work for and could probably determine my identity.

What do you think about anonymity for bloggers? Do you think that it impacts the respectability of the blog?

Tags: anonymity, blogging

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I consider my blog educational also. I am a proponent of older adult services, but I am focussed on preparing for the increasing numbers of older adults in society, trying to see how libraries can use new technology for older patrons, and looking at the needs of older adult patrons. The blog is designed to provide resources for librarians who provide older adult services - like programming or outreach. Like you, I do not use the blog to rant or to attack others.

Since my library system does not have a policy concerning 'library workers who blog', I thought it would be best to be cautious. It may be different in academic libraries, since I believe that there is more of a tradition of intellectual freedom. I am also only a part-time librarian, who is about to apply for a full time position.
I feel the basic reason one chooses anonymity is to avoid responsibility for what one says. Communication between people requires trust among people, and anonymity is a way to avoid and destroy that trust. Thus, in general, I am strongly against anonymity unless everyone is anonymous (in which case the communication is probably close to worthless anyway).

To be sure, there might be situations where anonymity might be warranted, such as whistle-blowing activities for a just cause. But these situations are unique, and the circumstances of each are different.

I've run a heavy-traffic e-mail list for 12 years. In that time I've gone from acceptance of anonymity to near total rejection. In general, I find that anonymous users nearly always abuse their lack of identity by saying things people don't usually say in face-to-face contact.

In the case of you at your library, indeed, anything you say while on the job is not your own but a product of the library ("work for hire"). You would have to examine their ethics statement to see how far you can go. An alternative would be to have an internal-only blog and carefully word your observations.

Admittedly I have an internal and external blog, and while I rarely state the name of my institution, it's fairly obvious once you follow a link or two. I think there are a number of issues at my institution that need alteration, but what good would it do to state them anonymously? Would I be achieving any sort of change?

I think of Berthold Brecht's line from "Happy End":

"What's robbing a bank, compared to owning a bank?"

In other words, if you want change, approach it from within. The way to achieve this is through trust.
You bring up a good point - there are two aspects of being anonymous - using one's real name and revealing the name of the library that one works for. You say that you rarely name your institution on your blog, so that is one way to show that you are giving your own views, rather than the views of your institution. Does your institution have any policies about "workers who blog'? I may eventually post my real name, after I find out more about what my library system expects.

I do not blog while 'on the job', so my blog is not owned by my library. I wholeheartedly agree with you that change must come from within the organization. I am a team player and always send my suggestions via the library's online suggestion box (signed) or through the normal chain of command. I view my blog as more of an online "feature article" about aging news and library services, rather than a "call to action" to change something wrong in my system.
Hi there,

My institution has an extensive Ethics and Conflict of Interest Policy which every employee (union and non-union) must sign. There's a lot to summarize (and I'm not sure I can quote the policy in public) but the basic gist is that anything anyone does where one is associated with the institution is pretty much "work for hire." So whether you're on the job or not is irrelevant. If you attend a conference there's a whole list of tests to indicate whether you are operating on your own or for the library (and all sorts of decisions to be made as to whether you can benefit from such appearances, especially if you are given an honorarium or transportation fare).

Although my institution just started to allow all employees to blog for internal use only, we don't yet have a specific blog policy. We'll see what happens there, although I think my institution would state that, just as employees have no right to privacy in communication, we also have no right to anonymity in communication.

Actually, this is a great topic for a blog post. I just have to figure out whether it belongs internally or externally. ;-)
I'm quite open about my identity on my blog and since I state what type of library I work for and where I am you don't have to think very hard to work out where I work! I do make it clear that my blog is personal but everything I write I would be happy to read out to my head of service and I don't think my blog is an appropriate place to complain about my workplace. Looking at my sitemeter I know that people in my workplace have read my blog and the only think I'm worried about is that one of them will point out a dodgy spelling or grammar mistake. I completely agree with Bob's comment about trust and approaching from within. I do think my blog is an appropriate place to talk about the good things happening in my library, good publicity is good publicity after all! Sarah
I have a personal blog (about my home renovation) and I participate in a professional blog (infodoodads). In both I have my name and say that I'm a librarian. It wouldn't take a genius to figure out where I work or where I live; although I do not specifically say where I work or live. That said, I don't share anything on my blog that I wouldn't say out loud in the general public arena. I consider it a speech (with some grammatical and spelling errors).

I don't mind if people write anonymously, but at the same time, I don't read those blogs. I want to know who the people are...as do most people. I don't know how many readers an anonymous blog would attract. I doubt that many, although I could be wrong.
I am saddened by your choice to avoid all anonymous blogs on principle. I believe that you will miss out on some excellent blogs. For example, the “Feel Good Librarian” is a wonderful blog about how librarians can make a positive difference in people’s lives. Her post “Picking Stone” was very inspirational to me. Michael Stephens interviewed her for a Library Journal article and in this article she described why she chose to be anonymous. One of my favorite non-librarian blogs is “Confessions of a Pioneer Woman” which is written anonymously and just won a 2007 Weblog Award for the “Best Kept Secret” Weblog.
Oh, it's not necessarily on principle. It's just on personal interest. It's like when I read the news, I like to know who is reporting the news. I've read some anonymous posts, and they're interesting, but for me reading blogs is liking reading non-fiction books. Somehow anonymous blogs just don't seem quite as real to me.
Well,
when I started blogging, there was no question whether to put my real name and mention the library I work in. The main reason for that was the fact that I'm almost the only biblioblogger in Russia, and the country should know her heroes. And at workshops and seminars people come to me and say "I know you! I am reading you" or "thank you for this or that information" or "I think you were wrong or right"... or something like that. I think that professional blogging is one way of setting up new contacts with librarians. And of course in this case your blog should not be anonimous.
Hi Katerina,

Particularly in a country that suffered from a distortion of communication (under the Soviet Union), I think you are a hero. You set a great example for your field, and I hope many more Russians (and eventually Belarusians) will follow your example. Brava/Slava!
Katerina, that is marvelous. You are indeed a hero!
My main blog is essentially a newsletter for distance education students and faculty at my institution, so anonymity would make no sense. In most other situations, I post under my own name or easily identifiable usernames but don't generally mention my institution directly, which I hope creates the sense of a professional posting under her own auspices, not those of her institution. Of course, I'm an academic librarian with faculty status, so I treat blogging as an extension of faculty professional activity or publishing--academic freedom and professional responsibility are both expected.

I do think about anonymous blogs differently. I don't think I would use an anonymous blog as a source of information, at least not without confirming it elsewhere. (Of course, I tend to be a compulsive fact checker!) I guess, as with my own blogging, I think of an attributed blog as more of the equivalent of a professional publication--I can judge the quality of the information by the person's reputation. An anonymous blog is more like an un-bylined article in a magazine--I'll read it for pleasure or less important (to me) information, but I'll double check things before I depend on the information or recommend it to someone else. My trust would need to be earned over a period of time, since I have nothing else to judge them by.

I think Feel Good Librarian (thanks, RefLibrarian) is an excellent example of an anonymous librarian blogger who provides a great service to the library community and doesn't need to be identifiable. In fact, the premise of the blog would be tarnished if we knew who and where--if people knew, they might be acting on that knowledge in interactions and the stories wouldn't be as effective. I don't care in these cases if details have been changed (to protect the guilty and the innocent); I can be as uplifted by a piece of fiction as by a real story, as long as it is plausible and recognizably similar to real life.

I do have a few places where I post or comment under less identifiable names. These are strictly personal, and are mostly places where you are judged by the quality of the information you provide (and the quality of your arguments: flaming or trolling is bad no matter who does it.)

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