Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bloggers Grow 60X in Three Years: The World's Largest Library Staff?

MediaChannel.org notes along with others the latest Technorati stats documenting the explosive growth in weblogs. The latest count is 27 million, up from 20 million last October and roughly doubling every six months. A lot of this dies out quickly, though: after 3 months of posting about half of those die out and only about ten percent, or 2.7 million, post at least once a week. Still, let's put this in some perspective. Worldwide we'd estimate that there are about 1.5 million librarians in public and private practices managing their institutions' collections. Assuming that about half of the weekly weblog posters are keeping tabs on content found on the Web that means that already webloggers in gross total about equal today's total professionally trained corps of information professionals. Wait a year and there will be more than double that number, from which we could more safely assume that we'll have about 1.5 million people who do a pretty good job of pointing people to content on the Web. In another year we may have that same number who are pretty trusted authorities of specific topics who have found reasonably strong audiences for their content pointing skills.

Many librarians are already enthusiasts for weblogging from the perspective of professionals trying to communicate with peers and patrons. But few librarians have really begun to consider the full impact of both the breadth and focus of weblog content that's being created in and beyond their base of patrons and how that content will impact both their archiving requirements and their ability to leverage webloggers as key recommenders of content and as topic experts who can support patrons. There are overlaps with editorial functions potentially, to be sure, but rethinking what is a "local collection" is very necessary in an age in which less and less content starts out in book and journal format and more in raw forms such as weblogs. In the meantime a growing army of webloggers are performing this function to some degree already themselves, cataloging the Web from very personal and oftentimes local perspectives. I don't expect that we'll see that army signing up for library science classes any time soon, but in the meantime they are creating their own "sweet science" of content organization that's influencing more and more readers and writers worldwide.
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