Email as a form of group communication

Here are two links that recently stood out since they pertain to our blog project. At this point nobody has proposed doing away with the arlis-student-l. Check out the posts Steven Cohen at Library Stuff and CW, an Australian librarian, are writing about email’s shortcomings.


  1. A Listserv does not offer a means to organize the intellectual output of its end users. Instead, users must configure another piece of software to organize the information (e.g. MS Outlook mail rules).

    With a blog like this, contributors are asked up-front how to categorize their post. This does the following:

    1. It places ownership on the contributor to make the decision, and the contributor is much more likely to understand their topic’s subject or how they would like their post framed.

    2. It standardizes the process.

    3. It collocates the information in meaningful ways at one location (the sidebar)

    Some of the commenters on CW’s post indicated that Listservs were useful for current event notification. A blog could have a current event page with its own feed.

    Some may say a Listserv is more private, but, I would argue that membership to Listservs are open. Furthermore, WordPress gives the option of allowing or not allowing indexing.

    The Listserv no longer serves our needs.

  2. I think for the blog to be more organized than a listserv, we might have to be a little authoritarian about the categories. We would have to think thru which categories are most relevant–how many will best suit our needs (fewer is always more manageable)–and maybe even send suggested/new categories thru a review process. Although hierarchies can be cumbersome, I think they might be useful here (like the job postings under employment category). Does this defeat the purpose of a blog?

    I’m just thinking how potentially difficult it would be to keep up with a topic of interest if the categories overlap, are too broad or too specific, or if there are just too many categories. I’ve heard good librarians don’t use a “miscellaneous” or “uncategorized” category. Hmmm…

  3. I think there must be a trade-off. I think following a thread in a Listserv is futile when looking at the e-mail’s subject. Bulletin boards are messy with all sorts of threads. And blogs will be messy too.

    I would not like to see a review process for new categories. If we create categories that strike the right balance between general and specific, I think the contributor will have a greater affinity to use one of the categories vs. creating their own. I think psychologically the contributor will want to make it fit. It’s like the survey respondent who want everything to go nice & neatly into each check-marked box.

    I agree it might be difficult to follow a topic of interest when categories overlap, etc. However, I think blogs should not have a completely top-down approach. There is complete control in a library because you are not asking the user/contributor to organize content. Once you do, you have to let go of some of that control. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do a little housekeeping.

    You’re right about the Misc/Uncat category. It should go. I left it in because we were just starting out. :-)

  4. I looked at the categories, and I think you have to have a default category for posts. So, I’m not sure if there’s a better default than uncategorized?

  5. OK, yeah that makes sense. I mean, how else are you going to catch everything? Plus, if enough uncats with the same theme that we haven’t addressed, we could create a new category.

  6. I’m all for all communication taking place in the same place. (sorry about that sentence) This is probably an issue we should bring up on the listserv too…

  7. I enjoyed the email’s-shortcomings links and subsequent discussion here. I also dislike email listservs, though I still subscribe to many since that’s still the standard method of communication in many library-world groups!

    What I’m really a fan of is a linked blog and message board — ie, a group has a blog like this one that posts relevant info and links of note, but it also has a message board linked to the blog for discussions. That way group discussions take place in the message board rather than in separate comments sections at the end of each blog post. I think it’s easier to follow a big discussion trail through a message board, and having a separate section for discussion keeps the blog cleaner and more focussed / purposeful.

    Karyn Hinkle
    MLS candidate/Pratt SILS and
    Library Associate / Brooklyn Museum

  8. Hi Carter —

    There’s probably tons of good examples (suggestions from all?) but one of my favorites right now is a neighborhood blog I read in Brooklyn. The blog is at and the related message boards are at Both sites link back and forth and reference each other.

    I also like this example, because it shows how a simple blog (about my neighborhood, Prospect Heights) can branch out like a tree (other adjoining neighborhoods got in on the action, spawning their own related blogs). Same with the message boards!


  9. Hey guys, sorry to be so long commenting on all of this. I like the discussion board format as well, the more dynamic, the better. I have to say, that i really liked the way the blog *looked* last week…i’m not a fan of scrolling and it could be that I’m on Safari, but i have to do a heck of a lot of it to see anything on the left side.

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