|design by John LeMasney via lemasney.com|
What began as a way to keep track of my thoughts on books has turned into something much bigger than I ever anticipated. And for a long time, I made a point to be very careful about sharing anything non-book related and I still take great effort to avoid talking about personal stuff here. This is and will always be primarily a blog about books and reading. Because those are two big passions in my life.
As STACKED has grown over the last four years, though, I’ve also seen myself growing as a blogger and as a thinker. I talked about this a my post last month and I’ve thought about it a lot in terms of what personal stuff I’m more willing to put out there now. I’ve talked a lot about speaking up and out as a woman, and I’ve talked about being an introvert, among other things. I’ve talked about how females are depicted on book covers and how there aren’t gendered spaces.
Yet the post I feel changed everything for me in terms of blogging was this one. When I spoke up about ARCs, suddenly I found this little blog about books and reading being responded to in other blogs, both those within librarianship and those outside of it. It was the post that riddled me with a lot of guilt, then frustration, sadness, then anger. I was mad and upset about how my words were read and twisted. It hurt how people responded to me in a personal manner — as if my career and personal life choices and decisions were things that factored in to what I had said in one single post.
After sitting on what I’d put out there for a couple of weeks, and thinking about how my piece had spawned reaction, I realized something big.
I had a platform.
People were listening.
Rather than rest on posting, though, I figured out that using this platform as a means to speak out was just the first step. I needed to use what I had in order to implement change. If something like ARCs could spur such heated discussion and rile up the sort of response it did, maybe I was on to something. So I put those thoughts and that post into action, suggesting a panel for the American Library Association’s conference on the topic. It was accepted, and now we’re in the process of organizing over 500 responses to our survey on how librarians, booksellers, and others use Advanced Reader’s Copies so we can talk about why they’re valuable and how they’re used in the book world.
Anyone who has spent time here knows I’ve talked about being a woman and the challenges of speaking up and out over the last year too. That, whether you know it or not, came about because of my ARC post. Because of how people responded to that particular post and the thoughts I’d shared in the after. But when other people started talking about being a woman and the challenges of recognition for achievements on the ground level in libraries, it hit me that this is not just something that impacts me. It’s something much bigger.
I could use my platform here to highlight the awesome things that other people are doing. That I could use this position to respond to and showcase those things that other librarians, teachers, other book and reading advocates were talking about that were interesting. Even if I didn’t necessarily agree with it. The value exists in bringing attention to those things which provoke response and provoke thought.
That is part of what brought this “30 Days of Awesome” series into existence in the first place. Rather than continuing to just link to cool things people were putting out there, I worked with Liz and Sophie to put together a coordinated effort that asks people to talk about those very cool things they’re doing. To shine a light on themselves and brag. Because it’s not just about saying “look at the things I’m doing.” It’s about also saying “here is how you can do it, too.”
Realizing I had a platform and that people were listening to me changed my perceptions of blogging and changed my perceptions of what it is I can contribute to the blogging and blog reading world.
Wil Wheaton wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been thinking about and that ultimately made me figure out what it is I wanted to contribute as my own piece for this project: “They make comments.” Being at the center of two weeks of comments regarding the ARCs post, where people chose to spin my words and meanings into every possible formation, made me realize that it is a lot easier to make a comment than it is to take ownership of creating something larger — even if that something “larger” is a blog post. Because it’s out there, and it’s permanent.
No doubt, people haven’t liked other things I’ve blogged about. My post on introversion brought out a pretty nice series of anonymous commenters. I’ve seen tweeting and subtweeting pop up on any number of other posts I’ve written that shared a real piece of who I was in them. I’ve seen people choose to call me out on silly things left and right. Yes, they get to me a lot. I’m surprisingly sensitive. But thinking about what Wheaton’s post said — I’ve made something. They’ve made comments.
It’s not just about making something in this virtual space though. It’s about taking this virtual space and allowing this platform to be a way to do more. To reach new and different audiences. To allow other people a chance to have their voices and opinions heard. To meet new people.
While I may blog about things people disagree with — and I always welcome an intelligent discussion — I’m trying to keep in mind that my blog is something I get to make a choice about since it’s my platform and my voice.
I choose this to be a space dedicated to being critical, to being thoughtful, to being helpful, and to actively pursuing my passions. It’s so much more enjoyable to lift people up than it is to knock them down. And if I am in the position to do the first, I want to do just that.