Some say a writer should write about what he or she knows best. I’m not sure I agree with that but from my perspective as a librarian blogger, I would like nothing better than to write about what I know best. But I can’t–not really.
Because what I know best about libraries is what I see happening around me–in my system office, in our member libraries, with our board and other stakeholders. Every day brings a new challenge of some sort and the ways in which we handle these challenges–decisions, disagreements, roadblocks, misunderstandings, miscommunications, successes, failures, and the rest–would make for some really substantive blog posts that are more than just observations about what’s happening in our profession or ideas, thoughts, and visions about what could be. Because these posts would be about what really is or was–real mistakes, situations, collaborations or the like. Everybody can learn from others’ experience.
But are any of those stories really mine to tell? I’ve written in the past about specific situations from my employment but only when those situations are public knowledge or innocuous enough that it won’t matter to anyone or cause any hard feelings. Otherwise, my first loyalty is to my employer, coworkers, and our stakeholders–not to my readers–and it’s my responsibility to be discreet and not write about situations that could easily be identified by people in the know and cause harm or damage that cannot easily be repaired. I’ve never been questioned about anything I’ve written here. Yes. There is such a thing as the right to freedom of speech; however, where an employee is concerned, I think there is an implicit obligation to preserve the confidences of one’s own environment. In doing so, I believe I have earned a certain level of trust.
Sometimes it’s possible to take a specific incident from work and write about it in a more general way, but then it comes across sounding like theory rather than fact and loses some credibility. I have been involved in or witness to some situations with intense and fascinating dynamics that would make excellent examples of one thing or another. But they’ll never appear here, even in disguise. I have come close, a few times, but usually think of something else to write about. The few times that I have posted content a little too close too home, I have worried about it after the fact.
I’m sure other employed librarian bloggers face this dilemma. Personally, I have drawn a definitive line for myself between what I believe is fair game and what is beyond my bounds. I definitely err on the side of caution. So far, so good.
Has anyone out there ever run into a problem with their employer because of a blog post? Do you believe anything that happens to you at work is yours to write about? Or do you, too, err on the side of caution? If you don’t write a blog, have you ever read a post and thought that the person writing it had betrayed their employer or coworkers in some way? What do you believe is fair game?
I know a librarian was recently sued for something he wrote on a blog, but has anyone lost a job because of it?