From Blog Post to Publication: The Evolution of an Idea

Recently, a revised version of one of my blog posts was published. Much to my surprise, it has been widely distributed and read. Since the likelihood of another one of my blog posts having this reach is probably zero, I wanted to take this opportunity to trace the evolution of the post and its success.

As regular readers know, this past summer, I spent a week at the Filson Historical Society. While waiting for some folders to be pulled one afternoon, one of the curators, Sarah-Jane Poindexter, and I discussed the disconnect between archivists and academics. That conversation and the State of Tennessee’s decision to cut hours and staff at the Tennessee State Library and Archives prompted me to write a blog post of appreciation for the numerous librarians and archivists who had helped me over the years.

David Loiterstein at Readex contacted me the day after the post appeared and asked if I would consider letting Readex publish a revised version of the blog post in its newsletter. I agreed, and it appeared in The Readex Report e-newsletter in mid-November.

The piece has since been widely shared via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and blogs, including Stephen Abram’s blog and the AHA blog. I have had librarians and archivists with whom I’ve worked and several whom I’ve never met thank me for the post. This has been one of the most satisfying things that has happened in my professional life.

Lest you think I’m just pumping my own tires here, this response also was completely unexpected. I’ve written blog posts that I thought were excellent research summaries or thought-provoking analyses of contemporary problems that received only a handful of page views, while this post, which was simply a self-reflective piece about my interactions with other professionals, has probably had a much larger reach and influence than anything else I’ve ever written.

The lesson is one of unintended (and in this case, pleasant) consequences. Expressing genuine appreciation to colleagues is sometimes hard for academics to do, but, trust me, you’ll enjoy the warm feeling it gives you, and you just might make someone else’s day.

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