Lessons from the Annoyed Librarian Blog

Something very interesting is happening over at Library Journal’s website.

In revisiting their blog strategy, LJ did something a bit risky… they recruited one of the biggest bloggers in their field. But this blogger comes with a few caveats:

  • She is anonymous
  • She is completely unafraid of taking on industry standards and big players
  • She is unedited by the LJ staff
  • She goes by the moniker: Annoyed Librarian

The move was not taken lightly by LJ, and they have gotten very mixed reviews from their readers and the industry at large. Their journalistic values have been questioned; people have threatened to give up their LJ habit; and those LJ archives from 1870 I showed you a few weeks ago sponateously burst into flames. Heavy stuff for B2B media.

But what is happening here is important. And it is about FAR MORE THAN JUST TRYING TO INCREASE PAGE VIEW METRICS. So, I want to take this apart:

  • The Good: What the Annoyed Librarian has accomplished so far on LJ .
  • The Bad: The tough questions LJ and their readers have had to face.
  • Moving Forward: What other brands can learn from this experience.

The Good:

  • The Annoyed Librarian receives 50-100 comments on every single blog entry. Some of these comments are just plain petty, but many push the conversation forward and explore issues that are important to the industry. The personality of the Annoyed Librarian and the veil of anonymity has given people courage to discuss things they might not otherwise in a public forum like this.
  • She takes on any topic that needs to be discussed openly. It is difficult for most to do this, for fear of losing their jobs or being demonized. The Annoyed Librarian breaks down some of these niceties, which brings important issues into the open. Her posts are long… this is not someone who is just slinging tomatoes at the industry. For all the controversy, you do get a sense that her purpose is to uncover the truth about an industry she cares about.
  • From day one, she has gotten a ton of traffic. It is amazing to see the community that forms around a single person.
  • People are engaged. Her other web metrics are impressive… people are staying on her blog, not just popping in and popping away. I still have to do a deep analysis, but bounce rate and time spent metrics are looking good, as are other indicators.
  • She reads her comments and responds to them. She is not merely standing on a soapbox, and does everything with a wry sense of humor.

The Bad:

  • She may offend with her humor or viewpoint, and is largely unapologetic about it.
  • She seems to have no issues with calling out individuals or specific groups.
  • Some of the issues she raises… or those raised in the comments chain… are very real, but difficult to discuss.
  • Some posts may be purely for fun, and some comments may be gibberish, nothing close to resembling the journalistic inquiry I mention above.


  • If you can, recruit superstars – entrepreneurial bloggers and content creators who already exist and have captured the attention of your industry. Don’t be afraid to expand your boundaries on topics or tone. Assuming those folks don’t existing in your space, keep reading.
  • Tap into what your industry really cares about… what they talk about at the bar, over lunch, or during their cigarette breaks.
  • Anonymity is one a way to bring issues out in the open. While the Annoyed Librarian has gotten backlash for this, somehow, The Economist sort of gets away with it. Go figure.
  • Everything doesn’t have to wear a suit, and be so vanilla that it couldn’t possibly offend anyone. That is where journalism fails. And that failure is not a personal failure… it fails our culture. Pushing boundaries is not easy, but then, some issues that need to be discussed aren’t easy in any situation.

Are there other sides to the Annoyed Librarian story? Sure. Are there other lessons both good and bad? Probably. Has her blog brought more conversation around hot topics in the library field to the Library Journal website? Definitely.

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