Library Juice Farewell Message

September 22, 2005

After 330 issues of Library Juice over close to eight years, I find that
it is time to close the covers.

There has been a lot of change over the years that Library Juice has
been in publication. The environment in which it exists has changed,
and I have changed, too.

Originally, Library Juice was primarily a digest of material that
circulated via email and didn't otherwise have an existence on the net,
and couldn't be accessed except by email connections. Most of the
things that at that time would be circulated only by email are now also
accessible on the web, in part because of web-accessible email
archives, but moreso because web publishing has expanded and become
easier, in part through blogging technology. So, over time, more and
more of what would have been part of a typical issue of Library Juice
in the first years became just something to link to, perhaps with a
comment (along with two dozen bloggers). As this change took place I
began publishing more original content and longer pieces, and Library
Juice became less of an email digest and more of a magazine or journal.
My decision in 2002 to go from a one-week to a two-week publication
cycle was a part of this trend.

With the need for more original material I began writing more articles
and editorials for Library Juice myself, especially in 2004. That took
me in a direction that I liked, but eventually, especially as my own
standards for a "good issue" went up, it became too demanding. I had
become interested in writing for other venues, but found that it took
all of my energy for writing just to keep up with Library Juice. (In
the past few years, as well as now, I have had a lot of other things on
my plate.)

I have changed in this time as well. In terms of Library Juice, the
nature of my inspiration has changed. When I started Library Juice I
was still in Library School, and filled with enthusiasm and excitement
for a lot of things that, though they still deserve enthusiasm and
excitement, are now simply features of the landscape for me and often
objects of my skepticism. Skepticism is now also a major aspect of the
way I regard initiatives undertaken by young librarians on the web,
where eight years ago I simply would have found them cool. This change
in my outlook has changed the tone of Library Juice and made it
something different from it was originally. I'm less interested in
reporting enthusiastically on the cool things that are going on in the
library world (and there are a lot of them) and more interested in
publishing more extended, and I hope somewhat deep, reflections on
questions of progressive librarianship. Library Juice can sometimes be
a good format for doing that, but it is very difficult to do it
according to a regular publication schedule. I would be more content
to be able work on these reflections over longer periods of time and
publish them in other venues.

Another change is that because Library Juice is not a blog and I didn't
want it to be a blog, I have been reluctant to use it in a way that
resembles a blog. That is to say, as more has become available to link
to on the web, I've been reluctant to use Library Juice primarily as a
place for links and commentary. I have started to see this as a kind
of stubbornness, because it isn't just the trend of blogs that makes
this an attractive thing to do but the rich environment of the web

In the last few months I have found it especially difficult to write for
Library Juice, and the reason for the difficulty is also a part of why
I am discontinuing the publication. I have become strongly affected by
the feeling that there is too much speech, too much writing already
surrounding us, available for consumption. In librarianship we have
discussed the problem of information glut in terms of the task of
organizing it and finding the information that is relevant. I perceive
a greater problem in the fact that the majority of the speech, the
majority of the writing that is out there is in large part bullshit.
The world is now full of people who talk without having anything to
say, or, who have something to say that simply contains little or no
truth. It is difficult to add one's voice to this cacaphony of BS (and
false obviousness) without getting lost in it, and without relying on
it in some way. In perceiving this, the response of some is to
conclude that in the postmodern situation the truth is whatever you can
sell it as. I prefer to see the truth as something precious, rare, and
very vulnerable to distortion and destruction. That simultaneously
places a demand on me to defend the truth and make it known to the
extent that I can perceive it, and gives me standards for my own speech
that I don't always feel that I can meet, and that frequently give me a
competing interest in remaining silent. Taken together, the result is
that I sometimes have something to say, or find someone with something
important to say, but not always in time for a new biweekly or even
monthly issue. So I'm ceasing publication of Library Juice rather than
force myself to publish something that I feel doesn't really need to
reach people.

I have other reasons for stopping that aren't quite so morally-based.
Among them is simply burnout. I'm tired, and often find it hard to get
inspired to gather together enough material for a new issue. Besides
perceiving a lot of BS in what's out there, a lot of what I see is too
similar to things I've published before to get excited about. And
another reason for moving on is simply a restless feeling that it is
time for a change.

I am not exactly retiring from the scene, however. Out of Library Juice
you will soon see the emergence of a couple of new things. One is a
blog, to add to all the other blogs, which will also be called Library
Juice, and will be updated irregularly with some of the same kinds of
things that you're accustomed to reading here. With the blog I will
have the freedom not to update it during times like this when I don't
feel like saying much, and to publish things on it heavily at other
times. A year ago I would have been opposed to starting a blog, but at
this point I feel that blogs are here to stay and are the beginning of
something important and ineluctable. When the blog is online you will
be able to find it at the Library Juice website, and I will send out an
email announcement of it to Library Juice subscribers. I plan on
keeping back issues of Library Juice online, at least in the near term

The second new thing that's coming up, which will take slightly longer
to realize, will be a book publishing company called Library Juice
Press. I have this venture fairly well planned out, and have five
titles in the editing stages for publication in 2006 and 2007.
Assuming all goes well, over the next couple of years Library Juice
Press will publish:

Except for the fifth title, nearly all of the essays and other
information in these books is or will be also on the web, which will
limit demand for the printed books. This is something I've accounted
for in planning the business side of things. I'm planning on
publishing these books using a print-on-demand printer and distributor
called Lightning Source (a subsidiary of Ingram) that will make it
unnecessary to invest in a print runs and storage. This will enable me
to run this business as a sideline to my regular job and to put as
little or as much time into it as I feel like, without having to rely
on it for my basic income or to meet any significant overhead. If
you'd like to talk to me about how exactly I'm planning on doing this,
feel free to contact me.

I am accepting manuscripts, if you would like to consider Library Juice
Press as the publisher of your book. Because I already have as much as
I can handle for a while in terms of book projects, however, I will
probably only consider doing yours if it is really exceptional and my
kind of thing.

It's been a wonderful 7 years, 9 months doing Library Juice. I really
appreciate my readers and I hope we stay in touch through our future

Rory Litwin