Onus Probandi

By Robert Drake

Reddit.com is currently the 4th most visited website in the United States and ranked 7 world-wide.  I personally find its design hideous and its slogan, “the front page of the internet,” unnecessarily grandiose, but with around 250 million unique visitors each month (about half of whom come from the United States) it’s clearly tapped into something potent.

For those living on the outside, Reddit is a news aggregate site.  Visitors submit links to stories elsewhere on the internet, vote on them, and the most popular rise to the top where other visitors are more likely to see them.  Within this simple system, there are subreddits where groups dedicated to certain interests look only at the items that are relevant (in theory) to their community.  Some of these groups are related to hobbies, or geographic locations, or to an outlandish number of Dada-esque jokes... and a few are even useful.

The question that prompts this exposition is simple:  If libraries are the cornerstones of democracy and a vibrant, educated society, then where and how do they appear on a site that aggregates content from all across the internet?

To dive into this question, let's first look at some library related subreddits.   

So that doesn't seem too great.

 Really though, that’s librarians talking about libraries and we already do that way too much.  What matters is other people talking about libraries and how libraries impact the issues they care about, and the communities they live in. 

To those ends, for each subreddit below, I’ve searched the words library, libraries, and librarian and filtered to see the most recent 12 months.  I’ve also parsed out anything related to presidential libraries/national archives, programming/music libraries, or any more generic usage in favor of anything indicating a specific public/school/academic library or librarian.

Community Based Subreddits (chosen from largest metro areas)

New York
Top post: 2 months ago, 3 comments.  YSK: Anyone who lives, works, attends school or pays property taxes in New York State is eligible to receive a New York Public Library card. You can use this card to access research databases from home, use Lynda.com, watch Criterion movies, learn languages from Mango, etc. (x-post /r/nyc).  No other posts.

I’m skipping https://www.reddit.com/r/nyc/ but there are some great shots of the Rose Reading room.

Long Island
Top post: 2 months ago.  OctaCon 4 - Board Game Convention @ the Bethpage Public Library, Long Island.  That seems cool.  Also 4 other posts.

Top post: 12 comments.  FYI: You can bypass the Buffalo News paywall using your library card.  Fantastic!  Shame there's nothing else...

Top post: 6 days ago.   D&D at Pine Hills Library this Saturday
7 other posts.

Top  post: 11 months ago.  10 comments.  Holding a Spanish conversation practice event at Petit Branch Library.  No other posts.

Top post, 1 month ago.  14 comments.  Gates Public Library Winter Book Sale Dec. 8th & 9th.  Little thin elsewhere.

Subject Based Subreddits

Top post: 10 months ago, 12 comments, Without libraries, we are less human and more profoundly alone.  5 Posts overall.

Net Neutrality
Top post: 1 month, 8 comments, If Net Neutrality does go away will the internet at government buildings (like libraries) still have regular internet? 4 Posts overall

Top post: 12 days ago, 11 comments, How can we get Fire and Fury into school libraries?.  4 Posts overall.


Change My View
Top post: 84 comments, CMV: Books about cryptids, ghosts, Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, etc., should not be shelved in the nonfiction section of stores and libraries.
2 Posts overall.

Top post: 14 comments, Books from 1923 to 1941 Now Liberated! (Copyright Law Allows Libraries to Republish Titles Not Actively Being Sold)
4 Posts overall.

Book Club
I see 4 mentions in the last year of people taking books out from the library.

Top post: 2968 comments.  I feel like an idiot. I vastly misunderstood how a library card works for years. (he thought you had to pay per loan).  ~250 posts.  (Hey!  This is a good one!)

Largest Subreddits

Ask Reddit
Top Post: 187 comments.  https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/68vmqo/serious_when_was_the_last_time_you_went_to_the/  (There’s some valiant librarian doing some heavy listing here on the folks who answered years ago).  Otherwise looks like maybe half a dozen posts.

Today I Learned
Top post: 1,019 comments.  TIL Many American public libraries carry video games as an attempt to lure teenagers into a library. The result is more teenagers coming to the library and books are being checked out at a rate that exceeds what it was before the gamers arrived.  (Hard to say how many other posts.  Only saw one other definitively relevant article).

World News
Top post: 47 comments.  China Opens World’s Coolest Library With 1.2 Million Books.  18 Other posts

Explain Like I;m Five
Top post: 7 comments.  ELI5: Why do libraries let you renew items?

(Lot to unpack here, but all the responses to appear to be from librarians).  3 other posts

I Am A
Nothing in the last year except an AMA by the Toronto Public Library

Caveat!  I have no way to measure how much of Reddit’s content is itself contributed by librarians and this is, at best, a snapshot.  Reddit’s userbase is also neither representative of the population at large nor necessarily that of internet - it famously trends younger, whiter, and…manlier? (more male anyway) - and much of its content would generously be rated vacuous.    

Even so, it represents the single largest community of news outside of Facebook, and yet, while most libraries have embraced that to varying degrees, Reddit appears to be terra incognita. This is despite Reddit being, again, the 4th largest website in America.  If libraries aren’t being found in what might not unreasonably be considered the most sizable conversation space in history, I have to wonder if they’ll remain the cornerstones of anything at all.  And the point here is not to take pot-shots, but rather as a moment of reflection.  For all the talking we do about ourselves - why is no one else getting the message? 

Except library cat.  He's doing just fine on his own.   (790 comments and counting...)

Robert Drake is the Assistant Director for Technology Operations at the Nassau Library System.  He used to be with ‘it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was and now he thinks ‘it’ seems weird and scary.  The views, opinions, and positions here expressed are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of NLS, Robert Drake himself, or probably anyone...