Well, we’re back home from PLA (the Public Library Association conference in Boston), where we launched Booklist Online. We’re not activating our first subscribers until April 1, but as you’ve no doubt noticed, Booklist Online is live at www.booklistonline.com, and the Review of the Day is changing every day (well, every weekday-more about that later).
I might once have thought-had I thought about it-that launching a Web site would involve a bunch of sixteen-hour days as the team rushed to finish the site, then a big party to celebrate, and then a week off to reflect on a job well done. And that’s all true, except for the part about the big party and the week off.
Or maybe that’s the way they do things at the big dot-coms, but here at Booklist Online, proudly powered by the staff and content of Booklist magazine, we’re a plucky little band of nonprofit footsoldiers (our work serving the greater good of the American Library Association). Instead of a big bash in a fancy hotel with a bunch of supermodels serving thimblefuls of superpremium organic vodkas, we had a wine and cheese reception in our booth. Hey, at least the wine didn’t come in a box.
But I’m sure even the corporate dot-coms discover, too, that the meaning of “launch” is flexible. Technically, you’re launched as soon as you’re publishing your content in a public place, at the URL you’ve advertised. And of course, you wouldn’t launch your product (oh, how I love calling Booklist Online a “product”) until it was ready for public consumption.
But Web sites-especially Web sites that double as subscription databases-are insanely complicated things. We’ve done a lot, but there’s more to do. I feel a little bit like we’ve opened a restaurant, and people are starting to come in the door, and the food is good, but we still have some work to do with the presentation of the food, and training the waiters-and, oh my god, I forgot to paint that wall over by the bathrooms!
Someone told me that Web sites and databases are always under development, and I think that’s true, if they’re any good. Even if things were exactly the way we wanted them-scratch that. We’ll never have things exactly the way we want them. We already have a list of about fifty improvements we’d like to make. And I know we’ll get a lot of good suggestions from our inaugural subscribers.
I’m digressing. A title I originally considered for this blog is “But I Digress,” and now you know why. What I mean to say is that it feels good to have launched the site. It’s definitely a major hurdle to have cleared. But it’s too early for “job well done”-even though we heard that from a lot of people at PLA. Because, really, all the work I’ve put in so far has been preliminary to my real job, which finally started last Wednesday went Booklist Online went live. And, because we still have to paint the wall by the bathroom, there isn’t time for that week off just yet.
The good news is that, if you like the site now, just wait: we’ll be improving it constantly from here on out.
Coming tomorrow: The blogger digresses just a little bit more, then promises to stop digressing.