The State of the Library in 2011

This week marks the end of the 2nd year I have been the person responsible for the Hermetic Library. This year in December will also mark the end of the 15th year for Hermetic.com as a site. The short of the state of the library in 2011 is: It’s been fun, I’m glad to be of service, thanks to Al Billings for starting the library in the first place, thanks to each of the contributors and guests that have chosen to share their personal work via the library, and especially thank to each of you for using the materials offered at the library and being part of the community! What follows is a more lengthy, but not too exhaustive, bit of reflective practice looking back to mark the beginning of my 3rd year and the coming 16th year for the Hermetic Library at Hermetic.com.

 

I didn’t really make any special announcements last year to mark the occasion of my first full year, but I thought I might write something this year. It’s actually pretty amazing to look back at what’s changed over the last two years. It’s also wild to go back and see how much has changed in the appearance and content over the years the site had been online. Back before I actually took over the site but was hoping that I would get that opportunity, I wrote for myself two pieces to sort out just what I thought the project was and could be, both of which I’ve added to the About the Hermetic Library at Hermetic.com section of the root site: The Mission and The Hermetic … What?. There’s also some more history about the site there, for anyone interested. So, you know, I include all that by reference here.

One of the other things I did was formulate a vision statement for the library which I could use to inform how I would go about the work of taking care of the library and deciding what would be in service to the site from any number of wild ideas I might come up with. An original tag line of the site for a number of the early years was “Web Hosting for the Spiritual Arts”, but I wanted to formulate more of an actual vision statement.

Archiving, Engaging and Encouraging the living Western Esoteric Tradition

This vision still fits my idea of what my work on the library is all about, and is consistently my elevator pitch to quickly get across the idea of the library. The library has always been about being in service, and the mission and work on the library continues to reflect that overall vision.

 

Taking this day to do some reflective practice feels like a good thing to do, a way to celebrate what has happened and to consider the future. Over the last two years, so much has changed it’s hard to even know where to begin. Recently, I checked out historical screenshots of the home page as it’s appeared over the years.

In September 2009, I took over the Hermetic Library. The last two screenshots in that gallery represent what the home page looked like right after I took over and essentially how it looks now. I started a long and still ongoing process of overhauling and improving the site. Over at the new fan page at Facebook, and echoed to the Twitter account for the library, on Sep 14, 2009, I posted the first of many status updates, and those first few I’ve since added to this blog’s archives:

“Has anyone noticed the random liber easter egg yet? Try it out at http://hermetic.com/crowley/libers/random” [via]

Just looking back at the screenshot of the home page in 2008 and comparing it to the current home page for the Hermetic Library is a big surprise. I knew that I’d done a lot, but I didn’t quite realize just how much has changed. I’ve not only more than tripled the main sections listed but am quite certain, without actually counting or parsing the site, that I’ve at least, if not quite more than, doubled the actual content in sheer volume available on the site. What is, of course, more important than mere volume offered however is that I’ve been working hard not just to add new quality materials but to improve the old materials as well. In addition to improving content and adding new content, I’ve also recovered content that used to be on the site and even expanded that, for example one of the old sections that has come back are the pages for Caduceus and moreover the new archives of all the historic issues of that journal.

Just comparing the current list of Figures, Guests, Forms, Features and Reflections to the 2008 screenshot gives a pretty impressive picture of how much has changed.

Not only has the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of the site increased, so has the traffic. Not only has the exposure of the site via Twitter and Facebook increased awareness about the content, but I also have noticed traffic to the site itself has essentially doubled on some of the main pages over the last two years. So, all in all, reach, interest and awareness of all the great material the library has to offer has been growing leaps and bounds.

Also, last but not least by any means, the Hermetic Library was honoured to be selected as the recipient in April 2011 of the first award from The Benjamin Rowe Memorial Fund Award which was established by Black Moon Publishing to recognize individuals and/or groups that best exemplify the continuing spirit of Ben’s work and is open to all whose efforts strive to serve the occult community through the sharing of resources, knowledge, good will, etc. This award is offered each time royalties from the sale of Ben’s books accumulate to $500. You can read more about The Benjamin Rowe Memorial Fund Award and check out some of the Benjamin Rowe books from which these royalties are collected and help to build up the fund for future recipients.

 

There’s been a few experiments over these years too – some successful, some not successful, and some still ongoing.

I started to add a way for people to provide feedback about the site through a couple of third-party services, which I subsequently dumped in favour of developing discussion forums over here at the Hrmtc Underground. Starting today, I’ve decided to shutter the buddypress social network experiment. For anyone that wants to contact me about the site, I offer an email link in many places and a contact page for people to reach me when they wish. I’m keeping the Hrmtc Underground going as a place where I can host a variety of social tools, including this blog, and blogs for the guests of the library who want them. For examples of guest site blogs, check out those of Beth Kimbell or Colin Campbell. I may keep the other blogs I created for the library, such as the Pleroma around, but I keep thinking I should just integrate those posts into the main library blog, and frankly I’ve not been posting to Pleroma nearly as much since fully migrating to this blog. I originally started Pleroma as a place to post things I ran into that were more strange and tangential to the more concise and focused posts about the content of the library I was posting to the primary accounts; but, I’ve been getting less and less uptight about that lately. Maybe the time will come to try for a social network again, but the forums and groups never really got used except by spammers. I do a lot of engagement with people via the Twitter and Facebook accounts for the library, so I’m okay with that; I’ll continue to grow that organically to meet my own needs and wishes as I work on the library.

Another major experiment has been the addition of the Hermeneuticon which is a place for meta tools and experimental services which add value to the content of the library. I’ve been adding some content to the Hermeneuticon wiki over time, and I still hope to develop and release the code for the Aleister Crowley Reference Desk as both an integrated metadata and concordance tool at the library and as an open source tool available for anyone to use on their own. The Metadata project is also still something with great potential for adding value to the materials at the library.

This blog is something I long wanted to create and consider a success. By using this location to feed posts to both Twitter and Facebook, I have created a much more reasonable and archivable workflow than if I were using either Twitter or Facebook as the source account. Until this blog, I was using Facebook as my primary posting location, which then fed to Twitter. Although there are some annoyances about the current setup, such as how the posts from this blog’s RSS don’t appear in search results on Facebook, and so aren’t as visible as they would be if I hand crafted them there; I have no regrets at all about migrating away from Facebook. Frankly I regret having been on Facebook for so long as I’ve a huge number of posts there that I don’t have an easy way to export. I’ve gone through and added a couple of the earliest posts to this blog’s archives, and hope to keep adding those over time. I much prefer the current arrangement.

Very recently, I started, inspired by the Boing Boing visual pool, a couple experimental scavenger hunts: the Hermetic Library visual pool and the Hermetic Library audio pool. The idea is a great one which I hope continues to build. I think these started out quite nicely and there has been a lot of interest, though they’ve slowed quite a bit. However, I feel like there’s been some really awesome content posted to both which I’ve been happy to talk about as part of what I see as the overall mission for the library.

 

What’s next for the library?

Primarily I plan more of the same. I hope to continue work on the actual library site to add new content, offer space to new guests, improve and expand existing sections, recover more old sites that have fallen off the Internet, and pretty much keep up the good work.

However, the balance between working on the site and working on other projects over the last couple years has been heavily tilted toward working on the Hermetic Library, and while I’d love to keep working at the pace I have been the truth is that I will need to adjust my priorities for the future more realistically.

That said, I do hope to continue to work on the various projects on the site I’ve started, and put some effort into getting a few of the languishing projects such as Memoria, Serapeion and the Eclectic, Esoteric Postal Potlatch.

I also hope to continue work on the sister sites, such as the Hrmtc Underground, primarily around this blog and blogs for guests, and the various projects over at the Hermeneuticon.

I’d also like to explore a couple of fun, maybe even silly, side projects that may add some additional buzz for the site, such as developing an official Hermetic Library club hat and creating colours and patch for an Hermetic Library motorcycle club to represent in the coming zombie philosopher gang war.

Another big issue for me is that I can only do so much on my own. I don’t always work well with others on things I’m very passionate about, if that makes sense, and that’s something I hope to overcome because I think that for any increase in the rate at which material is added to and improved on the library site will require additional help. Over these two years, I’ve contacted a couple of people about possibly becoming, what in the library world is called, content experts and helping to curate some section of the site; but, that hasn’t quite happened; however, interestingly, two of the guest sites I’ve added since taking over at the library were people I’d contacted about becoming content experts, so, you know, in a way that actually did work. Maybe adding guest sites is ultimately the way for there to be more hands working on the site. The addition of a couple blogs for guest sites has given a bit of a hint at how those could also help add new and interesting content of interest to readers of the library site, so more guest blogs is another option toward the end of increasing the rate of new materials available.

Among other things I’ve considered over the last two years, I’ve consistently thought long and hard about the idea of turning the library site into a non-profit around digital preservation efforts and academic study of the living Western Esoteric Tradition, and, honestly, that’s still something I have in the back of my mind; but, it’s remained a vague idea so far. By going that route it might be more possible to commission and curate new content, support some of the languishing projects and start new ones, develop some kind of internship program for students of the Western Esoteric Tradition, and so forth. Perhaps a pipe dream, but there’s still something left in the bowl to smoke for the future. But, on the other hand, there’s plenty of other people doing great work around this, and maybe I should just focus on the real core of what the library has been and continues to be.

 

I personally think I’ve been doing a pretty amazing job with the site, and am quite proud of the improvements I’ve been able to make. It’s been slow going sometimes, but it’s been personally rewarding work that I hope has been of benefit to the community. Because of my work on the library, I also think that I’ve made some great new friends and reconnected with old friends. I have enjoyed interacting with people who are clearly passionate about many of the same things I am. It’s been a wild two years! I’m glad to be of service and proud to be responsible for taking care of the Hermetic Library on behalf of the community.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions about the library, please do send me an email.

 

In conclusion, here’s to me, here’s to the library, here’s to each of you reading this, and moreover here’s to whatever the bright future brings for each and every one of us!