Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts

If Ranganathan Was Around Today There Would Be No Five Laws

I imagine if Ranganathan was writing right now he’d probably be scared shitless to publish his Five Laws, worried that some anonymous blogger might ridicule it into oblivion or that other bloggers might just rip it to shreds to get their tribe riled up. Of course, it never helps if everyone is too polite and offers a cheerful echo chamber. Despite the occasional negativity there are signs the profession is making progress on improving its discourse, where we focus on the ideas and not the personalities. What do I mean? Consider back when Stanley Wilder wrote his controversial Chronicle essay on information literacy. A thoughtful and intelligent response was written by Esther Grassian. She wasn’t out to humilate Wilder or draw attention to herself. She just addressed the points, and helped everyone to better understand the issues. That’s the type of discourse I like to see. I recall when John Shank and I came out with our Blended Librarians concept. Was the idea criticized? Sure. Did some people find it unrealistic? Absolutely. Did the challenges to it help make it stronger? Definitely. Did it find an audience? In time, yes. That’s the point. We have give these new ideas time to mature. If they get attacked and ridiculed from day one they’ve got no chance.

Here’s my advice to the bright young folks in this profession. If you’ve got an idea that you think is worth sharing then write about it. If you want to call it your statement, manifesto, grand plan or whatever, go ahead and do it. Don’t be afraid that a blogger is going to take you down. Take some advice from Seth Godin on the matter of critics. Don’t pay too much attention to the librarians that love or hate you or what you have to say. Focus on the critics who are seriously questioning your ideas.

Raganathan? Yeah, he would need pretty thick skin to make it today.

It’s A Twitter World After All

I barely have enough time to update my Facebook status on a regular basis, and even then I’m wondering if anyone really cares that I just registered for a conference or that I saw a double rainbow (I shared the photo for evidence). For now I’m sticking with Friendfeed. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see potential in Twitter. We’re considering how we might use it at our library as a vehicle to better communicate with our user community, and keeping an eye on how this is going at other academic libraries. Some academic librarians tell us students aren’t using Twitter while others tell us they do – or that it depends on your community.

And I’m still not sure what to make of twittering at conferences. It looks like fun for the participants, and I can see how it might enhance the conference experience for them. They can find out what their friends are doing and where to meet people, it’s a fast way to let the other people using twitter know what’s happening right now somewhere at the conference, and they can instantly share thoughts about or comment on a presentation. It’s that last part that has me on the fence. I had my first experience with this at ACRL where attendees twittered during both of the panels in which I participated. It was interesting to read some of the tweets, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the twitter crowd was really paying attention or were more engaged in their own tweets and those of others to really pay attention to the presenters. This has triggered a whole discussion about how to present when people are twittering. I can see how it could be a bit unnerving to present when you are wondering what sort of conversation is taking place. Should you be working harder to please the twitter crowd? Personally, it’s fine with me, but do you really have a choice.

As far as experiencing the conference through the eyes and minds of others, I got much more from the ACRL conference bloggers. I appreciated the depth of their reporting, and their extended reflections. There’s a real difference between a spontaneous thought and a reflection that comes after the fact. Both have their place. I tried following some of the twittering at the CIL 2009 conference, but just too many useless tweets to make it of any real value . I suppose you have to be there. Maybe there’s not really much point in getting worked up about twittering during conference presentations because next year they’ll all be fluttering anyway.

This Just Seems So Unfair

If a donor has $25 million to give away just where exactly is it going to do the most good? By adding more millions to a multi-billion dollar endowment or by dividing it among many deserving institutions that are struggling to offer scholarships or improve their campuses? I raise that question when I read news stories like this one about Harvard, Yale, and UCLA getting $5 million each from the Arcadia Foundation. Great for those folks, but if the Arcadia Foundation really wanted to help some academic libraries to improve their collections or provide the ability to digitize some valuable rare material, I can think of a few thousand other academic libraries that could really benefit from one of 150 $100,000 donations. So why wouldn’t the folks at Arcadia give that possibility some thought? Yes, I understand the logic. The foundations want to give their hard-earned cash to the institutions with a winning track record. If the money goes to a small institution, once it’s gone it’s gone. And it’s hard to argue that those libraries don’t have some amazing collections in need of preservation and digitization – which creates benefits for the common good. Just the same, it would be really refreshing to read a news report of a major foundation giving out lots of grants to the academic libraries at many well-deserving, but less well endowed colleges and universities.

This Annoys Me

I’m hardly an annoyed librarian but I have to say I’m annoyed by librarian bloggers who submit their own stuff as stories over at LISNews. If I want to know what you have to say about something I’ll follow your blog on my own or I’ll wait until someone else thinks you wrote something of value and decides to share it with the LISNews community. Then I might take a look at your post. Otherwise, please keep it to yourself. And thanks to all the librarian bloggers who have enough sense not to do this.

7 thoughts on “Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts”

  1. I’m curious to know what set off that first section? I haven’t seen a lot of harsh ridiculing of ideas out there in the library online world.

  2. I don’t think any of us are going to see significant numbers of occurrences of the type of negative reaction I’m describing in that first section simply because there just are not that many online or print declarations of truly new suggestions or sets of ideas for how libraries or the library profession needs to change. You generally won’t find any ridiculing of the standard commentary or reflection-type post which is mostly what we have in our library blogosphere. But then there’s a lack of commenting on those types of posts in any case.

    What got me thinking about this issue again are more recent reactions to the Taiga and Darien statements. Admittedly the worst of the remarks were anonymous. Now you might say that those should be discounted since some of them were not meant to be serious in the first place. I have to give credit to John Dupuis because he at least attached his name to his remarks about the Taiga statements – and he even mentions that they were written on April 1. So perhaps he not’s entirely serious either or he was going for parody. On the other hand, there was some thoughtful and serious criticism and discussion of both, and you’ll note that in my post I acknowledge that there are also positive signs that we have some active discourse in our profession. As I mention in the post, for me it becomes unfair or crosses over into ridicule when it becomes more about the person or people who wrote it than the content itself – and you may disagree and the sources may deny it but I detected that in the reactions to the Taiga statements – especially in comments and twitter remarks. I don’t know. Perhaps I’m being too sensitive or I’m reading too much into this – or I’m just being a cranky curmudgeon (yeah, I’ve been called that by another blogger), but I can’t help but think that it can have a chilling quality on the promotion or exchange of new ideas. I started off by observing that there is a dearth of new ideas coming out of this profession. Is it possible that a reason for this is the fear that one’s ideas will be ridiculed. Even if it comes from an anonymous blogger or commenter it still can be troublesome to an author. That’s why I chose to end that section of the post with a positive message to those who have ideas worth sharing – that they shouldn’t be intimidated to share them.

  3. For what it’s worth, Steven, when I read the Taiga statements I had no idea you were involved with them. I also wasn’t sure of the context or purpose.

    I was a cranky curmudgeon myself (can we both be? I want to put it on my card) but it wasn’t directed at you or the collection of people holding a particular rank in university libraries. I thought a lot of the predictions were completely wrong (on two counts: won’t happen, and it’s a good thing, too) but without a better sense of audience/purpose I wasn’t sure how to approach them.

    I wonder if Ranganathan got some guff of his own in the medium of the day. I would imagine he did – but I still find them incredibly useful. And they were written in 1931! Pretty cool. The interesting thing is that he wasn’t predicting the future, but they’re still relevant.

    I will Save the Time of the Reader and stop here.

  4. Do we really have to use the word sh*tless here? Not only is it vulgar, it’s cliche. I stopped reading the post because of it.

  5. “Do we really have to use the word sh*tless here? Not only is it vulgar, it’s cliche. I stopped reading the post because of it.”

    I think it just portrays the author’s frustration. Using a less meaningful word would make it less dramatic. (imo..)

    – James

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