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.