Tuesday, November 21, 2006

To the Frustrated Trendsetters

I've read a number of blog posts over the past few weeks by librarians indignant that other librarians don't do whatever HOT THING they do and think everyone should be doing. They're always the librarians who think they're on the bleeding edge of the hottest trends instead of being on the bleeding edge of getting smacked by irritated old librarians.

"Why aren't librarians all IMing each other all the time?!" "I can't believe these librarians aren't posting their lunchroom antics on Youtube!!" "Why don't they take pictures of every boring library thing they see and post them on Flikr like I do?!" "Teens text message all the time, so why don't the librarians!!" "Every librarian should start a HOT BLOG and share their thoughts and feelings!!" "The librarians should be gaming all night!" Etc.

I have a request for these frustrated trendsetting librarians: Enough, already. You're not convincing anyone.

Okay, so you're hot and trendy and you think you're going to change the world. Believe it or not most librarians just don't care. They don't want to be trendy. They don't want to be HOT. And they don't really care what you think.

They are not going to start a blog, because they not only have nothing to say, but (and this is what separates them from many bloggers) they know they have nothing to say and they don't want to bore people with their trivial thoughts.

They are not going to start text messaging you just because the teens do it. They're not teens.

They are not going to start IMing all their colleagues. They don't like most of their colleagues.

They're not going to post their holiday party pictures on Flikr, and it's probably a good thing.

Their lunchroom antics will never make it onto Youtube. Another good thing.

They are not going to create a pudgy, bespectacled librarian avatar on Second Life. They already have a first life.

And I know this is the hardest part to accept, but they're also not going anywhere. These trend-hating, stick-in-the-mud, always-say-die librarians that frustrate you so much are going to be around for years!

You're not going to revolutionize them, so you're just going to have to wait them out. And by the time they all die off, you hot, trendy librarians will all be old and you'll be facing a rabid younger generation of librarians waiting for you to die off. Keep that in mind the next time you criticize the crusty old librarians.


Anonymous said...

I think every library should issue every patron their choice of a Blackberry or Sidekick, and the only way to get info will be texting back and forth, in like this huge awesome multi parallel processor of information!

--taupey, the Wired Kangaroo

Anonymous said...

I agree that a lot of the activity is trivial in some sense, but I think that the underlying purpose--to get librarians to be more comfortable with new technologies--is a valid one.

The day will come when we find ourselves in big empty buildings with a few shelves of tired, worn out volumes of mysteries, romances, and science fiction. Everything else--especially reference--will more easily and more economically be accessed electronically. I guess at that point they'll move us into a spare office at city hall, and full-time staff will consist of one clerk at the circ desk.

Of course, that's no reason to berate those who can't or won't follow. They'll be retiring soon enough.

brian said...

Seriously, IM was so 10 years ago.

tomeboy said...

If I hear any more hype about "e-books".......

I keep looking for their arrival, in a demand sense, yet our college faculty and students rarely use them. Are we different? Maybe. But I have yet to see anything re usage data that supports the hoopla I've heard from colleagues. Do they serve a niche? Sure, most notably for reference titles. But I'm with our faculty and students on reading Dostoevsky via a CRT or any other sundry gadget.

Keep buying shelves.

Anonymous said...

They're not actually CRTs (cathode ray tubes) anymore. The technology is fast approaching something that is readable for far longer than a half hour at a time.

And then there's the Google Books project, and at least one or two others like it.

It's going to happen--the economics are on the side of digitization--it's just a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

I keep looking for their arrival, in a demand sense, yet our college faculty and students rarely use them.

When's the last time someone--student or faculty--went down to the basement to fetch a hardcopy of an old journal that they could just as easily read on-line?

Anonymous said...

Keep buying shelves.

And hang on to those card cabinets. This on-line catalog business is just passing fad.

tomeboy said...

I think you (anon) have missed my point.

First my use of CRT was not literal necessarily. I was a systems librarian in a previous life so I don't consider myself a luddite. I can't speak for others.

I don't happen to agree that digitized periodicals are the same as digitized books. You ask when was the last time someone fetched a bound periodical? Considering I dumped over half of our print collection some five years ago I would say it's been a long time.

But ask youself this question. What is the first action taken by a patron when they find an article in PDF or HTML? THEY PRINT IT.


Anonymous said...

If I have to read another issue of Library Journal or American Libraries written by a librarian having a midlife crisis preaching to me about web 2.0 or sit through another seminar or conference presented by a COOL professor of INFORMATION who has his own BLOG, I will gladly ram a pencil in my ear and bleed to death over the circulation desk.

AL said...

Has anyone read a serious ebook all the way through? I'm not talking about popular novels or light entertainments, but scholarly books, the kind that you have to read with sustained attention and often annotate? I read a lot of books, including a number of ebooks, and I never have. When copyright considerations and reader format problems are solved to the point where that's common, then ebooks might start to take over in academic libraries. Otherwise, they're only good for searching and printing small portions, not sustained serious reading.

Anonymous said...

LOL, that's freakin' hilarious. Love it! Keep it comin' AL!

IL Library Student said...

What Tomeboy said.

My reference teacher has assigned us a lot of supplemental reading (ie. journal articles) that we can access online.

Nearly everybody in the class shows up on discussion days with printed copies.

Hear, hear about e-books. I worked in a largish public library when the Rocket book first came out (circa 2000-2001).

The library jumped on it immediately. Got five of the units in and loaded them up with titles. Marketed and publicized the heck out of them.

One year after debut, only two had ever been checked out. I no longer work there, but I still keep in touch with people that do, and they say e-books still aren't moving with any regularity.

Anonymous said...

But ask youself this question. What is the first action taken by a patron when they find an article in PDF or HTML? THEY PRINT IT.


1. They haven't yet learned how to use a flash drive.

2. The article is for someone else, someone who doesn't have access to a computer.

3. The author/webmaster disabled saving and annotating but permitted printing.

I'm sure there are others.

Nearly everybody in the class shows up on discussion days with printed copies.

...to make margin notes on, because they don't have a laptop, or have one but don't know that PDFs can be annotated, or the instructor doesn't allow them in class, or...

Cybrarian said...

Yup. I have read "serious" books in eformat. Novels. Reference works. Serious political works. Whatever you mean by serious.
And by e-book, I mean on a pda screen. Not a hardware e-book reader dedicated to that e-format. I do NOT read e-books in pdf format on my computer. That is bad. But the handy (pun intended) size of the pda lends itself to easy reading. The screen is backlit, and easy on the eyes. The font sizes can be changed and it will even autoscroll (if you want it to).
For that type of e-book, I don't see what the big deal is. For ones on the computer or requiring special hardware readers, those issues I can understand.

AL said...

Yes, those are certainly the sort of books I'm talking about. My ebook reader is on a pda as well, but I encounter a lot of problems when trying to read a long scholarly ebook in that format. For one thing, it's difficult to get current books, especially at affordable prices. But mainly it's much more difficult to skip quickly back and forth between various pages and chapters when using the book to teach or write. It's also harder to focus on longish passages from a book when the screen is so small. This could just be me, but when I'm looking through a book to make a point and I'm trying to quickly get both the text and my own annotations, the print book is invaluable. Another problem even for classic texts in the public domain is the problem of editions and translations. This is more a copyright than a format problem, though. The best edition of a text may or may not be online, but probably won't be.

Greg said...

A single book will always be better than a single ebook but a single ebook reader will always be better than many books. - From the Book of SHUSH, c.8 v.2

Joe Y. said...

AL, conservatives like you and your posters will help librarians act more normal. Worrying about issues is just a waste and not what we should be about. I am glad to have a place where the values of the great middle are cherished and applauded.
Joe Y. in Wilkes-Barre
(Rick was right!)

Jason said...

Glad to know I'm not the only one who feels this way about diligent hipness, both in the digital and non-digital realms of information, libraries, etc. I think technology is great if it does what we need it to do. However, I can understand why some people are Luddites. I don't think it's because the technology is "too advanced." In fact, I believe that Luddites dislike some technologies because they're not advanced enough.

Some kinds of "organic" technologies seem most appropriate, but that would probably take many generations to develop. Unfortunately, I don't know what such technologies would look like.

SR Ranganathan, Jr. (i.e., as fearlessly anonymous as you are) said...

Now iPhones have readers capable of highlighting & annotating a book, and folks like Nicholson "Double Fold" Baker & Anne Kirschner ("Reading Dickens Four Ways") just love books on the iPhone. Aren't they pathetic little people, those sorry-assed bandwagon jumpers with no sense of tradition? Hmm. Weird how times change, and all sudden-like, too. AL, your timeless observations are sure to be read for centuries, so packed with timeless Truths are they. (Right, that was sarcasm; I ought to be ashamed.) Doesn't hurt to be so wrong so frequently, does it though, now that Reed Business is paying you so well for your, um, stuff? No, you're not the fool. As for your trusting fans, on the other hand...I reckon the jury is still out.

AL said...

I'm not sure about being read for centuries, but maybe for years. You did just comment on a 3-year-old post, after all.

Thanks for reading!

SR Ranganonymous Jr. said...

Ah, so being it's being noticed that matters to you. Doesn't matter that you're so bloody mistaken about so much.

Yes, your piece was read three years later; congrats. Never mind that the reader was thinking, "Gosh, s/he must already feel kind of, I dunno, foolish about that one. What a sad deficit of vision."

But no. You don't. Not even an hour passed after the comment on your dusty old archives, and, it's Thanks for reading! Well, sure! You revel in being noticed.

Trust me, AL: being found on a Google search about mobile e-books is not quite the same deal as having readers for generations to come cite you in papers or request you via ILL.

In this case, it was more like finding an old photo in the attic and thinking, "Sheesh. Pathetic."

Clearly you're much more intelligent than Limbaugh, but essentially you two are alike: Look at MEEEE! Hoo-ha! Made you look!