Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Work in a Library

Every couple of days it seems like I run across one of those stupid "i work on the web" thingies. This trend may not have begun with the Webtamer, but that's where I first saw it. Not content with obsessively posting his own photo online every day, he encourages many others to post photos of themselves online and say "I Work on the Web!" I guess this is supposed to inspire all of us unhip librarians to think that hey we're really cool because we don't work in libraries anymore. No, dammit, we work on the Web! We're cool! We're supposed to see this, I suppose, and go IWOW! This seems to be another attempt to fight the stereotypes. I choose to embrace the stereotypes.

I'm not cool. I don't work on the Web. I work in a library. Sometimes I work in my apartment. Occasionally I've been known to work at the little coffeehouse down the street, the one that doesn't have wifi. More than once I've worked on a train. The Web is a tool. I don't work on a tool. I use tools.

I mean really, what are we supposed to get out of this mini-movement? Let's think about this for a moment. What might it mean to "work on the web"? What it means in practice is that you sit and stare at a computer screen all day, occasionally moving the mouse or fingering your touchpad, occasionally typing a few keys. That's all it means. Is this supposed to impress anyone? From the outside, your work is indistinguishable from that of a data entry clerk.

But naturally I'd like to add my perspective to this movement. We're supposed to post pictures of this, right? So here's you "working on the web":

Me, I work in a library.


David, Library Tech. up. North said...

Is that supposed to be a picture of one of those Infinite Monkeys we keep hearing about?
Great library photo! Ours looks more like a warehouse (on account of we're located in You should check out the photos online (you gotta use the Web!) of the recently renovated Library of Parliament here in Ottawa. Drool.

kittent said...

I don't know...I work with the web. I work with the OPAC and staff side clients of Voyager. I work in meetings and in the stacks and in the middle of the night when I dream an idea that will help me work. (I don't work on a manual typewriter any more...)

The main thing I don't do is post pictures, because I don't know how. I suppose I should learn...and that means I will work with images on the web.

I liked the picture of Michael, because I like knowing what people look like and what their workplace looks like.

The nice thing about memes (like Spam email from your mom that you are supposed to "send to 5 people in the next 5 minutes") is that you can ignore them.

Karen N. said...

Calling it "The Web" betrays their Naïveté. No one calls it that.'s TEH INTARNET!!!1111 LOL

Anonymous said...

For someone who says he "works on the web", this dude doesn't look too happy.

Leo Klein said...

Frankly, I'm waiting for, 'I get paid for working on the web.'

Anonymous said...




Anonymous said...

Last one is:

contrarian said...

Michael could use a martini.

Anonymous said...

"The Web is a tool. I don't work on a tool. I use tools."

That deserves to be carved in stone somewhere. Of course, that's tres retro. But never mind--I work on a chisel! Oh, wait.

Anonymous said...

Oh goodness, what is it with these people? Yes, the web/Internet/computennetworkmaschinen has given every idget with a box the ability to broadcast to the entire world, yet it always seems lost upon them that maybe they don't have anything relevant to say.

But I keep thinking of what one your posters said recently, that some people adopt being a librarian as their 24/7 persona, they become the job. I also add that too many seek out anything significant to validate themselves.

So I could put my picture on the web, big deal, I never felt the need. It's the same as blogging, Twitter, MySpace, etc. If I put anything on the web it's not to let every little aspect of my soul out for the whole blinking to see.

As for the "I work in this" mentality it's pretty silly. I've worked in a wider range of jobs than most librarians have done, and touting "I work on the Web" is about the same as me putting up "I insert catheters" because I did that in a job.

Anonymous said...

Sort of sounds the the beginnings of a 12 step program....on the web.

Anonymous said...

"...indistinguishable from that of a data entry clerk." AL, what do you think you do with this blog? You write! You create! That's what others do when they work on the web. The image of a "data entry clerk" is someone who types in data mindlessly to earn a paycheck. But I do like your point that you work in a Library--and that the web is just one of the tools you work with.

Anonymous said...

I like knowing what people look like, but Michael is really excessive with pictures of himself. And almost always the same kind of picture, no less. That's not "working on the web," that's narcissism.

AL said...

"AL, what do you think you do with this blog?" Your guess is as good as mine.

Anonymous said...

The webtamer looks very earnest [not hip or happy]...maybe he should stop working on the web...I love this blog! AL you're WAY too funny to be a librarian:)

WDL said...

aren't you a kick in the pants!

i play with the tool all day at work. i hope no one looks.


janitorx said...

That's not "working on the web," that's narcissism.

He's not working on the web, but working it a la RuPaul:

work ( supermodel... )
you better work it, girl ( ...of the world )
wet your lips and make love to the camera

Anonymous said...

"...And almost always the same kind of picture, no less."

Those pictures, in all their self-conscious seriousness, are simply meant to illustrate the extreme gravitas with which Mr. Stephens approaches the web and, as an aside, librarianship.

Seriously though, saying that you work on the web in 2007 is sort of like saying "I work on the phone."

Fabulist said...

ok, I have to post it!

I’ve been working on the rail-road all the live-long day. I’ve been working on the railroad just to pass the time a-way.

Anonymous said...

Hey, AL -

I have an alternative view (albeit one that has to be a minority)

I'm not a librarian, but a "user." I'm handicapped, as is my spouse, and it's damned difficult to physically go to our local public library or to the closest academic library, miles away, where parking is a major hassle.

So - IF either of us wants information, we first can Google, Yahoo or Ask to get some semblance of the background and thrust of our queries. THEN, we e-mail or telephone our friendly librarians (public or academic, depending) for additional URLs, or for specific references to periodicals or books that we can access and print out on line.

If zilch is available on line, then we can grit our partials and get the books from Amazon, as ILL usually means we have to sigh, collect what's left of our collective wits and fight our way to the library to check out the ILL book in person - - or to have further access to the periodicals or other books that have been recommended.

For us. one of the the keys is the reference librarian (whom we know) who is familiar with the Internet and can give us the feedback we need.

IMO, "Working the Internet" has become an indispensable element in the reference librarians' capabilities - - - at least from the standpoint of the patron.

Just our two cents

Anonymous said...

I work on the web.....


Holy Creepers!

I'm on the web right now!

Brent said...

Oh but you are in luck Anon 8:13! Have you heard of Library 2.0? It's like Web 2.0!

Librarians instant message and email nowadays and can answer any reference question that you need answered while conveniently watching porn, safely in your house.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious!...Did anyone happen to see the comment a reader left for el web tamer:

"Thank you for your poetry ... in explaining a very pioneering profession...."

God, I hope that was sarcasm.

J said...

What if all professions started a movement like this? I'm personally looking forward to, "My name is Candy, I work on the street corner."

Anonymous said...

2 words: Thank you.

I can't really fathom the need to post my face over and over again to illustrate some point (I'm not sure what it might be). The tamer seems to have a need to show off his lustrous hair...

Anonymous said...

He's quite handsome! Are all people who work on the web so attractive?

Anonymous said...

I work in a homeless shelter.

Anywhere PL, USA

janitorx said...

IMO, "Working the Internet" has become an indispensable element in the reference librarians' capabilities - - - at least from the standpoint of the patron.

I don't think many of us would argue with you about this.

This guy, webtamer, is a touch narcissistic, so we're just taking the piss out of him. In my case, (I am sure others on board feel this way), I don't need to advertise I work on the web or whatever to get validation from others. If these types (not all librarian bloggers are like this!) devoted half the amount of time and energy to actual work instead of electronic displays of self-congratulatory statements, perhaps services, such as interlibrary loan, would be addressed to accommodate those who are handicapped. But, implementing a courier service program is not as sex-ay as library 2.0.

AL said...

I agree. We all work with the Internet, obviously. I'm just not sure who this is supposed to impress.

Anonymous said...

JanitorX says, "...I don't need to advertise I work on the web or whatever to get validation from others."

I would hope not. Estimates put the number of Internet users in North America at ~230 million, and over 1 billion worldwide.

Getting validation from something that 1 billion others are doing would be like getting validation from waking up in the morning, or breathing.

janitorx said...

Getting validation from something that 1 billion others are doing would be like getting validation from waking up in the morning, or breathing.

Agreed. I don't think this is obvious to the webtamer.

Seriously though, saying that you work on the web in 2007 is sort of like saying "I work on the phone."


Anonymous said...

This isn't really social commentary, this is a personal attack. Not only that, it's probably inspired by the neediness that comes over you when no one has talked about you for a while. You want to be discussed and stir up some link love... and you really hope you'll push a few buttons along the way.

For someone who is anti-tech, you have adapted to technology pretty well. You've used discussion lists and now you use your blog, and sometimes you use both. Not bad for someone who isn't working on the Web.

K.G. Schneider

Anonymous said...

An appearance by K.G. Schneider no less.


Anonymous said...

You had me at Webtamer.


I envy Michael Stephens. I mean, he blogs and flickrs his work and life daily--his travels, his conferences, his seminars--and still finds time to be a librarian.

Heck, I still cannot find a librarian job, but I'm earning enough doing miscellaneous work that is somewhat related to my library studies degree to still work on the Web.

Anonymous said...

The original posting isn't a personal's a commentary on those who participate in memes and the silliness of using language like "I work ON the web". Some of the comments have discussed the Tame the Web guy's post which is referenced in the original post. He opened himself up to others negative perceptions.

As for AL being anti-tech, I don't understand where you're getting that. AL doesn't rail against technology per se, but those who evangelize current web technologies as if they are the first to have discovered the round wheels are better than square. We're sick to death of users in our community going on and on and on about how we must use all these technologies.

I am thoughtful about the adoption of technology. If my users aren't ready, don't call me a luddite because I hold back on implementation.

Anonymous said...

Library Trend..

I would say the trend for Public Libraries and Academic Libraries are they both function as Electronic Libraries meaning the usage of the internet and the computers in the library.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if enough people out there would just join together and "work on the web," then the darned thing will finally get finished and we can all move on to the next big thing!


AL said...

Schneider definitely misunderstands the post. Take out the Webtamer, and the point remains. But then again, she's one of those who don't like me because I blog pseudonymously.

Anonymous@Whenever said...

The irony is that Schneider puts AL to task for supposedly centering her posting around a personal attack against Stephens, and then she indulges in a personal attack of her own against AL that draws upon one of the most cliched analyses of pop psychology. Never mind the fact that AL is pseudonymous and can claim neither fame nor infamy with her real world persona.

While we're engaging in pop psychology, let me submit some of my own. Who doesn't want some kind of approval or acceptance, even if it's under a curmudgeonly persona? Speaking for myself, I have my own blog up to make myself known to the world. I may not post pictures to the same extent as those who get excited about the possibilties of "Web 2.0" technologies, but I do want to be recognized in some way. With a complicated mixture of self-promotion and generosity, I do so by sharing my thoughts on issues related to librarianship.

We're all part of a broader community, and using "Web 2.0" technologies is a perfect way for us to become more active participants, if we so desire. Contrary to Schneider's comment about AL being "anti-technology," it doesn't seem at all strange that AL uses technology to raise issues the profession should contemplate and discuss. In short, the technology isn't important; what we do with it is. AL has some things to say as well, and her blog is the perfect place to publish things that mainstream library publications would not.

Emily Barney said...

Can I be silly for a second? Too bad, I'm going to do it anyway. Isn't that library picture the main reading room of the British Library? So wouldn't it be just as accurate for someone there to say they work in a museum? :-P It's such a pretty room. It's like the library in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which I think is based on the library in Robin McKinley's Beauty, Which had all the books ever written. Like Borges' "Library of Babel." And the internet is kind of like a magic library with all the books, right? Ok, maybe not yet, but it's a lot easier to find Sir Charles Grandison here than in most public libraries. What is the point? Hm.

I dunno, the web feels like a place to me (no matter where my chair is) just like a novel can feel like a place. It has a lot of "virtual reality" to it, whether you're chatting in a conversation online or responding to a blog or doing one of those online games. I wouldn't say I work on the web but I do spend a lot of time "on" it "going" to different sites. Maybe people who use the web for more of these just-online social things have a different perception of it than people who use it primarily as a tool to enhance their primarily "real life" "face to face" jobs and social encounters.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if AL would make the comments she does about Michael Stephens and Karen Schneider--for example-- if her real name was associated with those comments? If so, she's braver than I am.

And/or if she had attended any of OCLC Blog's Salons at ALA where libraryland bloggers meet would the "I daresay I wouldn't say this to your face" comments still be made here?

This is what bothers me most about the whole debate on anonymous/pseudonymous blogging: that if bloggers write without attribution there does seem to be more slagging going on than otherwise.

Perhaps that's good in a profession where we seem to spend inordinate amounts of effort being nice-ish to one another...but I wonder...why do I read more catty things here at AL about Micheal than any other lib blog? It's tiresome.

AL, you have often interesting opinions on libraryland issues. Could you lay off the gratuitous personal slagging...?

Alane Wilson (in the interests of disclosure) late of OCLC, It's All Good blog, and MLIS from the U of British Columbia.

Leo Klein said...

Alane Wilson:

"but I wonder...why do I read more catty things here at AL about Micheal than any other lib blog? It's tiresome."

I think it's tiresome to see people coming here and saying how "tiresome" it is.

As to the "catting things", well, I think it's great that in the vastness of our profession, someone's saying them!

I mean, the group-think on occasion can be overwhelming.

So if AL wants to remain anonymous, who can blame her? It's probably the least significant characteristic of what she has to say.

crabking said...

i work on the internets!

Hieronymus said...

I heard the webtamer speak at a conference I attended. He seems full of himself in person, too.