Monday, January 21, 2008

Twopointopians and the Pure Faith

Librarians can be such sheep, always flocking together around the same fads. The only difference is the early sheep and the late sheep. The twopointopians are just the latest in a long series of early sheep. They see some fad and they just jump all over it. It's not the content of the fad that's important. It's just the fact that it's new. Newness is all. Then the newness passes and the sheep come slightly to their senses.

And then again sometimes they don't. A blog post at blyberg.net has been getting a lot of twopointopian blogger press. I don't read blyberg.net, but I would know that he is a twopointopian based only on clues in this post. (I'm sure he doesn't care if I read, but I will say that if he wants me to read he'll let the whole post through on the feed instead of just the first few lines. Almost no blogger is worth clicking through to.) The post is called Library 2.0 Debased, which implies that he thinks Library 2.0 was ever anything important as a concept. And near the end there's a line about the "true spirit of Library 2.0." Talk of the "true spirit" of something and how it has been debased always reminds me of the cultic aspects of the twopointopians. There's a true spirit that's been debased, you see, so we have to get back to the pure faith somehow. Library 2.0 has something to it, even if we don't know what it is. We have to keep the stupid term and keep searching for the true revelation, which will undoubtedly come some day. Too bad the twopointopians don't have more respect for the book. Religions of the Book--notably Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--can always return to their founding documents. The twopointopians don't have any founding documents worth returning to, so they wander in the desert trying to make sense of what they feel must be a worthwhile cult. Ugh.

The fact that this post has been picked up by so many other blogs helps me identify the dissatisfied twopointopians, those hoping to renew the faith. The twopointopians only listen to their own. I've been saying for a year and a half that Library 2.0 is a stupid term and a silly fad, but that just gets me attacks for not being user-centered or being technophobic or whatever it is the twopointopians say about their critics. Quite happily, I'm despised by the Pollyannas out there in libraryland, the ones who think we should all band together singing "Kumbaya" while thoughtlessly sacrificing ourselves for the greater good of humanity. (I always crack up at the responses to the AL that don't understand why anyone would even read this blog because I'm so mean and allegedly self-loathing.) And now some of the early sheep--the high priests and priestesses of twopointopia--are growing uneasy at the perversion of their faith by the hapless masses.

And now to you, hapless masses, also known as the late sheep. You think none of this is your fault, don't you? You think it's all the early sheep thrusting themselves upon you. To some extent that's true. It's difficult to resist the propaganda when you hear it chanted from every blog and article and conference session, but you can resist. Some of us manage to. But not you, late sheep. You're all the ones who go to any talk or workshop with "2.0" in the title, the ones who get all excited by workshops where you set up a blog that you will never post to, a wiki that you will never update, or a feed reader you will never visit again. The ones who are more puzzled than inspired by the insipid rhetoric of the twopointopians and other faddists but nevertheless don't have the fortitude to resist the fads. You have only yourselves to blame. The cult members are happy chattering away to themselves and having no impact whatsoever on the outer world, but you're so enticed by the appeal of being in the know that you listen to their empty messages. The priests and priestesses themselves might know the cult is void of ideas, but the major appeal of a cult is being an insider. But you late sheep want to be insiders, too. You want to know what all the excitement is about.

They're both part of the problem, but the early sheep don't like the late sheep very much. Without the late sheep, the early sheep wouldn't have anybody to feel superior to, but the late sheep have this bad habit of "debasing" the pure faith. The late sheep don't make much of the supposed ideas behind the fad, and they just focus on alleged incidentals like the technology. There aren't any coherent ideas behind the 2.0 fad, so it's no wonder the late sheep have debased the faith. And now the early sheep are upset, and insist upon a return to fundamentals.

The rest of us, perhaps the vast majority, can watch from the heights while the early sheep flock toward their new fads in search of hope and belonging, and the late sheep come along and spoil the celebration for everyone by focusing too much upon the rituals and not enough on the purity of the faith.

The high priests and priestesses of the Cult of Twopointopia insist that their flocks return to fundamentals, that they don't just mutter in darkened corners counting feed subscriptions like so many rosary beads and thinking they know something about Library 2.0. The great thing about this racket for the cultists themselves is the way they can always feel superior, if only because they know that the faith has a fundamental purity and they can spend a couple more years pretending that they're on to something while they give talks and workshops and laughingly survey the late sheep mucking about with execrable blogs and barren wikis. A couple of years ago Blyberg wrote: "If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know I believe L2 is a vital and very real movement. You’ll also know that I think it is an ever-changing amalgam of ideas, dreams, and visions." It's vital and real, but fortunately ever changing so the twopointopians always have a new dream or vision to chase.

So the call has gone out to renew the pure faith of this tiresome fad, but there is one consolation. If it wasn't for Library 2.0 and the twopointopians, it would just be some other fad, one that might actually have consequences outside the fevered minds and blogs of the cultists, and that might be much worse for us all.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

At least he appears to admit that Second Life is not the promised land for librarians. I thought it would be at leadt another year before I read that.

webbygrl said...

Since I'm new to the field, I had to do a little research to get a definition of Library 2.0 and a 2006 Library Journal article was tops in a Google search. You are correct AL in there are not any definitive ideas in 2.0. At least none that I can find anyway. The entire scope seems to be more of a concept than an actual "thing". If it was a "thing", you could order parts for it, attend courses on how to use and manage it (vs. a workshop on a concept), and add it into your budget. So I guess the 2.opians didn't think the card catalog was "user-centered"? Hmm. Too bad its not really a "thing" so that librarians could corner the market on it and ensure their continued survival. Instead it seems they are just grabbing onto the coat tails of what every 12 year old knows how to do and hanging on for dear life.

2.0 can't be all that. I just graduated with my MLS last month and I don't recall a course on 2.0 being offered during my studies. This is why I read you AL. Your eloquence brings to light so much and puts it all into perspective.

Nicolás Robinson said...

Thank you for widening our minds to reality. Hello! from a late sheep. Great blog

Nate said...

The social web is nothing more than a *blip* as we move from desktop computing to a world of environmentally distributed technologies in which it is hard to determine when you are online and when you are offline. I hardly think this is an issue of early sheep or late sheep. Yes, there are some goofy labels like "library 2.0" that we are sticking to our efforts as we adjust to an interpersonal communication shift paralleled only in profundity by the invention of the printing press.

Lets consider where social computing is going to put global culture in 10 years, library folk. It'd be a big mistake to ignore what is going on, but indeed we should exercise restraint and not attempt to apply "twopointopianism" (this is a funny word, AL) to our library communities at random.

I'm new to this blogosphere, drop by for more on this subject.
http://natehill.wordpress.com

skeptical thomas said...

So there are early sheep and then there are late sheep. I have to say, AL, I'm truly disappointed, no word on shepherds, dogs, wolves, other predators of any kind, also nothing on meat, milk, wool, and cheese. And how about young MacDonald? AL, how is it possible not to mention such important aspects?

sheepishly sheeplike thomas

Anonymous said...

AL and Blyberg are both a year late and a dollar short on this one. Crawford covered this territory over a year ago Take special note of the material starting on page 4.

Dances With Books said...

Hmm, thing is when cults decide to go back to "fundamentals" and the "pure faith," that is often a sign they are getting desperate and cornered. Branch Davidians or that flying saucer cult come to mind. So imagine that, the masses are embracing the cult. What's the world coming to?

AL said...

I certainly won't claim I was there before Walt, but I'll note for the record my first post making fun of Library 2.0 was on 5/23/06. So there! The only problem was that hardly anyone read the AL back then.

PL said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steven said...

AL, I'll follow you anywhere, even if it's in the desert, for 40 days and 40 nights.

Let my people go!

Anonybrarian said...

I remember writing a paper for library school last year that dared to critique the idea of Library 2.0 Needless to say the twopointopian didn't give it a good grade... This post reminded me of that sort of mentality toward criticism.

The very idea of attaching "version numbers" to the library concept is revolting to me. It implies that without those "execrable blogs and barren wikis" your library is so behind the times you might as well shut up shop now. Who cares if your patrons don't give a crap about blogs and are barely tolerable of email? Who cares that you're doing a wonderful job and that patrons couldn't wish for better library service? You don't have a blog! The horrors! Quick! Arrange your books by cover colour, that will make up for it until you can get that RSS feed up and going...

Gah! Sorry for the rant...

Anonymous said...

Let's get rid of Library 2.0

I have a typewriter and a card catalog, and I am not afraid to use them.

Luddites.

Anonymous said...

I think that ultimately, within the next 10 years, there will be far fewer libraries. I can see some specialized libraries existing in physical form so that people can use the physical materials. However, I do not see the continued existence of public libraries. With the further development of cheap e-book readers, I can see people downloading materials on the run and getting electronic reference help as they need it. The majority of public libraries can be replaced by well-run afterschool programs, cafes, and bars.

I, myself, either find material online or buy it since my public library system is so horrible and I don't feel like waiting for ILL. I plan on buying Kindle when it drops in price.

What I find ironic is that there is alot of talk about changing how we deal with the public but due to budget cuts, blanket decisions by administrators who never step foot in a building, really out-of-touch materials purchasing, and a concentration only on the most profitable patrons, there is little actual change going on.

A nonny-like moose said...

[i]The very idea of attaching "version numbers" to the library concept is revolting to me. It implies that without those "execrable blogs and barren wikis" your library is so behind the times you might as well shut up shop now. Who cares if your patrons don't give a crap about blogs and are barely tolerable of email? Who cares that you're doing a wonderful job and that patrons couldn't wish for better library service? You don't have a blog! The horrors! Quick! Arrange your books by cover colour, that will make up for it until you can get that RSS feed up and going...[/i]

You wouldn't be the only one thinking this phrase doesn't change the product, but only the box that houses it...

Tech-savvy or not, what's the likeliness that students/users will actively pursue wikis to find their resources than just getting on software developers to come up with more object-oriented databases or interfaces? Want to encourage usage? Put out an inter-disciplinary display on a topic (Dylan's a popular take here), make a little space for its publicity on your website if you have the space/resources, and place it in a spot where it can't be missed. Those who are interested will appreciate the nudges. Those who don't? Well, you know, horses being led to water and all...

j- said...

***Anonymous said...
Let's get rid of Library 2.0

I have a typewriter and a card catalog, and I am not afraid to use them.

Luddites.***

Yeah, anyone who doesn't want to sit around playing video games all day long and get paid for it is square, daddy-o!

Minks said...

Oh the irony

I find it funny that you would refer to us as "hapless masses" and "late sheep". Do you really think late and hapless sheep hang out on online blogs? Lol, that is pretty funny.... unless of course you consider yourself a late sheep... and that would be a bit scary.

Remember, ebay was a fad, the automobile was a fad, pretty much everything started out as a fad. Well, sex was never a fad,,,, or was it?!? (think 60's).

Fads are only failed realities. Are we certain these ideologies are dead? Certainly not all of them. I mean, we are here, right?

-Minks, the preacher of mediocre

Anonymous said...

I think that ultimately, within the next 10 years, there will be far fewer libraries. I can see some specialized libraries existing in physical form so that people can use the physical materials. However, I do not see the continued existence of public libraries.

I see the same thing for different reasons, namely the ever shrinking budgets and a field of incompetent idiots who obsess about blogs while the barn is burning down.

I don't think Ebook readers are the killer as much as people can get an amazing amount of reference material online, and books are cheap and available everywhere from Amazon to Ebay to ABEBooks to BookMooch and....you get the idea. I've been cleaning house on "obsolete" reference books that are still useful.

I remember the rise of the Internet and some librarians resisting it as a fad, but it's become indispensable as a new way of finding information.

The same can't be said about the Web 2.0, as rather than adding anything meaningful to services it's just struggling to find a way to "connect" with patrons and get noticed.

I wouldn't give the meaningful span of libraries much more than 20 years. That doesn't mean they'll all disappear, but it's about the same as how today some people still work as blacksmiths and put shoes on horses. Libraries will still be around to show how to do "research" and serve as collections of print materials, but not many people will care.

Kendra K. said...

it's interesting to me to see all the twopointopians in such a kerfuffle that people dare criticize them. i work in a library with a manual circulation and it's terrible. i'm all for technology and automation and i'm not a luddite. i do agree that most people jumping on the library 2.0 band wagon (and perpetuating it) are really just grasping for the next big thing. i wonder if it's because so many people sort of fall into library work and they feel an innate desire to make themselves have a deeper relevance than helping patrons. (oh, i forgot- libraries are about librarians, not their service community.)

Anonymous said...

Kendra, can you show me where the kerfuffle is? I can't seem to find it.

S said...

OK, I guess I'm just a dumb special librarian too busy helping my users find info to know this, but what is all this Library 2.0 nonsense about anyway?

TJPaladin said...

Here is a question that every 2.0utopian should ask themselves.

{Or that I would like to ask them}...

Please tell me what Library 2.0 service can only be done/taught by a person with an MLS that a community based computer lab staffed by 18yr olds can't.

My point (In general):

* County/City Dept. of Parks & Recreation should be holding Gaming Nights - not the PL.

* County/City run community computer labs with computer geek staff should be teaching Web 2.0 and other applications - not MLS Trained Librarians.

Web/Library 2.0 is a diverse & dynamic set of applications on the Web.

We, as informed professionals should be aware of these applications and investigate the possibilities of using them to do _our_ jobs_ better.

Beyond that, they are merely novelty software.

Anonymous said...

Just look here:

http://www.regdeveloper.co.uk/2008/01/22/web_two_dot_zero_myths/

So THERE!

Anonymous said...

Grumble....

http://www.regdeveloper.co.uk/
2008/01/22/web_two_dot_zero_myths/

Anonymous said...

books are cheap and available everywhere from Amazon to Ebay to ABEBooks to BookMooch and....you get the idea

Crappy books are cheap and ubiquitous.

The public library shouldn't collect books that are either cheap or ubiquitous. Or crappy, for that matter.

I go to the public library to borrow books that cost more than $50.

Poor people will go to the library to access quality books which are too expensive for them to afford. And there are millions and millions of Americans in this situation.

Anonymous said...

I think that ultimately, within the next 10 years, there will be far fewer libraries... I do not see the continued existence of public libraries.

I agree that we probably won't need buildings filled with books. But do you think we will need some form of free public life-long education?

Public libraries provide free educational opportunities for all. No other institution in society does this, and if we use the demise of the book as an excuse to stop funding life-long learning for all, the citizenry will be in danger of becoming uninformed, illiterate, and unprepared to compete in the global economy.

Anonymous said...

"Public libraries provide free educational opportunities for all. "

I will remember that the next time I pay my taxes.

Public libraries are not free the same as public education is not free. It is a societal cost that is spread amongst everyone. Yes, it does not cost to go in the door and use the material, but it is not free.

You see this more and more as libraries are given less and less money and asked to do more.

Part of why libraries are looked down upon, "oh, you are just giving stuff away. . ."

Nate said...

Ha! Yeah, public libraries aren't going anywhere. Attendance is pretty good in my neck of the woods...

Indeed, the services aren't free, they are paid for via taxes. Partially. We need to work harder than ever to secure funding. Times are tough.

I also agree that the future of public libraries does not lie just in their role as book repositories- but I really, really don't see the death of the printed book coming anytime soon. Do you people really think that is gonna happen?

On top of the programming, third place and social/intellectual community hub functions, I think of the library as a place not just for "life-long learning" but a place for self intiated life-long learning. Nobody forces you to walk in the door of library and use it. But people keep on using it. Humans are curious. This, incidentally, is why the twopointoage doesn't seem to work: we keep trying to force patrons to use it, rather than have them gravitate to it and create it in whatever capacity they might hope to use it.

Not enough room here or enough time to address this topic properly, but I sure do find it depressing that people in our profession actually believe the death of the public library approaches. Y'all should rally, make some good things happen, enough of the doomsday talk.

Anonymous said...

re --Here is a question that every 2.0utopian should ask themselves...Please tell me what Library 2.0 service can only be done/taught by a person with an MLS that a community based computer lab staffed by 18yr olds can't.---

Here's a question every anti-twopointopian should ask themselves -- Do I want to continue pointing out how obsolete my job really is?

Anonymous said...

Public libraries are not free the same as public education is not free. It is a societal cost that is spread amongst everyone.

Spread amongst everyone proportional to each person's income.

If you're poor, your taxes are so low that you're getting one heckuva deal by using your public library.

If you're so rich that you can go out and just buy a $200 book without having to think twice, you won't ever use the public library. But you can afford to chip in your fair share so that the rest of us can stay literate. Our society improves with our collective levels of knowledge and literacy.

That's how it's supposed to work anyway.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it: Library 2.0 is the creation of Bill Gates, who seduced the ALA with gifts of computers to public school libraries and to the smaller public libraries. ALA bought it! So now we're saddled with the need to learn generation after generation of Windows so we can access the Internet - - and to buy expensive antivirus and antimalware stuff to keep our computers clean of the vermin and keyloggers.

Since our libraries now have computers available to the public, we're saddled with the policing of the kids and the perverts who use them to view porn, or worse. Of course, filters are not permitted, as that violates the ALA Bill of Rights - - so we're stuck.

Library 2.0? Give me a break. What happens when Library 2.1 and 2.2 are followed by Library 3.0?

soren faust said...

"I know it’s sad,
But you still have to live until you die."

—Flaming Lips

Y'all are getting pretty emo...

Searcher72 said...

Love it when we're all brought back to reality... I'll join the public library people in saying I think it as an institution will be here for a very long time, through outreach, etc. the possibilities are endless.

Thanks AL for keeping it real...

Anonymous said...

Firstly, If you don't pay property taxes (as this is how most public libraries are funded), then the library is free to you. There are many renters who don't own real property, therefore they don't pay the taxes that support the library.

Secondly, most public libraries don't buy circulating books that cost more than $200.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm pretty happy with all this Library 2.0 junk! Don't get me wrong- I've always seen it for what it is: Another meaningless bunch of drivel that folks who pride themselves on being "techy" love to bring out for show-and-tell. But my administration is very quick to jump on any sort of bandwagon that appears in the literature. The fact that they have absolutely no understanding of the concepts or technologies involved just makes everything that much easier. "They" (i.e. our illustrious leaders) wanted us to have a Library 2.0 space. I created several things: a blog, a wiki, a social networking space, for the library and now "They" think I'm ever-so-special and indidpensible. Yay!! That was just too simple. Of course, everyone ignores the 2.0 space and no one ever contributes to it, but so what? I'm more than happy to oblige.

AL said...

In many ways you are a librarian after my own heart.

Anon 2.0 said...

The library is Oz. You are Elphaba Wicked Witch of the West. Farkas is Glinda the Good Witch.Twopointopians are pleasure faithers. Elpha = cynical atheist. Glinda = society girl.

Sheesh, I love that book. Need to see the musical. Carry on!

TRR said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog post, thanks!

I can identify with what you feel about the cultism and the spirituality around '2.0'.

Anonymous said...

The issue is that public libraries do not support lifelong learners. Many public libraries are now buying items that will get them high circulation such as bestsellers, romances, etc. They are not buying circulating works that cost more than $30 or so dollars. They are buying DVD's and may eventually move almost wholly to video downloads to keep theft down.

Many people who need to fulfill a research need therefore have to do it by using electronic resources since there are no books on their topic. In the future, they will be able to access cheap portable ebooks (as in Kindle) or electronic databases.

I personally have found that if I need a book to fulfill a need,especially an academic or career need, I have to buy it since my public library system either doesn't carry it or has outdated copies.

I think Anonymous 1:02 is correct in that cheap books will continue to be sold, but they will be old books - the new ones will all be electronic.

Nate said...

Public Libraries DO support lifelong learners. They provide a human starting point for ANY question. Also, lifelong learning is not limited to reading books, if it were we’d live in a terribly boring society. Fools would just sit around and read all day. What a drag, learning is about a lot more than just reading. Lifelong learning is about EXPERIENCE, and if libraries can provide media or inspiration in ANY manner to enrich experiences then they are doing their job. I feel pretty good about where we are at with that; I think public libraries have a bright future.

I’ll add that I use bookstores regularly too, and I’m a public librarian. It is foolish to think that your public library is going to be a one-stop media shop. I have Netflix too. Or actually I did, I cancelled it a while ago cause their delivery system slowed down. I pick and choose where I get books and videos just like I pick and choose where I buy meat, light bulbs, and loose leaf paper.

I’ll tell you what though, I had the flip side of this last anonymous (hey why is EVERYONE on this blog anonymous?) persons experience recently. I was after this obscure book and looked it up on Amazon, Half, AddAll… it was crazy expensive. I talked to my buddy in the interlibrary loan department and whaddya know- I’m reading the book right now. Well not right now, I’m typing right now, but… you know…

library.05 said...

A Library .05 Manifesto

We’ve seen the changes coming, fast and furious. The 1980’s is a decade of change for libraries. With growing affluence, an independent ‘me-first’ society, and rapid technological advances, libraries are feeling the squeeze. Reference desk questions are way down, and Bobby and Jane can no longer skip around the corner for library story time. Instead, Chris and Michelle are latchkey children left at home, while their two parent income family enjoys a big house in the suburbs. How, after all, can libraries compete with the personal home computer, cable television, mobile music devices, and home entertainment systems? I will try to outline the answers in this paper, but I warn my fellow colleagues that something must be done soon or our profession may not be relevant by the year 1992. Have libraries met their fate? There is still time to remain relevant in this world nearing the end of the 20th century, but only if we adhere to the tenets of Library .05.

More to come...

Anonymous said...

I find it very hard to believe that public libraries are set to go the way of the dodo. I'm a public librarian and our small branch is busting at the seams -- not enough room for the collection or the patrons. Both our internet stations and our circulation desk are in near constant use and the information desk is inundated with questions -- not particularly challenging questions, mind you, but a constant stream to the point that I wasn't able to read AL until Thursday evening this week.