Thursday, August 30, 2007

An Alternative Voice in Librarianship

Some librarians are always clamoring on about how they want "diversity" and "alternative voices." I don't believe it at all. What these librarians want is obedience, praise, or approval, or perhaps just silence.

It's obvious with the regressive librarians. They created that "Alternatives in Print" thing, and some of them like to talk about diversity. But they don't really want diversity or alternative views. Just see the way Cranky Marxist Dude and Snipey Fellow Traveling Dude and their buddies have attacked me just for existing. They haven't provided any counter-arguments. They just don't like it that an alternative voice exists that criticizes them. They're ideologues.

The twopointopians aren't much better. They're the cultists, and cultists don't like disagreement. Yesterday David Lee King, the man behind the earnest twopointopian blog David Lee King, commented on my "Cult of Twopointopia" post.

"AL - you said: 'but reading the barrage of 2.0 propaganda from you and others gets tiresome to a lot of people'
Uhm... so don't read it? Or write something yourself? I don't see the problem."

It turns out I did write something. And the twopointopians don't like it because it's critical. I don't see the problem, either. They write stuff. I write stuff. I don't go along with this "if you can't say something nice" mentality.

He went on: "Obviously, whatever you want to call it - library 2.0, comments on blogs, new-fangled library tools on a computer... there are a LOT of librarians that don't understand why it's there, why they have to do it, and how their jobs are affected because of it. I can't speak for others - but I try to explain this stuff on my blog and in presentations. And you are welcome to read/listen or not."

And I might say the same. Read or don't read. But I can't just ignore things when I'm bombarded with them in the premier publication of the American Library Association, now can I? That seems to be the twopointopian strategy. Never say anything critical. Don't engage the opposition, because the opposition just isn't on the "cluetrain," so we can ignore them. Don't analyze, just proselytize. Sorry, baby, it doesn't work for me. I like evidence and argument, not mantras and affirmations.

I'm here to provide an alternative voice in librarianship. If there's a fad or a trend or a zealot, I'm the alternative voice. And nobody has to read.

The trendy fads and the dominant ideology of librarianship have the ALA, American Libraries, Library Journal, and scads of earnest librarians out there blogging and speaking and promoting themselves and their agenda endlessly. I've got this lone blog crying in the wilderness. They praise each other endlessly. The typical response to the AL is, "well, I don't agree with her normally, but she does make some good points."

They publish stupid "manifestos." They ignore criticism and never seriously engage with any opposition, because they think they can ignore the opposition. The opposition is too timid and well mannered to take on the regressive thugs. The opposition (sometimes) is too poorly informed to take the twopointopians on on their own ground.

Well, I'm not. It doesn't really matter personally what I think. The Annoyed Librarian is an alternative voice in librarianship, and that's that.


Lazygal said...

You're not the only one; check out this post from the AASLBlog

Anonymous said...

hmm... here's my response -

Anonymous said...

Alternaqtives--Somehow, we all know AL would be there with Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze shouting "Wolverines."

--Taupey (1984)

Anonymous said...

It's organization. The twopointopians are getting organized, and there is no counter being organized. You do hear a lot of frustrated voices out there (the one lazygal points to is a good example. By the way, in the comments over there, notice how right away the twopointopians come forth to "defend" themselves, "oh, I did not say everyone had to use these toys" or something along those lines. They just make those who don't fall in line feel awful).

You keep providing that alternative. If anything, we need it now more than ever.

waltc said...

[I know better than this, but...]

OK, AL engages in deliberate overstatement for rhetorical effect. That's fine--and, let's face it, some 2.0 evangelists have done much the same. You won't hear me telling you to stop.

Fact is, though, there are quite a few voices in the great middle, looking to use new affordances when they make sense without feeling the need for bandwagons or the desire to adopt each shiny new toy.

If I had to guess, I'd guess 90% of those blogging about library 2.0 are somewhere in that middle spectrum. On my part, I even wrote a book promoting the balanced perspective.

Unfortunately, as my gravestone (or professional epitaph) might read, Balance is boring. It's more fun (and more rewarding in career terms) to take one extreme or the other. Far as I know, there is no "organization of twopointopians," but, of course, I wouldn't be invited anyway.

Extremes make good copy. Most of us, including most people trying to educate others as to new possibilities, are in the middle. Yawn.

AL said...

I think you're right, Walt. I'm presenting one extreme to combat what I see as the other extreme. Some of the 2.0 librarians say it's not really about the technology, but then tell us that it's ESSENTIAL that all libraries and librarians know how to use all the latest social software that comes along. I'm not so sure. I don't think it's essential that all libraries have IM reference, or that all library directors blog, or anything like that. I like to poke fun at the frustys to get a laugh, but I think that insipid manifesto does more harm than good for those in the middle trying to teach people about new possibilities.

Anonymous said...

I like and use a lot of web 2.0 tools personally and professionally. However, the 2.0 cult drives me insane. I feel like I am constantly bombarded with their message, "adopt the technology or you're a bad librarian." Very similar to the fire and brimstone sermons I heard as a child, “Repent or go to hell.”

The 2.0 group's message irritates librarians, not just fuddy duddy luddite librarians, but forward thinking techie librarians as well. We hear the 2.0 message that we are bad librarians and we “don't get it” because we aren’t adopting every 2.0 technology and force feeding it to our users. Like it or not David, that is the message you and the 2.0’ers project and that is why people like the Annoyed Librarian are frankly annoyed with you all.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Just a minute... It's bad that I agree with you nearly most of the time?

I really must change my medication.

AL said...

Well, I don't know that it's bad, but I wouldn't share the fact with any of your earnest colleagues. You may never work in this town again.

The hard thing about the AL is one never knows what to agree with. I've been accused of inconsistency, when sometimes I'm just channeling the frustration of the huddled librarian masses yearning to breathe free.

I suspect it's the rare librarian who agrees with everything I write here, but I also suspect a LOT of librarians agree with certain things, but wouldn't be willing to declare it in public because it goes against the grain of the dominant librarian ideology.

Anonymous said...

Please don't stop blogging the way you do. We need an alternative voice in librarianship ... it keeps us sane.

Anonymous said...

I agree with AL about the so called "diversity". It's really only promoting a narrow set of viewpoints that fit an ideology, as opposed to true diversity.

Or to put it in more simplistic terms, you wouldn't believe the crap I had to take when I rode a motorcycle as my main transportation; as opposed to some librarian approved economobile. What about me being who I am as opposed to fitting in some narrow view?

And now for my full on frontal assault about regressive approved "alternative voices," David Lee King, and all the rest. When a field is vibrant and active people don't have time for sh!t like harping on the distinctions between criticism and disagreement.

That sort of henpecking, trying to draw a fine line about who decides what, has been going on since the days when newsgroups were really big. The only distinction is blogs require you to read each one for people's attacks and replies, and are a little more suitable if you want to retreat into your own worldview.

But the real point, over and over, is how this is ever supposed to improve libraries? As what someone other than a librarian has to say? Outside the small field of librarians (where I am right now) the general public doesn't KNOW and doesn't CARE.

Library budgets keep dropping, the field is losing recognition, but damn we can keep writing books about it.

Or to put it again in simplistic terms, as an undergraduate I was required to take a course on multiculturalism, one of the first ones offered. The instructor asked about issues we faced in daily life, and I mentioned I manned the telephones at hospital, and one of the issues was people calling in who didn't speak English.

One of my fellow students launched into a tirade about how the hospital should have had someone there to speak any language and been ready to accommodate people of a "different culture." Never mind about the real world concern of staffing, budgets, and retention. How many languages can you accommodate? Who decides?

That sort of black/white view sounds too much like the whole regressive librarian/2.0 thing, that somehow idealization that will save us all. Well I have news, it won't.

Anonymous said...

Oh for a little balance. 2.0 is mostly great in theory, if only the 2.0 librarians could spend a little time in actual public libraries where due to funding, patron illiteracy, or other factors staff is happy to hit 1.0 on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Take a branch public library from yesteryear and the amount of gadgetry available would have been miniscule (I have even produced notices using a form of jello graph). But there was response to public need, involvement in the community etc. etc. In fact all the bits that appear to make up Libraries 2.0, minus the electronics.

As new communication and information finding technologies evolved so too did the librarians' response, most often in advance of what budgets or senior managers or politicians would accept as likely to be useful to the library service or public.

We don't need preaching at in order to embrace whatever will benefit our public. We've been there and what is more we've done it.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't agree with you normally, but you do make some good points.

Anonymous said...

"I don't go along with this "if you can't say something nice" mentality."

YES!! I could not agree more! I am so sick of this not only in library school but also in our culture...

I am currently in library school and am seriously having a career crisis. Even in classes, differing opinions are rarely encouraged. UGH!