Earnest, humorless librarians should never read the AL. I only say this to save the time of the reader, which supposedly I'm obliged to do, since it's a "law" of library "science" (perhaps I put the quotes in the wrong places; repunctuate to suit yourself). The earnest humorless folks just don't get it. Wait. No, the earnest and humorless librarians should read, because then they comment and give me something humorous to read while occasionally providing me with blog fodder. Earnest, humorless librarians, read on!
My favorite responses to the AL are from those librarians who just can't seem to believe anyone would write this stuff. They are shocked, SHOCKED, that anyone would disagree with them or make fun of this pompous profession. The regressive librarians probably don't fit in this category, since they're used to people disagreeing with them. Disagreement just shows how righteous they are and how evil everyone else is.
But the twopointopians definitely do. For them, disagreement lets them show how self-righteous and "user-centered" they are, while showing how clueless and selfish everyone else is. You see, the twopointopians "get it," while the rest of us just don't understand. They're like religious converts preaching the gospel of 2.0 to everyone, and they just can't understand either that nobody cares, or that everyone already knows about it.
[Note: I should state for the record that not everyone who advocates "user-centered" services or the use of social software is a twopointopian. Twopointopians are those folks who have the fervor of converts or ideologues, who want a "movement" and a "manifesto," who want to preach their gospel and ignore criticism, who claim all their critics are just selfish and not sufficiently "user-centered," who believe there's only one good way, their faddish new way.]
Take one comment from last week, for example.
"Pretty please, tell me that this blog is a joke - an SNL-like spoof of postings by a librarian who hates their job and the people they serve (and ought to get the heck out of the field). In case it's not - I have to respond..."
Hmmm. I'm never sure how to consider comments like this. Since the person said "pretty please," I'll attempt an answer, even though I think that "pretty please" was smug and self-righteous. In a sense, this blog is a joke, and sometimes it's even funny. Is that what you wanted to hear? On the other hand, it's not a joke. That's what we librarians call a paradox. (I guess that's what everyone else calls it, too.) Then comes the ungrammatical advice about how if it's not a joke then I hate my job and the people I serve, and I ought to get the heck out of this field. Well, that's possibly true. Since I rarely talk about my job or my users, I'll ignore that swipe as being based on inadequate knowledge. But let's not let total ignorance ever get in the way of criticizing something; my critics often don't worry about that.
But should I leave the profession? Or should, instead, all the people who annoy me leave? Whose profession is this, anyway? It's an open question. Though what such advice implies is that anyone who doesn't go along with the twopointopian rhetoric or who has any criticisms of the profession just shouldn't be a librarian. It's sort of like that stupid "America: Love It or Leave It" rhetoric. Librarianship: love it or leave it! One might be tempted to say the same thing to the rabid twopointopians, since they seem to be the ones so frustrated by their crusty colleagues. Maybe I'm trying to save the profession from looking like it's run by simpletons and humorless ideologues who think library 2.0 daily affirmations are supposed to impress intelligent people as anything but gibberish.
But the commenter goes on:
"'What if my users are complete idiots?'
This is your problem in a nutshell."
But what exactly is my problem? I've never been inside a nutshell, so I need some elaboration. Are you saying that I said my users are idiots? That's certainly not what I said. My question was in response to the daily library 2.0 affirmation for me to "educate myself about the information culture of my users" and adapting to it. But the question stands. What if my users are idiots? Do I adapt myself to their culture? Or what if, like many of my users in academia, their information culture won't get them what they need? Should I adapt myself to them, or should I teach them? Should I give them what you seem to think they want, or what I think they need? Or are you in fact saying that my users are actually idiots, and that's my problem? That's certainly one interpretation of your vague comment. But how do you know who my users are, and why are you calling them idiots?
And then the correction:
"Library2.0 has never been solely about the technology - it's always been about providing user-centered library services. As I've said to IT departments who've been arrogant toward librarians whom they are supposed to support - you need to start with a basic respect for the people you serve."
Oh, okay. That clears everything up. So no librarian before this "library 2.0" bandwagon pulled into town every thought about "user-centered library services." And I'm glad it's only those IT folks who are arrogant, and not the twopointopians who seem to think that anyone who criticizes them can't possibly be "user-centered." This commenter seems to think I don't read what the twopointopians themselves say. I hate to break it to you, baby, but it ain't all daily affirmations. Disagree with any part of the program, and suddenly you don't care about the "users." Point out evidence that plenty of users don't want anything to do with some of these initiatives, and you're just not on the "cluetrain." Dare to suggest that the twopointopians actually come up with some arguments instead of just gushing homilies, and you're just mean.
And then comes the stinger:
"And in case you can't remember who it is you're serving - think about this, your "idiot" users are providing you with a paycheck.
[OK, in that case - perhaps your characterization was correct - they're idiots for keeping someone like you employed.]"
Ouch! That would hurt if the commenter wasn't so clueless. So let me make sure I have this right. If I'm critical of any of the propaganda, self-righteousness, or contempt of the twopointopians, then I'm not sufficiently "user-centered" and shouldn't be allowed to work as a librarian? Is that what you're saying? If I disagree with you or criticize your little religio-political library 2.0 movement, then the problem is me, right? I just need to join the 2.0 church, is that it? And I'm not allowed to think dissident thoughts or question the wisdom of my 2.0 betters, who are obviously so much smarter and wiser than I am because they have blogs? It that it? Oh, and why do you keep calling my users idiots?
This has all the hallmarks of the convert and the ideologue, political or religious. The converts and ideologues all like to set up these false dichotomies: Agree with me or you're evil (or perhaps just stupid). Accept without criticism whatever gobbledygook my fellow convert and ideologue says, or you're a bad person. Do things my way or you aren't "user-centered."
For the diehard twopointopians, their way is the way. They don't like criticism or discussion, because they're not up to it. They like captive audiences of neophytes who they can impress with their speeches about all this great new stuff. They like to use the mystique of social software and new technologies to impress upon their crusty colleagues how hip they are. They like to pretend that people who aren't impressed with how righteous and "user-centered" they all are are just ignorant clowns who don't know anything about how libraries ought to be run.
The problem is, I'm not a neophyte. I am a librarian who knows how to use all this stuff, and I've been serving "users" for years. I'm the knowledgeable skeptic who isn't awed because some librarian knows how to blog. Also, I'm skeptical, and whenever anyone starts jabbering about yet another "movement" with its own "manifesto," I can't help but criticize it. I don't jump on bandwagons. I don't follow fads. I'm not a convert or an ideologue. I'm interested in healthy discussion and debate, and am all for appropriate "user-centered" services, but I'm not impressed by some librarian doing her Stuart Smalley impression in American Libraries.
So save your daily affirmations and your professions of faith for someone else. I'm not interested. I, like a lot of librarians, am perfectly comfortable with using technology to connect with library users and teaching other people about it. But I don't want to join your cult, because I can't check my brain at the door and chant your mantras with you.
Oh, and thanks for reading.