A spectre is haunting librarianship - the spectre of "Library 2.0."
As if it's not bad enough when encountered in the blogosphere, now there's a "Librarian's 2.0 Manifesto" published in the August issue of American Libraries (on p. 48 for those of you with the stomach for it). I thought the whole idea of the traditional publication process was to weed out all this stuff. Oh wait, that's to weed out critical voices like mine. On second thought, this stuff seems like about the right intellectual level for American Libraries. And there's a note that ACRL is going to release some book related to this manifesto. Et tu, ACRL?
Like almost all documents with "manifesto" in the title, it's pretentious and silly at the same time. And like another silly manifesto, it should end with a stirring call - "2.0 Librarians have nothing to lose but their brains; they have speaking fees and book contracts to win. 2.0 Librarians unite!" The presentation in the other AL doesn't improve it any, either. It's made up to look like old parchment nailed to a wooden wall. How quaint. I can print this out and paste it all over my library!
In the spirit of camaraderie and good will that I'm famous for, I thought we could take a look at the "manifesto" together. So here goes. This isn't for the faint of heart, so women and children may not want to read this. Wait, what the heck am I saying. Read on, just don't say I didn't warn you.
"I will recognize that the universe of information culture is changing fast and that libraries need to respond positively to these changes to provide resources and services that users need and want."
It's just so enthusiastic, isn't it. I love enthusiasm. Yay! Information culture is changing fast. Okay, I'll grant that, though there's an argument that it's been changing fast for at least 150 years if not more, but let's not let any silly historical perspective get in the way of our breathless enthusiasm. But should we "respond positively" to every change? That's the implication. What if some of the changes are bad? Oh, let's not think about that. In fact, let's not think at all. Let's just get all gooey inside and start chanting our mantras.
"I will educate myself about the information culture of my users and look for ways to incorporate what I learn into library services."
What if my users are complete idiots? What if their "information culture" consists of staring at the television 10 hours a day watching game shows? Should I then make the library more like a game show? "Come on down, Luella! You've just won yourself a free library card!" How about just stopping at "I will educate myself." That'll weed out a lot of librarians right there.
"I will not be defensive about my library, but will look clearly at its situation and make an honest assessment about what can be accomplished. I will become an active participant in moving my library forward."
I certainly won't be defensive about my library, but I might be defensive about my intelligence. My library may be moving forward, but what if they direction it's moving is stupid? Should I then become an "active participant" in keeping it going? And is this any different from just being a "participant"? If the library is "moving forward" toward an abyss, then I should try to stop it, shouldn't I? Or would that just be mean?
"I will recognize that libraries change slowly, and will work with my colleagues to expedite our responsiveness to change."
Let's paraphrase this a bit, shall we? How about, "I won't get too frustrated that my stupid colleagues don't jump on the Twopointopia bandwagon just because I'm all giddy with enthusiasm. I'll try working with them as long as I can stand it, or until they all retire or die off."
"I will be courageous about proposing new services and new ways of providing services, even though some of my colleagues will be resistant. I will take an experimental approach to change and be willing to make mistakes."
Courage isn't the virtue it used to be, is it. How courageous do you need to be to propose a new service? It must be terrifying to know that some people "will be resistant." I wonder what this person's colleagues think of her. Probably about the same as she seems to think of them. The Twopointopians contempt for their non-Twopointopian colleagues is palpable.
"I will not wait until something is perfect before I release it, and I’ll modify it based on user feedback."
Yay! Beta forever! Why even wait until something makes sense to release it? Why not just immediately implement every stupid idea someone has? It's not like any of this takes up anyone's time or energy or money, right? Just do it! Yay!
"I will not fear Google or related services, but rather will take advantage of these services to benefit users while also providing excellent library services that users need."
Who fears Google? I fear big guys walking behind me on the sidewalk at night, but never Google.
"I will avoid requiring users to see things in librarians’ terms but rather will shape services to reflect users’ preferences and expectations."
That makes a lot of sense in an academic library. Let's take a bunch of students who don't know anything and cater to their ignorant expectations. Why don't we just abandon the library all together? After all, even having books on shelves is just those mean old librarians making people see things in their terms. Why not just toss the books into a big pile in the basement since no one will read them anyway. And while you're at it, link all the databases on the library website randomly, because we know they just want to google them instead of relying on the mean old librarians to categorize anything.
"I will be willing to go where users are, both online and in physical spaces, to practice my profession."
I've already covered this one. Go where the users go! That's what I always say. Just be sure to wash your hands afterwards.
"I will create open websites that allow users to join with librarians to contribute content in order to enhance their learning experience and provide assistance to their peers."
I don't want anyone contributing any content in order to enhance their "learning experience." If they want to contribute content, they can get their own website. Or better yet, a blog. Any moron can start a blog. (No wisecracks!)
"I will enjoy the excitement and fun of positive change and will convey this to colleagues and users. I will let go of previous practices if there is a better way to do things now, even if these practices once seemed so great."
So I won't tolerate or criticize anything. No, I'll "enjoy" it. Yay! Excitement and fun, indeed. "Positive" change is in the eye of the beholder, so I guess I'll have to "enjoy" whatever change the Twopointopians want to subject me to. Otherwise, I'm just a big old meany. Why don't we just let go of all practices and close down the libraries to see who notices.
"I will lobby for an open catalog that provides personalized, interactive features that users expect in online information environments."
I'd settle for a catalog that actually had an excellent catalog record for everything the library owned in it.
"I will encourage my library’s administration to blog."
Not if you worked in my library, you wouldn't. I shudder to think. Besides, most library blogs are boring. Do we really need more boring blogs? Could a "library administration blog" be anything but boring? Would it be anything like a "Library 2.0 blog."
"I will validate, through my actions, librarians’ vital and relevant professional role in any type of information culture that evolves."
No, I won't, until the librarians in question can prove to me they actually are "vital" and "relevant" in "any type of information culture." Validate, indeed. I wouldn't validate their parking.
I think I know what my problem is. You might have guessed this, but I was never a cheerleader. I didn't even try out. I thought the cheerleaders were mostly idiots. I thought when I grew up and became a "professional," I'd leave the cheerleading behind. So I don't like cheerleaders very much. I also don't like motivational speakers very much. What I like are people to give me good arguments for doing things, not just gushing and cheering and trying to inspire me with insubstantial nonsense. And I don't like hype and fads, because I'm skeptical and critical. It comes with being smart, I suppose.
And I certainly don't like manifestos, because they're always somebody's vague idea of how they think the world should be without any argument to back it up. There's always some paradise where everyone's happy or everyone "embraces" change or whatever. There's always some villain, whether it's those bourgeois liberals or the mean people who just won't get with the program - always the program of the manifesto-writer.
It's called a "Manifesto for Our Times." If that's true, then our times are just as annoying as all other times. What are we supposed to do with this? Are we supposed to read this and jump up and cheer? Are we just supposed chant our 2.0 mantras? Embrace our inner Twopointopian? Maybe every library should start a 2.0 support group, where we could all get together and whine about how unfair the world is but affirm our righteousness nonetheless. "Hi, my name is AL, and I haven't had a critical or skeptical thought about any faddish and insubstantial idea for change in 6 months!" And all the Twopointopians say, "Yay! AL! Keep up the good work!"
Always change. Never think. Always change. Never think. Always change. Never think. That's your mantra. Keep chanting it.
The only thing that never changes is the rhetoric.