Librarian as constructive destroyer.

Librarianship is getting to a new critical point. While there’s much to be said for the social-science, standards-based, technologically-driven, business-speak librarianship that is the bread-and-butter of the library blogosphere, more and more critical voices are starting to question the efficacy and usefulness behind its ethos. It’s time to be much more vocal. Start talking.

My proposal is that libraries enter the demolition business instead. We need to use the tools of reason and objectivity to tear down cultural biases, falsehoods, and misconceptions. We need to provide society with the tools to stand up to misinformation, disinformation, and deception. We need to blast a big-ass hole in the wall and let our patrons become educated and enlightened so they can stand up to whatever society throws at them. It’s that whole speaking truth to power, truth-shall-set-you-free thing that guided us through the liberalism of the 1960s.

-Sense and Reference

Why are we in such a hurry to embrace a clinical, digital future in which technologies become our gods instead of our tools? Why do we insist that the future lies in e-readers when census data indicate that, as of 2009, 43 million people lived in poverty?  Why do some academic librarians behave as if public librarians are brainless half-wits, and why do public librarians let them get away with it? Why on earth aren’t more of us unionized? Why does Seth Godin get to dictate what the future of the library should be? What the hell is going on in California, and why isn’t somebody doing something to protect the school librarians from hostile lawyers? Have we all collectively lost our professional minds?

-In the Library with the Lead Pipe

It’s time for us to stand up.  It’s time for us to take a stand!  If you are in leadership and you are not willing to be human enough to stand up, then now is the time for you to stand down.  There are so many voices in our profession that are worried about their “image” or “brand” that they are not willing to do anything but complain in private and off the record.  It is to you that I say that going silent, turning a blind eye or deaf ear is condoning the behavior.  It is your story that will be lost in history.  To those willing to stand; to those who have been standing for a long time, let us fill the world with our voice; let our story be heard.

-The Information Activist Librarian

In the end, I felt like the whole Library 2.0 thing was a distraction. So many libraries jumped on the bandwagon, creating “2.0 services” that were not carefully planned for, staffed or assessed. Now we see a vast 2.0 graveyard of abandoned blogs, wikis, Facebook pages and more. And, in the end, there was never really any agreement on what it all meant. I can’t really see anything good that came from that term or discussions about it. Now, instead of tons of articles, presentations and books about Library 2.0, we will see tons of articles, presentations and books about transliteracy. What real impact will it have on our patrons? How will it change the way we serve them? I feel like a cynical jerk sometimes, but I want to see results. I have no problems with theories as long as they can be applied to our work in some way. My own teaching has been influenced heavily by constructivist learning theory, but I’m not sure what transliterate library services or transliterate instruction looks like. And until someone can show me, I guess I’m going to be as cynical about that as I was about Library 2.0.

-Information Wants To Be Free

Purely as a persuasive advertisement for online degree programs, this stylized graphic supports for-profit LIS degree programs using misleading information to market potentially empty degrees to an already-flooded market. And that’s a problem. Clever word choice also skirts the issue of the greying profession. The ad states that “a large number of librarians are likely to retire in the coming decade.” The operative word here is decade. Ten years is a long time. Historically, it also takes a nation a long time to recover from prolonged recessions. So unless our government gets us out of the financial sewer we’re currently in, that large number of librarians may not be enjoying retirement until the second half of that decade.

-The Go Librarians

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2 thoughts on “Librarian as constructive destroyer.

  1. Nice collection of somewhat variform outtakes here, Joe. I’m flattered to be included. I know a lot of LIS people share these sentiments. The field simply suffers from a scarcity of confident writers who are enthusiastic and critical about the profession and who know how to get heard in the right places.

    I also know it can be difficult to find a jumping-off point. I tend to think the most poignant blog pieces are calculated and done with care. It’s never a great idea to pull a Presley and rush in like only fools do. Perhaps it’s best to measure one’s commentary according to one’s topic authority and audience, evaluate reaction, and repeat. If that all seems like too much, then, by all means, go kamikaze. We might all gab about it later. Cheers.

    • Thanks for the kind words, as well as the advice. I suppose I’m unlike a lot of bloggers that I quote, and kind of use it as a place to hash out ideas, rather than as an advocacy platform. Although, the more contentious posts seem to get the most attention, they’re generally not the ones I enjoy the most. So far, I’m trying to avoid any j’accuse because i’ll be honest in saying I’m not an authority on much.

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