Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Library Blogs Too Nice, Lack Dissent and Debate

Steven J. Bell had a piece late last week on InsideHigherEd.com on the lack of dissent and the exaggerated "niceness" of library blogs in general. He discusses academic librarians specifically:

"Academic librarians are the nice guys of higher education. We dwell in neutral territory; the library belongs to no one and everyone. So do we. Our reputation is mostly one of being excruciatingly helpful. We give service with a smile. Our academic roost is a peaceful haven, and we welcome all. As an academic librarian who regularly navigates the library blogosphere, I find that the librarian’s penchant for pleasantry extends to our own virtual nest. In the world of library blogging the sky is always sunny, and nary is a dissenting or argumentative thought expressed"

"(...) As one explores and delves into the world of library blogs it soon becomes apparent that the rules of disengagement dominate the landscape. There one is likely to see a repetitious flood of posts exclaiming 'What a great post by so-and-so' or 'She’s got a must read post today'. Rarely does one see a post that starts with 'I have to disagree' or 'Boy, does he have it wrong.' Most commenting is no better. It’s mostly gratuitous back patting".
His article attracted quite a few comments, and disagreement, from a cross-section of people in the library field.

Other bloggers have reacted:
  • Library Juice, a left-leaning site, comments: "I’m not sure whether it is entirely fair of Bell to compare us directly against academics in other fields. Most of us are not academic librarians, and only some academic librarians are on a tenure track with publishing demands. And academic librarians with tenure are still professional librarians first and contributors to Library Science a distant second. It is really LIS professors who should be considered against the normal standards of academia, and where they are concerned I think the issue that Bell is talking about doesn’t exist in the same way. That said, I think we really are under too much pressure, in our professional community, to go with the flow, to be inoffensive, to be non-confrontational, and to avoid criticizing leaders in the field. I think the taboo against criticism is especially problematic when it comes to criticism of library directors regarding their professional decisions." You might also want to check out the 2002 parody by Library Juice creator Rory Litwin and another member of the "Library Left" entitled A Declaration of the Niceness of Libraries.
  • Library Ephemeria, a blog "dedicated to the interconnected worlds of academia, libraries, and the poor souls who work in both", had this to say about the whole discussion: "One of the main reasons I believe that we don't have a true discourse in librarianship is library education. Many of my students are not prepared for a rigorous examination of the issues surrounding academic librarianship. I have had students protest the longish reading list provided in the syllabus with one asking, 'Do I have to read them all?' While realizing that many of my students are attending part time and have other time demands, it fascinates me that there is a perception that library school shouldn't be 'hard'."
  • Off the Mark, a library student blog, has a post in reaction to Bell called Not disagreeable enough?: "I think my biggest problem with his article is that it is much like the airing of 'our' dirty laundry in public. While I don’t put much truck in the whole 'image' issue, I still feel this was sort of a stab in the back for it to be published in this venue. I could be wrong, but I don’t much remember Mr. Bell joining the discussion a few months back. While there are many issues within librarianship that need to reach a larger audience because of their importance, I fail to see how this is one of them. I also fail to see how this article will do anything positive to change the situation. It certainly cannot help our image externally, nor do I see how it will encourage more dissent or disagreement, or raise the level of discourse, within the biblioblogosphere."
  • Out of the Jungle, a blog on law librarianship, in a post called Discourse in Librarianship remarked that "At least some law librarians reading this will acknowledge that the educational sessions and discussions at the annual AALL conference are (mostly) far from riveting. Conference attendees sometimes seem to get more worked up about local restaurants than they do about the controversies of the day."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:37 pm


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