a few things to read

I have seen a few things that are only tangentially related to what I normally do here, but I thought you might like them.

booktruck on Gorman

I haven’t been digging too deeply into the Gorman back and forth because I’ve said my piece and unless he says something radically different, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It’s been fun to read a few more spirited responses than mine, I like what booktruck has to say.

[H]e has an opportunity to fulfill a role as a public intellectual talking about libraries, archives and information topics that are important to the public, and he blows it on a self-referential argument chasing some bygone ideal of what it means to have reasoned discourse (bypassing, like, the last 70 years of western thought!), and in a needlessly puffy and alienating style that would (in a perfect world) never pass muster in a “real” scholarly setting.

Also don’t miss a counter-essay from Matthew “An Unquiet History” Battles. What is particularly interesting about his response is the bizarrely snooty comments it receives especially the first few.

[I]n the end, we’re still left with a Wild West ethos on the Web where kids armed with a powerful new toy (yes, yes, the toys and tools are “creative” too!) can hide behind anonymity, shirk responsibility, pretend to be professors of Church doctrine a la “Essjay” (in the recent Wikipedia scandal), and trash and defame the character of a John Seigenthaler. All with impunity and in the name of progress, creativity (there’s that word again!), and “wildly individual consciousnesses” (Battles is too good a stylist to float such a phrase).

If that’s the high-level discourse so often lamented to be lacking from “blogs” then I can say I don’t much miss it. It’s just blogging with a bigger vocablary, truly. Wouldn’t it be sad if the Britannica Blog just turned into another “you think you’re so great but you’re really not so great” back and forth? “Where Ideas Matter” indeed!

Michael Gorman, blogging on Britannica

A few people have pointed out Michael Gorman’s blog posts, appropriately enough appearing on the Britannica blog. For reasons that evade me he has one general post split into two parts. Web 2.0 The Sleep of Reason Part I and Web 2.0 The Sleep of Reason Part II. Let me just say that Michael Gorman is a smart guy and I just wish the things he said didn’t sound so… snooty. Statements like these “The task before us is to extend into the digital world the virtues of authenticity, expertise, and scholarly apparatus that have evolved over the 500 years of print, virtues often absent in the manuscript age that preceded print.” are things I can totally get behind but then he follow-up in his later post with “Google cofounder Sergey Brin has said that ‘the perfect search engine would be like the mind of God,’ but most of us took that to be billionaire hyperventilating not blasphemy.” and I don’t understand why he has to be that way.

My take on what is happening has less to do with the nature of scholarship and more to do with the blurring of the idea of “research” as something we do for entertainment as well as scholarship. This may be something I think because I’m not really affiliated with an academic community and perhaps things have changed more than I am aware of, but I don’t think the idea of the expert is going away, only that it’s shifting in many of our interactions. So instead of us asking our expert mechanic for his or her opinion, we’ll check not only Consumer Reports but also epinions and maybe Edmunds.com when we’re buying a new car. We have more data because of the Internet and the network generally, and in many cases there’s no reason plain old humans can’t do something with that data. Gorman glibly refers to the idea his relief that there is “no discernable ‘citizen surgeon’ movement” but why is there a problem with citizen journalism? Especially if, like tagging and folksonomies, these trends are offered as supplments to the existing canon of options, not as supplanters of them?

update: aaaaand Clay Shirky’s reponse to Michael Gorman made boingboing

freedom: the powerful and the powerless

I think Sarah said it best when she posted about Michael Gorman’s latest piece [pdf] in American Libraries: Michael Gorman alienates and divides our profession. More in the comments over at Library Crunch, Free Range Librarian, and See Also….

The whole thing depresses me, honestly. I’ve respected Michael’s politics historically, and I voted for him for ALA President and for that I apologize. I’m beginning to realize just how important tone can be, in myself and in others. I don’t care how good people’s politics are, if they can’t at least make an effort to discuss things with me as if I were worth talking to, I worry about their ability to lead and inspire others who aren’t already on board with their ideas. This affected my choices for Council this year, as much as I respect Greg McClay’s honest attempt to change ALA from within and as much as I like talking to him personally, the tone of his posts makes me question his ability to bridge-build with people who don’t share his beliefs. I have similar feelings about current Councilors on both sides of the spectrum, it may be true that they feel the same way about me, some of them certainly seem to.

However, with Greg and myself and other people with blogs, it stands to reason that we’ll let more of ourselves shine through. You have the choice to read or not to read. I’m not the boss of you. In fact, due to my position on Council, my readers are more the boss of me than vice versa in some sort of quirky aggregate way. One would think, then, that being “the boss” of ALA — though as we all know it’s pretty tough to get anything done with a one year term — you’d pay special attention to the fact that you represent everyone. Maybe I think this because I exist in a constant state of performance anxiety: I want to do well on Council, on this blog, in my talks, at my job, in my relationship, in my town. I can’t imagine it being otherwise. Who doesn’t want to Do Good? Who doesn’t want to Fix the Problem(s)?

If I was the boss of you, I would want you to be happy. I don’t understand how it’s supposed to work otherwise.

project vote smart and libraries

If you’re a library that is getting a strange letter from Project Vote Smart talking about lack of support from ALA, please read these messages from ALA President Michael Gorman and ALA Executive Director Keith Fiels. Upshot, they claim they are forced to “…no longer provide materials to libraries because they had tried for five months, unsuccessfully, to get a letter of endorsement from ALA leadership.” Gorman: “I have never received a request for an endorsement.” Fiels: “[I]t was never clear to me from based on the conversations with Ms. Buscaglia what exactly she needed from ALA or that the funding for the project depended on a letter from the President. Of course we would have provided a letter of support.” I can’t imagine what happened here.