April 20, 2014

“Annoyed” Strikes Again | Editorial

THERE WAS JOY IN SOME QUARTERS OF LIBRARYLAND in late August when LJ’s Annoyed Librarian (AL) blog went down for a day and then briefly several more times in the next few days owing to a technical glitch. The jubilation came from another group of annoyed librarians, those riled by AL’s post “The Last Perk of Librarianship” (8/22/11), prompted by a job ad for a nontenured librarian at the University of Alabama (U of A) sent to AL by a “kind reader.” One disgruntled reader even wondered if AL had been fired. No!

What drew the ire of some U of A and Alabama readers wasn’t just AL’s argument against the proliferation of nontenured jobs—a national trend throughout academia, not only in libraries—but rather AL’s snide remarks about the U of A having trouble attracting job candidates, alluding to the state’s racist past, its unimpressive history and culture, plus bad weather (heat, humidity, and recent tornados).

Lou Pitschmann, dean of University Libraries at the University of Alabama, wrote an impassioned letter on the blog, pointing out that U of A has “nationally recognized librarians” on its faculty, including an LJ Mover & Shaker cited for her work at U of A (Jill Grogg). He might also have mentioned Steven MacCall from the SLIS, winner of the 2010 LJ Teaching Award. LJ hasn’t singled out U of A for derision. AL is not LJ, and LJ is not AL.

Others called and wrote personal letters to LJ, saying that AL was an embarrassment to the magazine and to the profession. In her post “Why I No Longer Read Library Journal,” a medical librarian, two-time graduate of U of A, and former fan blogged that “this time, [AL] you’ve gone too far.”

LJ’s proud U of A library school graduate (popular fiction editor Wilda Williams) agreed AL took some cheap shots at the expense of tornado victims and played on old stereotypes. Many of us here cringed at the glib reference about the tornados, even though we recognize that AL’s brand of satire is much milder than The Onion, for instance.

But even those at LJ who aren’t AL fans agree that AL brings up real issues and hits on them over and over, like tenure. In the nearly four years that Annoyed Librarian has been at LJ, the blog has provoked lively and often thoughtful discussions on library education, the fallacies of the graying of the profession, the overselling of careers in librarianship, the incoherence of the public library mission, the American Library Association’s hypocrisy and bureacratic plodding, library jobs that suck, the rush to embrace technology and to distance libraries from the book brand, and so much more. However snide, sarcastic, or snarky AL may be, the AL columns cover weighty, touchy subjects. Maybe that’s why AL is by far the most read blogger at LJ.

As for those who called and wrote to decry AL’s pseudonymity, or anonymity, that is a long literary tradition. Many librarians—and other bloggers—use pseudonyms to hide their identity and protect their jobs. Some want to know why LJ requires commenters on our blogs to include their email address. That’s part of the content management system we use; we don’t post the email addresses (and won’t give them out if requested by another commenter or reader). We don’t care if you use a fake email or a pseudonym. You’re entitled to the same protection as AL.

As I wrote back in 2008 when AL came on board (“Librarians Too ‘Annoyed,’ ” LJ 11/1/08), we don’t edit AL, or any of our bloggers. We expect them to adhere to boundaries regarding libel, defamation, and profanity. And we reserve the right to take down a specific post or end the relationship. There are plenty of people who will never read AL (or LJ); that’s their prerogative. But they may be missing out—both on AL and LJ.

 “Annoyed” Strikes Again | Editorial
Francine Fialkoff About Francine Fialkoff

Francine Fialkoff (ffialkoff@gmail.com) spent 35 years with LJ, and 15 years at its helm as Editor and Editor-in-Chief. For more, see her Farewell Editorial.

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