I may be trance-channeling Andy Rooney as I write this column (God! How I miss him on 60 Minutes!), because a number of library- (and maybe not-yet-library-) related things that perturb, confuse, absorb, and/or bug me have piled up and I have to ask if any of them irritate, perplex, or fascinate you, too. They include:
- Print Versus Digital Books: Why does it have to be either / or with print and ebooks? Can’t we have some of each, for as long as our patrons want them? (today a colleague made reference to a “dead tree edition” of a work, and I’ll freely admit I’d never heard the term before and was horrified by it, tongue in cheek as it may be. Luddite? No. Tree lover? Yes. But I want to read my mysteries in paperback. So sue me). Maybe I’m being too doggedly a “form follows function”-ite, but it just makes sense that some subjects and disciplines benefit more from ebooks and some benefit more from print. Why can’t the proponents of e-for-all (“those people”) see this? (BTW, I’m actually ranting about this on behalf of some colleagues, who describe their library situation as: “they’re picking the library up, turning it on its side, and shaking out all the print books.” I’m fortunate in that the library in which I work finds merit in both formats.)
- Non-Library Library Consultants: What is it with libraries hiring library consultants who don’t know a blessed thing about libraries (not to be mistaken for library consultants who do know a thing [or two] about libraries, aka, they’ve actually worked in a library themselves)? Am I missing something here? Is there something special that people who’ve never worked in a library know about how to run them better than, say, someone who’s successfully run/administered a library? Is it something to do with what could just as easily be learned by a close reading of Cheaper by the Dozen?
- “Let’s Play at Libraries!”: Why are hollow, meretricious library burlesques hyped as ground-breaking and daringly innovative? (I leave it to you to pluck your favorite meretricious library-like project out of the headlines for this one). What happened to encouraging and enabling real library work that results in real products and services that benefit the majority, rather than an elite minority, of library patrons? And how many libraries do you know that have sufficient staff and funding for such “play projects”? This truly boggles my mind in our present economic circumstances.
- Library Tweeting: Except in selective circumstances (breaking news) what does Twitter do for me? For you? For the larger library scheme of things? Another free admission: I just don’t get tweeting in most library contexts, except when you’re in the middle of a truly lame meeting and you have to let the rest of the world know just how lame it is. Then again, I don’t have a whole lotta use for Twitter outside the library, except in such circumstances as those contextualized by David Carr and A. O. Scott for the recent Academy Awards. My ear is open like a greedy shark to hear good library uses of Twitter that I’ve overlooked….
- Bad News for Libraries: Sitting is the New Smoking: okay, so I was horrified (again) when I read about this TED talk by business writer Nilofer Merchant. Then I was intrigued. Now I’m wondering how long it will be before I’m invited to my first walking library meeting. The possibilities are many, varied, and potentially uproarious. But you just know that at some upcoming big library meeting, this is going to be brought up among a bunch of library directors, and they’re going to return to home base and start holding walking meetings. Or jogging meetings. Or hang-gliding meetings. You think I’m making this up, but just wait.
- Eulerian Video Magnification: somehow, some way, I feel sure we could use this technology for library assessment—I just haven’t figured out how, as yet. Any ideas?
- And finally: when do I get to drive the Scanabago? I’ve wanted that job since the first time I heard John Palfrey mention it in a talk about the DPLA, but I think I’m probably going to have to fight a lot of people for it.
These are some of the things that have been percolating for me lately. Thanks for letting me get it all off my chest. And do write me if you figure out an assessment application for that Eulerian Video Magnification.