Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Mediocre, Shmediocre

For the first time I bought some vermouth-soaked olives for myself. I’m taking time away from them to write this. I hope you appreciate it. If not, I guess I don’t really care that much, everyone likes to be appreciated.

I’m not going to name any names in this post, because if I do some cranky deluded guy might start commenting that I’m attacking people from behind my fascist, Nazi, KKK sheet of anonymity, and then LJ might complain that his comments are so verbose their size is overloading the servers and so incoherent they’re puzzling readers. We wouldn’t want that to happen.

So, anyway, having said that, let’s get moving. A few weeks ago I wrote a post arguing that librarians shouldn’t try to reinvent anything tech. They should just relax and do their jobs and leave all the expensive and time-consuming creative work to well paid non-librarians, then hop in at the end and take advantage of it and crow about how techie they are because they know how to use software that other people created. Well, maybe I didn’t argue exactly that, but it was something like that. Librarians should let Google and all the other techie companies do the work and take the risks, and librarians should do library work, whatever that consists of these days. Coffee breaks and storytimes and committee work and stuff like that.

Somebody out there who shall remain nameless really didn’t like that attitude and wrote about it on a blog. If I recall correctly, the phrase used was "made my blood boil," or something like that. Demure wallflowers like myself are so unused to making anyone’s blood boil that I sat up and took notice. I said, "Chip, bring me another martini and come look at this. Is this person’s blood boiling over something I wrote?" Chip read over it as well. "Yes, mistress, that’s what it looks like. Shall I massage your feet now?" (He’s such a dear, he really is. I couldn’t live without him.) Apparently my relaxed approach to librarianship isn’t active or aggressive enough. The Annoyed Librarian supposedly thinks librarians should just be fuddy-duddies and sticks-in-the-mud and never change, and this attitude is tantamount to a call to mediocrity. Mediocrity! My attitude is, why mess with perfection?

Mediocrity indeed. Let’s put the issue in another way. Do librarians and libraries right now work okay or not? Are they currently mediocre? If they work okay and are not mediocre, then there’s not much of a rationale for the radical change and constant reinvention and such that the twopointopians and others are always calling for. If we drastically need radical change to survive, then perhaps libraries and librarians are mediocre.

Thus, if I think libraries and librarians are in the main doing things right, then I approve of them and think they’re okay. It’s the critics of the status quo who think they are inadequate and mediocre. So who’s the defender of libraries now? Me, or the critics who say that all you librarians are mediocre if you’re not out constantly reinventing everything? If libraries are going to change any, the change should be to refocus on their educational role within a liberal democracy, not try to become tech entrepreneurs or arcades. If libraries are going to be more responsive to any group of people, it should be librarians, not patrons. We’re nice enough to those people already. Why reinvent anything for them? They seem happy enough.

I just wanted to be fair and lay the case out before you all. I wanted to let you know that there’s a whole cadre of librarians and library school professors and others out there who think that if you’re doing library work and not out constantly reinventing technology and everything else then you’re mediocre. They don’t want to put it that way, but that’s the implication of their criticisms. Not reinventing technology and constantly changing things? Then you’re mediocre. Just remember that it isn’t me saying it this time. It’s all those other people. I think you’re doing things just fine. The Annoyed Librarian loves you more than your mother does, and don’t you forget it.

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Comments

  1. Mr. Kat says:

    It’s really hard to have the cake and eat it too. It’s frustrating. Truth be told, there are a number of libraries doing everything they can Right! But then there are these hard times we are on again and once again we will start to see areas where we are vitally weak. Worse, we will see just how weak we are when those budgets comes and how swiftly!

    I personally feel that librarians are ill-prepared for the realities of the library needed by the 21st century patron. Library schools have been selling MLS degrees that barely pass as AA degree programs. Obviously we then end up with a glut of people who lack any serious training towards building the library into a place where more librarians are employable because budget money is more happily invested into the infrastructure. We have plenty of the homely librarians. We need more of the mechanic librarians who made lots of fun fancy positions by inventing things like cataloging, the MARC record and ways we could use all those wonderful barcode labels. If we don’t retool and stay vibrant, we become mediocre, and once mediocre, though in peace we may be in our complacency, so too may our funders be complacent with the amount of money they allot to us.

    You live in the academic environment; I ask you how many professors do their research without the aid of the library? I was once in a lab where the staff never set a foot inside a library – though they had student workers who did. Nonetheless, the attitude of those researchers included filing votes of no confidence against the library when it once came time for the library to issue a ballot for support across the campus during a time of some rough budget cuts.

    Let me clue you in: You want the next great model for a Journal database? Look to Wikipedia. Using that database model coupled with the Amazon feedback system LIBRARIANS could effectively put every journal publisher out of business. But no, we are too timid; too lazy; or simply too ill-prepared and under-funded. Librarians are still playing the role of “We love you, Mr. Publisher!” because hey, they’re giving us a great deal. And Mr. Publisher has been raising the rates on our precious journal subscriptions a constant 8% each year for the past 5 to 6 years.

    There are places where especially the academic library can improve. And I fully agree a refocus on the Educational Role is KEY to their survival. But to stay happy and say all is well, to let the time pass, is as to say; “the summer is good, food is plenty; let us dance and play all day!” In my not so politically correct childhood that grasshopper did not make it out so well…first he was isolated, then he starved, and then he froze to death…

  2. No. 6 says:

    Oh deary, this is classic AL. What does she really think of us? Is it that we are fine and shouldn’t change. Is it that we are mediocre? Is she just inviting debate for her entertainment? Is it that her garter belt is too tight and she is in a mood?

    My mother sent me a “to my daughter” card for Valentine’s Day. What do I get from you, Annoyed One?

  3. Dr. Pepper says:

    One of the problems, that I see, with the MLS is that it tries to be all things to all people. You want library management? you got it! You want tech management? you got it! you want cataloguing basics? you got it! and so on.

    If the degree took 24 courses (72 credits) to complete I would say OK, maybe things are good, candidates know what they are talking about. But most MLS programs are 10 or 12 courses. There is no room in there to learn the basics (which should be covered in a BA/BS program), learn theory to make the profession better and innovate (usually covered in an MS/MA) AND to provide you with professional skills that are actually usable (web programming, C++ program, and so on)

    The PhD in LIS is more like an MS in LIS these days. The MLIS is more like a BLIS. This means that people finishing an MLIS and know little of librarianship are trying to reinvent something that they don’t fully understand.

    Let other professionals work on things that are in their field, let librarians work on their core competencies, and COLLABORATE to move forward. No profession is an island.

  4. Hippieman says:

    Vermouth-soaked olives? Jeebus, hard liquor makes Hippieman ralph like crazy. Don’t fat-jowled whiteman corporatists drink that stuff after sucking all our hard earned monies from the bailout?

  5. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “”If libraries are going to change any, the change should be to refocus on their educational role within a liberal democracy, not try to become tech entrepreneurs or arcades. If libraries are going to be more responsive to any group of people, it should be librarians, not patrons. We’re nice enough to those people already. Why reinvent anything for them? They seem happy enough. ” well…yes most of our customers are happy ones, those that aren’t are considered Cranks (and you know most of them are not even the ones who pay taxes in this district for using this library). I want an online system that is both patron and librarian friendly….I want to hand out free binkies, parents to hire babysitters, not rely on me to do it for free…I want librarians that do their own job, and leave me to do mine…I want moanin’ pineapple chipotle margaritas at lunch & dinner, not martinis, and my own personal masseuse (I have a corner office w/ windows..but I have to stand on my desk to look out of them). I want a perfect world….where everyone takes responsibility for their own stuff and own life, making this world a better place for everyone else.

  6. Merman Librarian says:

    I will say “Amen” to Mr Kat’s journal proposal, and if I were in an academic environment, I’d get working on it. Involves no software developing or technology inventing, just hard work and a willingness to market. In the land I live, however, I’d get my butt kicked for wasting time when I could be developing a new bookmark listing vampire fiction (ooh! We don’t have one of those!) by authors whose books we don’t own and can’t buy.

  7. ElderLibrarian says:

    Do we dare take the passive role, with the likes of Kindle are nipping at our heels?

  8. PseudoLibrarian says:

    I just want to help patrons find the information they need.

    Am I getting in to the wrong profession?

  9. Dr. Pepper says:

    @PseudoLibrarian

    No, it’s not the wrong profession. I think that librarians need to do more of that (help patrons find info) and less of the “jack of all trades” that the MLS has been pushing for quite some time now.

  10. Mr. Kat says:

    Dr. Pepper, you are much kinder towards that MLS than I am; I make my conjecture based upon the length and difficulty of my undergraduate program. I further compare it to Masters programs across the university where degree programs of 54 units are more common.

    I do appreciate what my LS school administrators did for me; they no doubt recognize the same issues regarding LS puppy mills as the rest of us, and seek to get us through as quickly as possible for our personal betterment. I do not believe they want o see us invest anymore then 36 units of time or more importantly tuition dollars on their programs. I have met my share of disgruntled LS professors.

    Pseudolibrarian, you are not in the wrong profession. You are simply in the profession at a precipitous moment in time not much unlike when cars replaced the horse. My argument in this time and space is that we have to be more proactive in building infrastructure before people ever even know they need it.

    Take a stroll through your library stacks and muse for a moment; very few of these materials surrounding you were made by librarians, and yet for some reason people have brought those materials to us, allowed us to classify them, catalog them, and then provide space where everyone has near immediate access to that information. What you see in a library is what we have historically done: we provided an infrastructure that holds information for a future need, whether the nature of the calling is for past, present or future.

    I agree with the need for re-differentiation in the LS field but first we have to determine how we will differentiate! Yes, we could produce more catalogers, for example, but cataloging as it has been done has become nearly nonexistent as a career in the field. It is my firm belief that if we want to remain relevant to modern society, we have to redefine our niche and do what we do best: we make information available for our patrons before they ever knew they needed it.

    Today a large portion of the infrastructure market has moved away from our profession as information has become electronic, but there remains a large amount of static information locked in the tomes held in our architecture. We have to review the roles within library spaces, connect roles the library might have in the modern world, and then redefine the roles that exist in the library space. If we don’t, there are a multitude of fields eager to seize upon our unmet opportunities.

  11. me too says:

    screw kindle. People don’t want to carry around 1,500 books all at once just cause they can. Most people don’t even read 10 books a year. More actual reading gets done on a two inch cell phone screen than in all the books being checked out of libraries. So what if it’s tming. That’s what people do. Gollum eyes here we come.

  12. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    Also if you read the latest report on the Kindle Amazon stocks dropped with its release because people were disappointed in its design.

  13. anonymous says:

    What does kindle have to do with anything? If a certain number of people prefer the ergonomics of the kindle, all libraries need do is what many are doing already – buy kindles, load some books and loan them out. Net cost, no difference. Oooh, rocket science. Isn’t that the point of the top post (to the extent that it makes sense at all, and that’s an interesting question)? Let amazon/google invent and let librarians take all the credit for figuring out how to institutionalize it. Librarians need to get over the book. The book isn’t dead and won’t be for the forseeable future, but it’s not the reason libraries do or should exist.

  14. anonymous says:

    And by the way, Kat, I’m sure your alma mater will be happy to accept the return of your degree, in recognition of your obvious lack of belief in its value. But I would ask, do you have any idea the extent to which you use what knowledge and epistemic reasoning you gained during your graduate tenure to argue against its epistemic value? If you hadn’t learned what you have, you wouldn’t use those very values to argue against their merit. Sooner or later, the metacognitive values you have absorbed but tried so stridently and vociferously to reject will bite you in your proverbial teleological behind.

  15. Vegans For Meat says:

    Isn’t all reasoning epistemic in nature?

  16. Mr. Kat says:

    The problem is, Anonymous, is that I had that ability before I went to MLS school.

    It was only by going to MLS school that I learned precisely why so many call it a joke.

    I could return the degree, of course, but this would be inane. Silly. Once done, the procedure cannot be undone; the time is gone forever.

    In the meanwhile, there are countless thousands still earning this degree with many headed for the same direction. It would be wrong for me to close up shop and not contribute what experience I to the process.

    I do not believe MLS schools wants to provide a crackerjacks box certificate; they try their best with what they have. Many schools try to do a very academic job with what little this job actually entails. But they are against a rather adverse market.

    The library field has been shrinking, particularly in the academic realm. There are too many applicants for what jobs remain; hence, many job requirements now start with an MLS. Of what work that actually remains, a minimally skilled high school graduate can do a majority of the technical work; the next level of managerial work could be easily accomplished with a two year AA-LIS degree. I don’t even consider the 4-year BA-LIS program to be appropriate when you consider the job market and the return on the degree program. The MA-LIS thus appears standing in the University environment with not a bit of a foundation supporting it.

    In more serious academic fields you see ratios of 1 PhD student to every three MAs to every 10 or 20 BA students. In the LIS field you see a strange anomaly: 1 BA to 20 MAs to 5 PhDs…I know, I exaggerate. There is a reason for this ratio in other fields and it does have to do with the quality of the research product.

    At this moment the librarian job itself has been shrinking over time due to changes in technology reducing old antiquated positions. The solution to this natural antiquation process, of course, is to adopt new library models that simply produce a need for more library positions. In turn, this model will create the need for more robust education where a 120-unit undergraduate BA LIS program [co-curricular as a dual program option coupled to a major like history or the humanities] actually makes sense. As it stands right now an undergraduate would be better off getting a degree in philosophy or political science and skipping the LIS department altogether until MLS school.

    The problem at hand is systematic – it is not isolated to one spot in the MLIS universe. As it stands, we have been creating librarians but we have not been doing a very good job in making new Library models that employ librarians. If librarians leave the change up to someone else, we might not like the results.

  17. Library Observer says:

    “The problem at hand is systematic – it is not isolated to one spot in the MLIS universe. As it stands, we have been creating librarians but we have not been doing a very good job in making new Library models that employ librarians. If librarians leave the change up to someone else, we might not like the results.” Philly has been tossing around “Knowledge Centers” as an idea, and Nashville wants to incorporate School and public library into one. The field is drifting, and those folks who have graduated with heavy student debt and no relistic chance of a job are not going to be happy campers. Ultimately, there may be another round of library school closings in the wake of this mess, while folks at ALA Council fuss over Darfur/Gaza, etc.. Yes, there needs to be some kind of new model. I have a degree I feel like returning myself. Barring that, how about a highly publicized burning of MLS diplomas at a future ALA Convention in D.C., with certain Republican budget hawks invited?

  18. Dr. Pepper says:

    There are two things that I consider central to librarianship: Reference and Cataloguing.

    Speaking of cataloguing, I find it interesting that no one does original cataloguing anymore (or very few do). I frequently talk to people who think that it’s normal to get data from OCLC and ‘clean it up’.

    It’s been my experience that OCLC data is not up to par for a paid service. If you have to clean up the data (and some records need some serious cleanup), I think that it would be easier to do original cataloguing. I guess I am a cataloguing purist.

    Speaking of Reference, It’s been my experience that reference professors ask to to memorize and regurgitate a lot of information. This isn’t learning, and depending on where you work, the reference sources that you memorized and regurgitated on that test to pass the class are useless because the library does not have them. It would be much more useful to know where and how to evaluate information and determine your own references sources rather than memorize X and forget it after the class is done because you won’t use it. The field of reference has changed, like it or not, but LIS schools seem to not be adapting their teaching practices.

    everything else in LIS is peripheral – in the service of data classification/preservation and data retrieval.

    Maybe it’s time to offer these two courses as undergrad courses in social science, management, technology majors, and leave the heavy lifting theory to a newly designed MLIS that deals with more esoteric information like Z39.50, FRBR and so on.

  19. MLIS_Loser says:

    Speaking of re-inventing the library, everyone should know that the university of pittsburgh is getting rid of – no joke here- the reference desk at the main library. Eventually, those needing reference help will have to make an appointment – or send an email – and we all know how patient undergrads are. I guess we really don’t need librarians anymore. good thing no one told me this before i shelled out 30 grand for my degree.

  20. Brent says:

    I was hoping a librarian would develop teleportation technology to streamline information flow.

  21. Mr. Kat says:

    Dr. Pepper, I have sad news for you. First, Reference has been taken over by Google. In my MLS reference class I had two reference request assignments to complete; each one consisted of 15 reference questions that could be solved using primarily the books in the Z section of the library. If done this way, the assignment would take between 2 and 4 hours. I turned over to Google and completed each assignment in under twenty minutes. Mind you, I did not cite Google or Wikipedia; I used Google to find print resources with the pertinent data within them; I scrolled to the end of the Wikipedia page to the reference section, cross referenced the more pertinent resources with their descriptions on Amazon, and then selected the resource that would provide the most adequate answer.

    Library cataloging is another strange beast not unresemblant of a large terrestrial sauropod. My real orientation to this field started with a two year undergraduate position doing cataloging work for the main library. By the end of that time I found myself frustrated to no end; not just by the lack of collusion in field formatting, but in the restrictive capabilities of the library catalog. Meanwhile the likes of Wikipedia are running around with pages counting full descriptions on just about anything. Amazon has a better handle on the record side of cataloging.

    This leaves libraries with one last pillar: Classification. We are the best when it comes to organizing books on a shelf in a way others can find them. Regardless, in this day and age we recognize that physical classification seeks to put each and every book in one and only one place. Books, however, continue to insist on containing only as many subjects as the author fancies.

    OCLC has been a failure because many people are working on many records independent of each other. Imagine what Wikipedia would look like if it were a library catalog. Every library would have something different, even though every library purports to hold the same similar materials. Inanity at it’s best!! [not insanity, inanity!!]

    So here’s my first suggestions; we don’t try to do those things other professions do so well. Let us walk through the library of yore and explore precisely how much of it LIBRARIANS built. We start with the building – vaulted by the people, funded by public philanthropy, designed by architects, built by construction workers of which many may never have known how to even read. We walk inside and see that it is filled with tables for reading, chairs for sitting; desks for services; in the stacks we find bookcase after book case, shelf upon shelf. But a librarian made not a single piece of this furniture.

    Let us look at the materials we hold. Stacks and stacks and stack upon more stacks of books, composed of paper with vellum or leather or card covers. And upon the pages is an ocean of ink, the result of the ink industry and then the printing industry and then the printing PRESS industry! And we haven’t even got to the content – most of which is once more NOT created by librarians!

    We sit down at a computer – made in Taiwan – and pilot our way to the library catalog on a program made by Microsoft. And even the library catalog database infrastructure itself was not built by librarians but rather programmers employed by librarians. And the people who use this program most are themselves not librarians!

    And yet somehow throughout all of this the librarian has been instrumental in keeping this space together.

    I urge us to not try and do those things other fields do best; the reference search engine wars are over, Google is MUCH better at doing it. Cataloging web pages is further a futile objective also best left to the likes of Google. But Google cannot function without information to parse. Cataloging must leave the MARC record; that era is over. The next library database must match the robust nature of modern technological devices including the likes of Wikipedia. I had hopes for the Worldcat initiative, but OCLC leaves a sharp distaste in my mouth; Amazon has already outdone their objective.

    Where this leaves us I am unsure. I do believe if we focus on the nature of Journal research we might find salvation for the academic library; the public library has already found salvation by being the community activity center. Those who love books and helping patrons find informaiton seem to have simply committed the err of being born at the wrong time!

  22. Picard says:

    Oh let these knuckleaded professors and library leaders reinvent search engines and online catalog systems. It’ll keep them busy and essentially renders them harmless.

  23. No Bun says:

    Excellent observations, Mr. Kat.

  24. Million says:

    This is a classic example of a STRAW MAN.

    While I agree that we aren’t the ones to “do the work and take the risks” the bottom line is that the times they are a changin’. It’s not necessarily that the librarians who want to actively build stuff argue that librarianship equates with mediocrity. It’s that they argue foremost we need to recognize the way things are going.

    There are tons of ways to approach technology. One of these is to dive right into technical development. Another is to do what you say and be an early adapter. But nowhere in the equation does it follow that the “dive right in” folks have to say we are being mediocre.

    You are putting words into people’s mouths. Stick to putting a martini in yours.

  25. Display Name says:

    Let’s all be passive and do nothing.

    Then when it doesn’t work out how we like it, we can start a blog and piss and moan and be annoyed.

  26. Dr. Pepper says:

    Right on, Mr. Kat! That is what I was getting at (in a way). Reference the way it was done in the past is no longer the way one does things. It’s good to know a little bit of the ‘old method’ because you may come across it and you need to recognize it, but new search and reference methodologies are upon us. The same holds true for cataloguing. MARC sucks. Should you learn it? Sure, but for historical purposes just in case you come across a MARC record (kinda like knowing BASIC programming), but people in the profession, students, need to learn more about how to transition from MARC and monolithic catalogs/OPACs to newer models. Those newer models need to be created.

    At this point, the googles and amazons of the world are infinitely better at doing this than the MLIS people coming out of library schools. It’s like LIS schools are diploma mills that are feeding into a system that requires a secret handshake to do the most mundane of tasks (cleaning bathrooms and cleaning up after the homeless in public libraries anyone?). It seems that libraries could be better if you let other professionals in and let them clean house.

  27. Mr. Kat says:

    I don’t even know if anybody needs to learn much more about MARC than what can be taught in about fifteen minutes. MARC is nothing more than a database program built upon the idea of number coded fields. It works well except now there are better database programs, protocols, languages, etc.

    Amazon could efffectively replace every single library OPAC TODAY. How? Each library becomes a member of Amazon – perhaps in a new section of Amazon where instead of buying the book Amazon lists places where you can Borrow the book.

    Every library that becomes a member submits their OPAC file to Amazon and their Parser automatically updates the electronic holdings for that library. Alternatively, Amazon builds an application that pulls the materials out of the library OPACs.

    The final piece to this puzzle is the search page where the library OPAC used to be. This page could be manipulated by the patron to search within specific libraries or search within a mile radius, effectively showing every place within XX miles where they could go borrow that book.

    All library holding would be effectively on ONE gird.

    There are drawbacks to this plan. First, someone like Barne&Noble might object. Second, I have been noticing a lot of file duplication in the Amazon holdings; they have not yet reconciled multiple printings of a book done over many years.

    So Amazon is not perfect – but it gets us a lot closer than OCLC has!

    I agree, open the doors to other professions; let them rebuild the machine!

    Perhaps they will find a huge pile of work that is unsavory [such as extracting information from old books] and put librarians to work!

  28. Rubber-necker says:

    “It’s like LIS schools are diploma mills that are feeding into a system that requires a secret handshake to do the most mundane of tasks (cleaning bathrooms and cleaning up after the homeless in public libraries anyone?). It seems that libraries could be better if you let other professionals in and let them clean house.” The dry rot has set in and it remains to be seen if ALA and what is loosely called “the profession”, will rise to the challenge, or wake up one day to find the floor falling out from under it. I’m not holding my breath with this sand castle.
    If I were ALA I’d be getting together ba blue ribbon panel before I found myself on the front page of a major news magazine [assuming even THEY are around]
    with the tag line “What Happened?!?” and the picture of whoever is the current ALA
    fall-person [ie., President/spokesperson/person who drew the short straw].

  29. Buffalo bob says:

    ms kat seems given to hyperbole more than usual. If in fact she is ms kat?

  30. Z section what? says:

    Mr Kat – if you could answer all your reference questions from an assignment (or so you assumed) in the Z section of your library, then there is a definite need for a decent reference librarian there – one who would know to purchase subject specific reference books with the best and latest on each topic.

  31. Herb I Vore says:

    Nay, we must change. All these Chicken Littles have been right for the last 20 years. The sky is falling. Woe be unto he who doth not listen to the collective wisdom of the Library 2.0 saviors? Thugs? Leaders? Bullies? Prima Donna’s, Drama Queens? What are they anyways?

  32. Mr. Kat says:

    Z section What?, the issue is not the fact that I could do the assignment using my library’s extensive Z [reference, bibliogrephy] section, but rather the fact that I could do the assignment without ever touching thos materials; that much of this reference information has been superceded altogether by the modern resource.

    Remember, I saved myself between an hour to three hours by using electronic resources – well, ONE electronic resource, Google! I DID go and look at the materials in the library, mind you, just to get a good firm graps of the situation in the event that I really had to use them.

    I find the answers int eh Z section to be much like an answer you would find in an Encyclopedia: One Sided, one opinion, one deadset answer. In reality we both know there is far mroe information on subjects then the blurbs in encyclopedias, and the same is true for bibliographic searches in a bibliogrpahic index. That index can’t hold everything nor be 100% current. The Internet CAN!

    A number of core Librarians remain convinced that we hold the sole key to solving information problems and yet we forget that we created NONE of the primary source information EXCEPT that information that has to do with our own field.

    We might have created the bibliographies, [I doubt this, though, and bet they were created by publishers selling books or by societies interested in particular fields] but then we must remember that those are no more useful than a good phonebook and thus relegated to doorstops after a brief time on the wall. Has anyone notices how the Telephone book industry is doing right now? [hint: it's deeper in the tank then GM, AIG, FreddieMac, et al!!]

    I met a person in library school whose dad owns a legal practice. There used to be bookcases upon bookcases of legal reference materials within that office. He went back in the spring of 2007 and found the bookcases all gone. In their place was a single computer; the material held in those cases was entirely replaced by no more then 10 DVDs and comfortably fits in a small space of about 6″x6″x6″ inside a cabinet. Once the information on those CDs had been installed onto the computer, all the references that once filled the room were entirely accessible by a single fingertap. And even better, a legal page could now do a single search and pull up every single article that had pertinance to the search, instead of just those articles where those particular keywords had been used in the “subject” line for the index.

    Imagine an index where not just keywords are in the index, but rather, EVERY SINGLE WORD in each article is in the index. Librarians find this idea scary becasue somehow this will mean people will get too many search results or a whole bunch of results that have nothign to do with what they want. AND YET this is how Google funcitons along with the search funcitons in such programs like Adobe Acrobat and SOMEHOW society at large is getting the precise informaiton they want – and without ever getting the proper “reference librarian” training.

    That is the power of Computers and computer databases, and that is why places like the University of Pittsburgh are completely rolling up the reference desk altogether.

    There is something I should add. I can diagnose the problem but I in no way purport any grand solutions to fix the problems. I don’t know the perfect solution; If I did, I would probably be somewhere else right now. While I can see that the leg is broken because the bone is jutting out, I recognize that I am in no way capable of fixing that leg.

    I recognize though that there was a time in human history where humans did not know how to fix such a leg. And in that case people came together, discussed the problem and then found a way to solve it or avoid it altogether. In our situation I do believe communication is to our greatest advantage. Even if we don’t have the solutions, or ever come to something complete, we can get a full grasp of the situation and stand as warning to those who come after us.

    Nothing is constant besides change. Change can be good – especially for those who are prepared for it.

  33. Son of Grok says:

    I suspect internal politics, personal ambitions and petty fiefdoms have more to do with Pittsburgh “rolling up their Reference desk” (in the words of Mr. Kat), and that it is guised behind a bogus mantra of responding to change. The “change” is a ruse.

    Thats part of the reason why radical 2.0 ers are despised on this blog.

    Believe it or not, there are still sad mopes wandering into the library that can’t find the bathroom, much less the Encyclopedia of Quarternary Science (a fine compilation that is not duplicated well electronically). There are less of them – to be sure, but the amount is not at all insignifigant.

    It is telling that those who can’t do print reference very well are the ones who scream for more automation and change, while those who can’t do automation well – scream for more print.

  34. Sarah Rodems says:

    Being a library professional who staffs the circulation desk of a public library, I hear a lot about what makes patrons happy and unhappy. Open libraries=happy patrons. Closed librarys=unhappy patrons. I think that the ALA should spend more time lobbying at both the local and nation levels for library funding. Before we can revolutionize librarianship we need to make sure we have libraries in which to stage the revolution!

  35. Annoyedbyyoulibrarian says:

    You are so annoying.