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.