inocybe blues

Librarians: Unspoilt by Progress

Like a lot of technical people, I’ve been pretty aware of the SOPA mess in the United States. I even blacked out this blog on the eighteenth, which, since I hadn’t actually started posting here yet didn’t really mean anything to anybody maybe, but symbolic gestures still count, right? But as the day progressed, I started getting pretty damn bummed out about things. Not because my favourite sites on the internet were unusable, but for something else.

Librarians are obsessed with notions of their own relevancy. We see that in books and blogs and such, and I think you’d have to go pretty far afield before you found a bunch of academic librarians closer to the metal wrt the relevancy debate than my colleagues. That said, I think even the most starry eyed of us on any normal day would concede – with varying degrees of readiness – that the Librarian Profession Ain’t What It Used To Be, that We Are No Longer The Gatekeepers Of Information That We Were Once and that Peak Librarianship, Having Happened In 1990 Ain’t Coming Back, Ever. But the eighteenth happened, and Twitter was overrun with people posting tweets like this and this giving what I’d consider to be a bad message. Do we, as a profession, really want to be the the wallflowers who are only consulted when everything else is shut out? The whole thing gives me a pretty serious case of Ugly Kid At The Prom.

So, take our craven desire to be liked by people who have largely forsaken us, and add into this the fact that institutionally, we fund a lot of the organizations (coughElseviercough) who think that SOPA (and the Research Works Act, and god knows what else) are just jim dandy fine examples of legislation… well, I’m not feeling that great about being a librarian lately.

I’m going to leave you with this. That statement could have fit very neatly into the mouths of any number of librarians on Wednesday. Do you really want to be on the same side as the RIAA? We’re better than that, and most days I think librarianship has a bright and badass future. But that future is not playing as also-rans to Wikipedia – it’s in developing new skills, new modes of thinking, and new service models.