These things I believe

I have “run into” quite a few library school classmates on Facebook this week which, combined with a trip to Bloomington last weekend, has brought back a lot of memories.  Probably the biggest “event” to happen during my tenure at IU was when the SLIS dean, Blaise Cronin, wrote an editorial expressing his dislike of the blogosphere.   Library students, even the ones that grow up to be Radical Militant Librarians, are generally not prone to hysterics or protest, but the dean’s essay touched a nerve.

It’s now two and a half years later and I decided to re-read the dean’s anti-blog piece.  I was struck by the following quote:

The present generation of bloggers seems to imagine that such crassly egotistical behavior is socially acceptable and that time-honored editorial and filtering functions have no place in cyberspace. Undoubtedly, these are the same individuals who believe that the free-for-all, communitarian approach of Wikipedia is the way forward. Librarians, of course, know better.

Crassly egotistical behavior?  No place for editorial and filtering functions?  Free-for-all, communitarian approach?  Hey, that’s Web 2.0 talk!

[Of course, blogs are part of the Web 2.0 wave. I tend to forget that fact because (a) blogs have been part of my life for six years now and Web 2.0 seems so new, and (b) I do tend to think of blogs as being the product of the editorial vision of an individual or small group of people, while other Web 2.0 applications (e.g. wikis, mash-ups, social networking sites) are more collaborative.  Of course, I used to be very anti-blog comment, so perhaps that is also coloring my perception of the collaborative nature of blogs.]

Then there’s Dean Cronin’s last cutting comment, “Librarians, of course, know better.”  Do I?  Really?  I don’t know that I do know better.  I meant to put in my first awkward post my general beliefs about technology and Web 2.0 and libraries, but didn’t quite get there.  So, here we go…

I’m not a fan of utilizing new technology for technology’s sake.  It has to make the old way easier or allow for new insights and discoveries.  It’s for that very reason that I just can’t get behind Second Life.  (Actually, when I realized that I left this out of my first post, I thought about titling the post where I did cover it “I hate Second Life.”)  In my limited experience with that application, it seems like everything you can do in Second Life you can do much easier with existing applications (e.g. chat, digital libraries on web 1.0 pages).

However, many people I like and respect are big fans of Second Life, so perhaps there’s more there that I’m just not seeing.  I have also heard of an experiment in which a court room was built in Second Life for law students in far off locales to do trial practice. (I think I’m getting the details of that right…I heard about it two months ago and September 2007 is pretty much a blur for me.)  That’s new and unique and I find it acceptable.

I also don’t have a problem with the participatory nature of Web 2.0.  Yes, there’s going to be vandals and misinformation.   However, that’s been a possibility (albeit on a less wide-ranging scale) since library stacks were opened.   There’s nothing keeping librarians from cleaning up the errors and possibly making a teaching moment out of it.  The participatory nature may also be it’s greatest strength. Studies have shown that students learn best when they are engaged and not just lectured at.

Finally, I try to remember my over-all goal in utilizing technology.  I have to keep in mind that I have a product and service to “sell.”  Any time I’m experimenting with these applications, I should be thinking about how they can help me reach that goal.  Will it help me connect with my patrons?  Advertise library services?  Help the students gain information literacy skills? etc., etc., etc.

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One Response

  1. This is old, very old news. You’ve missed the point. Cronin wasn’t against blogs; indeed,in his op ed piece, he noted ones that were worthwhile. He was against the INCIVILITY that filled so many blogs. This is a true statement, backed up with considerable evidence by those who carry out research. .

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