Critical thinking about library technology

Dorothea comments on two entries in a librarian’s weblog that I don’t normally see, and the comments around those entries. Both entries condemned library technophilia in broad and brusque terms.

I had seen the first of the two entries and some of the reactions. I’d even printed out the essay itself and a few reactions toward possible commentary here or in Cites & Insights.

I decided against it then–partly because I’m not really even in a library, partly for other reasons (not that I agreed with the essay, but that I didn’t feel I could add much useful to the discussion). Now, looking at Dorothea’s thoughtful commentary on the whole situation, I feel I should add a couple of points.

Dorothea is perhaps too complimentary here:

Compare this to Walt Crawford, who goes after specific technologies that he thinks are wrongheaded, always has clear and well-articulated reasons for his dislike, offers alternatives when appropriate, and is always willing to engage in discussion and even change his mind.

That’s my intention, but I’ve certainly been accused of raising straw men and some of the other sins Dorothea’s accusing Chuck of. (There have been librarians who dismiss print as obsolete, and I think still are…and, for that matter, there have been librarians far too eager to take on every shiny new thing. In both cases, when I’ve tried to spare specific librarians from personal attacks, I’ve been accused of attacking nonexistant enemies. I’m a bit sensitive, maybe even scarred, on this subject.)

But then there’s this flat statement in the blog about which Dorothea is opining [and I apologize up front for this sentence]:

I really don’t think technology should be thrown out, but there is NO CRITICAL THINKING in the library world about technology

To which I can only respond, in the tenor of my most recent post, bullshit. Maybe this blogger doesn’t pay any attention to the critical thinking. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there. At that point in his second essay, he’s not so much burning down strawmen as (apparently) lumping the entire profession in with his over-eager advocates.

Funny, but as a technological conservative, that’s certainly not what I’m seeing in library journals, in library-related blogs, or even on library-tech lists…

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