The undeath of lists

Chrystie at BlogJunction has this post about lists. (“List servs” may avoid trademark problems, but barely. Can’t we just call them lists?)

Quoting a central section:

Saying “List servs are dead” is like saying “God is Dead!” or “The Author is Dead!” While I admit that I usually will indulge in this sort of brain candy, there’s something about this particular “X is dead!” statement that doesn’t sit right with me.

Just a few weeks ago on PUBLIB, real-life librarians were talking about restroom fixtures, pc management, and breaks from the reference desk. They were also talking about censorship, Laura Bush, and disabling public chat. And the nice thing about it is that there were tons of different voices in there. Sure, it came in to my email and filtered down to a folder. Yes, it’s sort of a pain. But something tells me that we need to remember, or get back somehow, to the real challenges facing librarians, especially those in small and rural areas. Sometimes it *is* more about the restroom fixtures. When’s the last time we picked something like that off our feed? Better yet, when’s the last time we offered a public solution to that sort of problem? We need to create and use technologies that enable and value a multitude of voices, and foster collaboration between folks with varying experiences and expertise. We need to value above all else that we use these technologies to collaboratively solve real problems in real libraries.

Earlier, Chrystie expresses a surprise at the lack of reaction to Stevie C’s “lists are dead!” proclamation. I would swear that I did take Steven on at the time, but can’t locate it at the moment. Perhaps I just thought, “Well, that’s Steven M. Cohen oversimplifying for the sake of emphasis again,” or “Well, lists are dead to Steven…” Certainly, when I wrote The Dangling Conversation, I worked on the assumption that lists were and are far from dead.

By the way, when you’re at BlogJunction, go back to yesterday’s posts about real libraries and virtual services. As one who’s been saying “And, not or” for more than a decade now, I can’t help but agree. (Wouldn’t it be nice if folks like, say, Barbara Quint recognized that, at least for public and academic libraries, real librarians working in actual physical libraries with real collections continue to be important for their “placeness” as well as for the, ahem, “information” locked up in those collections?)

5 Responses to “The undeath of lists”

  1. Seth Finkelstein Says:

    List aren’t dead. But they have aged significantly.

    Many (not all, not completely, not entirely – but many) of the higher-level people who used to use open mailing-lists as an outlet have moved to running their own blogs. Because why be one among many when you can be a star?

    Again, that isn’t all there is to lists. But it’s a factor I’ve noticed.

    Radio isn’t dead. But radio dramas are.

  2. Elizabeth McKenty Says:

    I don’t think good lists have aged significantly. Lists may have “stars” (many do), but lists are much more open to give-and-take than any blog I know. I love Web4Lib for the fascinating discussions, like the recent “in defense of stupid users” that morphed into “Amazon vs. Google as role model” and included responses for at least 30 different people. But I also like what I think of as reminders-from-the-outside-world-not-to-think-our-navels-are-all-engrossing (“please help me unsubscribe” posted to the list). Or the roll up our sleeves what’s-wrong-with-this-code stuff, though I am never any help.

    Plus, there’s the ability to respond directly, easily, and privately, to the sender. Don’t get me wrong, I love my library blogs. But do not take away my lists! It is another “and not or” :).

  3. Norma Says:

    I remember when listservs first became really popular, some librarians were questioning whether we needed our small task groups at national meetings because everything was talked about on listservs. Some questioned why we needed to meet at all.

  4. Eli Says:

    There’s a diversity of voices that’s present on a list (and boy, do I have a hard time not adding “-serv” onto that) that even the some of the best of group blogs have yet to master (and strangely, some of the most conversational blogs I’ve read have been LiveJournal communities — take that as you will). And at some point, wikis may become conversational, but they don’t seem to be yet.

    Also, Seth:

    Radio isn’t dead. But radio dramas are.

    As a fan of L.A. TheatreWorks and a huge, adoring, screaming-fangirl devotee of Joe Frank, I would argue that radio dramas aren’t dead, either. Not a primary medium for drama nowadays, but it’s not non-existent, either. Which may be the case for lists …

  5. walt Says:

    Good comment(s).

    I don’t find it surprising that some LiveJournal blogs–or whatever they are–are highly conversational. That seems to be the nature of LiveJournal.

    Some of these discussions are going to result in comments at C&I, I do believe: people have raised interesting and thoughtful issues that deserve a wider audience than this here weblog.


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