What Dorothea said

Here, to be specific. In three parts:

  • The blogga song. If I could slow it down, I could grab the three or four blogs I don’t already know about. But I’d have to stop laughing first.
  • Occasional nervousness about casual style and the real world: But I’ve been more intemperate and brusque in lists, email, and at LISNews than I am here or at Cites & Insights, so it’s probably misguided nervousness. As, I think, it may be with Dorothea. Doesn’t seem to have kept her out of the field!
  • But most of all, and the reason for this post, even though I’m not (currently) on the speaking circuit at all, I’ll back this comment of hers:

    [Quoting a library school student] I see people like Michael Stephens, Jenny Levine, and Stephen Abrams making the professional circuit at this conference and that but…what about us? What about your future colleagues? Why aren’t you people talking to LIS students? [End of quote]

    Goes two ways, chela. There’s nothing stopping you from talking to us. Walt Crawford and I were happily sparring long before I graduated library school. Pick your favorite guru and send an email. Won’t kill you. Likely to make you stronger. If you have a mind for pop-management books, call it an “informational interview.”

    When I get email or a comment or whatever, I can assure you that I don’t vet it first based on whether the person sends along proof of an accredited MLS (since I don’t have one, that would be exceedingly silly), whether they have An Appropriate Job Title, or whatever.

    I read what’s being said and try to respond accordingly. I’m guessing that true “gurus” and today’s contemporary hotshots behave similarly.

    I’d be really surprised to see any of the names the student mentioned in that quote do anything other than be responsive and helpful to an LS student (and in Michael S’s case, he’s signed up to do it for a living). [I’m making an assumption here, since none of those mentioned are close friends or acquaintances–but I’d bet I’m right.]

    I’m 100% certain that there are people in the field who have no time for newbies and for librarians-in-training. I’m 99% certain that very few of those people are present in the biblioblogosphere. And I’m nearly certain that there are a lot more established, “name-brand” librarians who would love to exchange ideas with library school students than are there who can’t be bothered.

6 Responses to “What Dorothea said”

  1. Angel Says:

    I read that post, and I agreed with the comment that Dorothea made on initial impulse. However, just telling students it goes both ways is not as easy as it sounds, and I can tell you as someone who works with students every single day. I am by no means a guru of anything. What I do is I make myself available to students, and even when they do come, very often they will come to my office with the scared look of “am I bothering you?” or “are you busy?” Of course you are not bothering me, but to a student, a good amount at least, is not that they feel the experts are not talking to them, it’s that they feel the experts are up in some mountain. Like you point out, I am sure the people Dorothea cites are more than open and helpful folks, but heck, I would be a bit apprehensive to e-mail one of them, and I am already in the profession. So just giving the “kids” a kick in the pants is not the way. I am not sure I have an answer, as someone who strives to be open and accessible. I guess I can see it from the students’ side. Best, and keep on blogging.

  2. jessamyn Says:

    I talk to library school students a lot and make it a big part of what I do at conferences which is where I interact with most of my library colleagues. I think for a lot of us at conferences there is a real bind: do you go see your friends who you don’t see often enough anyhow, or do you try to break out and meet new people with your limited time? I’ve always put a priority on not just talking to library school students, but involving them in the things that I do, remembering them when I get email from them and going to talk at library schools even if they can’t pay much (or anything).

    When I was newer to the library world, I was definitely cowed by people who seemed to really have it all figured out. There were a few proactive people who took the time to explain the lay of the land to me and save a seat for me at this or that event and introduce me around. I’ve always wanted to be that person for someone else.

  3. walt Says:

    Angel, I agree that “giving the kids a kick in the pants” is wrong. My intention–and Dorothea’s, but she has a different writing style than I do–is to encourage students to reach out, to point out that most so-called gurus are delighted to be approached, and what Jessamyn says here.

    I’m not much for formal mentoring, but I’ve certainly been (informally) mentored back in the day (and more recently–it’s fair to say that Steven M. Cohen was mentoring me on the ways of the biblioblogosphere). Since I’m an undegreed rarity in the field, I’m not a natural to be an informal mentor, but I’m always happy to do what I can. And, other than lacking an MLS, I think I’m the rule, not the exception.

    (Those who rebuff reasonable approaches will be spotted for whom they are, and the sharper students will find ways to let the library universe know about those whose self-importance has become too large.)

  4. Brian Says:

    It sounds like what students need to realize is that the gurus don’t always know what they’re talking about, and that the students probably know more than some of the gurus do about certain library or tech stuff.

    If any students are going to the Computers in Libraries conference next month (or are just in the DC area), an excellent way to meet and talk informally with some of the famous guru types is to sign up for the dine-around restaurant outings. And hang out in the hotel’s bars in the evenings. You don’t even need to be registered for the conference. I’m going to PLA this year, so I’ll miss all that.

    p.s. I was hoping that some obsessive biblioblogger would take on the task of making a linkarific list of all the sites in The Blogga Song. Haven’t seen it happen so far, so I’ll probably end up doing it myself soon.

  5. walt Says:

    Hard to argue with that, Brian; any “guru” who thinks they know more about all aspects of libraries/technology/policy and the world than today’s students has too much self-esteem.

  6. Daniel Cornwall Says:

    At the risk of sounding hopelessly ego-maniaical, I’m happy to trade e-mails with LIS students on government information or on living and working in Alaska. If any are working on federal information policy issues, there are a number of us at Free Government Information willing to talk their ear off, either by e-mail, IM or Skype.

    I’m with Walt. It never hurts to write someone. The worst they can do is tell you not to bother them again. I once wrote Noam Chomsky about an issue I believed he was mistaken on and got back a rather lengthy reply I don’t have permission to share.

    Not trying to name drop, just trying to illustrate that there is always a chance that writers and speakers will have something to say to you, even if you’re not known in their field.


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