I know better than to comment at The Shifted Librarian. Truly I do. It always gets me in trouble–particularly because Jenny Levine’s writing sometimes pushes my buttons, and because disagreeing with Jenny Levine is dangerous sport. But…
A while back, various bloggers were putting together various lists about all the ways libraries were driving away “techie librarians” (not the phrase all of them used). I read the lists. I have no doubt many of the complaints are valid.
Then, in this post, Jenny Levine changed the rhetoric by following a quote from a comment with this line:
How do we start the discussion about keeping our movers and shakers?
Suddenly, there was that pat phrase, the LJ Seal of Stardom, “movers and shakers.”
Maybe I overreacted.
Here’s my comment, in full:
Maybe you need to ask whether you just want to keep “movers and shakers,” the high-profile, self-promoting elite, or whether you’d also like to keep the people who make sure the innovations work properly and keep working. You know, the ones who’ll probably never be in LJ’s annual festival and might not be on the speaking tour, but who have the skills and determination to see projects through to the end. (Once in a while, a determined project person becomes higher-profile, almost by accident, and usually to their considerable astonishment, but that’s not the typical pattern.) Or are us drudges disposable?
Now, I’m sorry, but does anyone out there truly believe that “us drudges” is meant to be taken literally, as saying that anyone who isn’t a Mover and Shaker is a drudge? Sure, some of the Movers and Shakers aren’t self-promoters; that word was probably overreaction.
I won’t quote Jenny Levine’s entire response; this entry is going to be long enough as is and you can read the whole comment stream from the earlier link. Here’s a relevant portion:
Walt, interesting that you’d call yourself a “drudge,” considering how much publishing (American Libraries, books, etc.), speaking (repeated references in your blog, ALA Top Trends Panel in June, etc.), and now blogging (walt.lishot.org) you’ve done. I’m also not sure where “self-promoting elite” comes from if you’re not including yourself in that (cites & insights, etc.), and not too many drudges get invited to Microsoft’s Search Champs conference (as you were)!
I never said don’t keep a well-rounded staff; you’re obviously reading my post through your own filter. Maybe you’re not aware of them, but there are awards out there for support staff person of the year, trustee of the year, reference librarian of the year, director of the year, etc. that nicely highlight all job roles in our profession. In addition, there are plenty of “drudges” from all walks of librarianship blogging and writing journal articles, which has brought them fandom, readers, new friends, and public notice. Frankly, I’m stunned you’d discont those folks so easily. After all, even “movers and shakers” and “self-promoting elite” had to start out as unknown, young babes in the woods, too. Share with us how you went from drudge to self-promoting elite and I’m sure we’ll see that same pattern.
It’s gone on since then. I thought earlier about bringing part of the conversation over here, but thought better of it–until “Matt” made a comment that I pretty much entirely agree with, but referred to me in a manner that suggested that he thought I felt differently, that I was missing the point. So I tossed in a brief little comment about why I’d gotten embroiled in this discussion in the first place:
Matt, I’ll comment here again since you mention me. Yes, there should be progress and dialogue, respect and credit (which runs both ways). There’s a sentence in your comment that gives me pause (does not being high profile automatically mean that “the work in and of itself” is all the reward you should expect?), but never mind.
Here’s the thing: All of the various lists about how to lose techie (or whatever) librarians were going along. Fine. I might gather some of them up and comment. I might not. I thought the various lists had to do with problems affecting low-profile techies as well as high-profile techies. It was Jenny L. who specifically talked about movers and shakers, changing the tenor of the whole discussion. To reverse your comment: Those who do get a lot of fanfare and credit, the so-called movers and shakers, presumably have their rewards: Fanfare, credit, and most likely an easier time moving to a better job if they get frustrated. (In some cases, maybe those who are frustrated with their library situations just aren’t a good fit and really should be elsewhere; in other cases, probably a majority of cases, there needs to be more mutual respect, understanding, and awareness. Of all “generations” for all “generations.”)
I only got involved here because of Jenny Levine’s sudden addition of “movers and shakers” to the discussion. That simple.
Here’s Jenny Levine’s response to that comment, in full:
Walt, it’s only “simple” in the sense that you define all non-”movers and shakers” as drudges. Talk about over-simplifications….
Hopefully this word count is small enough for you. *
Sigh. I see three different questions here that bother me a lot, so much so that I’m writing this post when I should be writing about library access to scholarship:
- The easy one: Is it really possible that Jenny Levine believes that I’m sincerely labeling everyone but the official Movers and Shakers as drudges, including myself? Am I forbidden from using rhetorical contrast? Is it really necessary to be that doggedly literal? How is it possible to read that comment and believe that I’m “disconting” (or even discounting) the people I believe are overlooked because they’re not Movers and Shakers?
- The tougher one: Am I wrong in believing that Movers & Shakers get a little too much attention in the field, and that they may just possibly have less to complain about than the people who make sure the job gets carried out properly (who probably aren’t devoid of ideas either)? Is the star system really what will move libraries forward in serving their communities?
- The toughest one, I hope: Do most of you regard Cites & Insights as self-promotion, as Jenny Levine labels it?
That one’s toughest because, if you do, then I’m outta here. Or, at least, C&I is outta here.
After all, if it’s self-promotion, it’s incompetent: Speaking engagements have declined to pretty much zero, I haven’t been submitting articles or proposed columns elsewhere, and I could probably write a book every year or two with the time I take doing C&I. (As I noted in a response, I am not speaking at Top Tech Trends at ALA, since I dropped off that group more than a year ago–but, at the request of the committee, I will be moderating the presentation this summer.)
Of course, if it’s self-promotion, it also seems odd that, when I refer to it, I don’t always pound home the full title, Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large. (The only reason I haven’t dropped the last three words is because they are part of the official title and I don’t want to deal with getting a new ISSN and all that…but the type for that portion of the banner keeps getting smaller, and the “real title” doesn’t include the last three words.)
So, where do we go from here?
I’ve had a great run–never as a Mover & Shaker, but as a contributor in a number of different areas. I’ve been able to accomplish a lot more than I ever expected, mostly through keeping on keeping on. (Starting out by writing MARC for Library Use because it had to be written and nobody who was qualified to write it would touch it–so I wrote it out of sheer desperation.) And yes, I’ve even done a few dozen keynotes and a few dozen other speeches, always by invitation, never through self-promotion.
I like to think that I still contribute to the field, primarily through C&I.
But damn, there’s a lot of other stuff I could just as well be doing. All of it suiting my basically-lazy personality better, some of it more fun. If Jenny Levine is right, then maybe it’s time to hang it up.
Comments invited–here or via email [easiest: waltcrawford via gmail].
*Footnote: The smiley face is WordPress’ doing: It auto-translates certain emoticons from text into icon. The original response has a semicolon, hyphen, right-paren.