Authority, Formality, Reality, Hypocrisy

I rarely do “link love” posts (which are on the decline anyway), and I’m trying to stick to my new rule of not basing comments on second-hand conference reporting, but…

This is just plain outrageous (specifically the second part–the first is more, well, silly).

Formal language does not grant authority. And it is certainly not the case that proper columns in print publications (in the library field or anywhere else) avoid informal language and personal observations. I’m sure there are publications with such rigid Editorial Standards that all columns are mangled into Proper Lifeless Neutral Prose, but I give up on such publications pretty quickly. Columns should function differently than formal articles, just as scholarly articles should function differently than other kinds of articles and reports even in the same journal.

Let’s go a little further. In the library field, it is my belief that degrees don’t confer authority, that the form of publication doesn’t confer meaningful authority, and that the concept of The Important People and the rest of us has long outworn its shelf life.

Michelle Boule (“Jane”) says useful and important things–some of which I disagree with (this is by no means a bad thing). She also posts casual blog entries that are part of real life. That’s exactly, precisely as it should be; it’s how her blog works and intelligent readers have (I believe) no difficulty distinguishing the off-the-cuff remarks from the serious arguments.

I believe in print publications and the role of refereed articles…as part, but not all, of an increasingly complex set of media and interactions. I also believe that blogs serve increasingly important roles in exposing and discussing real-world issues in librarianship (and other fields, of course).

Think of this as a temporary placeholder for an essay that needs to be written. When John Dupuis wrote his wonderful and thoughtful review* of Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change**, he noted that most of my source material was from blogs. Specifically:

Another really interesting thing about this book was how it advanced the form of scholarship. Here’s a self-published book with very serious intentions, not lightweight at all, which mostly referenced blogs in the bibliography. I find that really interesting. A book that’s about how librarians should engage the most important issues in their professional practice and it’s mostly propelled by bloggers and not by reams of articles in the official scholarly journals. By my quick count, 151/187, or about 80% of the items in the bibliography are blog posts. And he makes us sound pretty good too. And I’m not saying that because my blog appears three times in the bibliography. For the most past, Crawford showcases the best writing and the best thinking out there among the liblogs (except for Chapter 8, mentioned above, but even that showcases some real passion too); we are committed and engaged and thinking about the issues. If you are a liblogger and your colleagues are a bit skeptical about the the worth of what you are doing, show them this book. What we do, if we do it well, is worthy for our tenure files, for our professional CV’s. Our work on our blogs should be counted the same as any one else’s contributions in traditional media based on its intrinsic quality not its format or place of publication. Thanks to Crawford, we have an example of what we are capable of presented in a somewhat more traditional format and written by someone whose contributions to the field cannot be easily dismissed. We appreciate the support.

That was not accidental, and the shift in source material for Cites & Insights has not been (entirely) accidental. I need to write up what I’m thinking and doing in this regard, and that writeup belongs in the ejournal, I think. Soon. Real soon.

Meanwhile, I’m certainly not one of the Young Upstarts, but I’m with “Jane” 100% on this one…

* A review that could not, I believe, have appeared in most print journals, as it’s over 1,600 words long–and, to be sure, it wouldn’t have appeared for another 2-8 months if it did.

** I’m learning that self-publishing requires promotion whenever appropriate. But it’s also true that, if Balanced Libraries is a significant contribution to the literature–which I believe it is–that contribution rests on the work of scores of bloggers.

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