I humbly apologize if…

…if I ever said “No public library should consider this” to any suggested new service or tool.

…if I ever said “What a stupid idea for a book” to anybody considering writing one.

…if I ever said “Nobody would want to…” to any legal and moral suggestion.

Why so apologetic?

Well, in the last week I’ve had:

  • One person respond to a request for comments on how libraries are using social networks, as research toward a book on the subject, by at least indirectly attacking the notion of publishing a book on the topic.
  • Another person–and, unlike the first case, I’m acquainted with and respect this other person–respond to a request for examples of a new service public libraries could offer (I don’t know that any do, but my next book will be making such a service easy and desirable, I believe) with an initial response (until the concept was explained a little more) that this is not something public libraries, except possibly the very largest, should be considering.

In neither case was I asking for a critique of the idea; in both cases, I was asking for specific assistance or information.

So, if I’ve done the same thing or similar, I apologize.

Now:

I do not apologize for…

…criticizing claims that Every Library or Every Librarian should do, or know, X (with very rare exceptions).

…criticizing assertions that we’ll all be doing X (again, with very rare exceptions, breathing, eating and dieing being chief among them).

…criticizing books or blog posts or comments for being simplistic or badly argued.

Nor do I expect to be free of such criticisms.

True story

When I wrote my first book in the library field, MARC for Library Use, the first publisher to which it was submitted basically didn’t think it was of any use unless I turned it into a cataloging workbook.

I took it to another publisher–who also wasn’t certain, but took a chance. The result? Certainly the most important book I wrote for a very long time, and also the best-selling book I wrote prior to co-writing Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality. And I’ll assert that the book was directly useful to thousands of people.

So, y’know, I’m not abandoning either project. In one case, I continue to believe it’s a book that will help nearly every public library strengthen its community ties. In the other, I believe it will be a revealing, helpful and timely book when it’s published.

2 Responses to “I humbly apologize if…”

  1. Leigh Anne Says:

    Unsolicited critiques can definitely sting. I’m appalled that people still issue them, often sincerely believing they are “helping.”

    Of course, writing a book is hard work. It’s so much easier to tear somebody else down than to produce something oneself.

    Best of luck with the book, Walt. I look forward to reading it when it’s published.

    Leigh Anne

  2. walt Says:

    And I’m 100% certain that I’ve issued unsolicited critiques–and am likely to continue doing so. I’ll try to remember that I should be criticizing what’s actually written or done, not–without awfully good reason–the ideas somebody’s thinking of carrying out. But I’m sure I’ll do that now and then, too: It happens.

    And thanks. There are two books involved, one in mid-process, one in the research stage. Very different books…


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