Taking the bait

It’s hard to read this post without feeling that the writer’s trolling for reaction.

And, sad to say, I find myself taking the bait.

Here’s my take:

If what you’re doing is repackaging carbonated sugar water and trying to convince people that they absolutely must have it, a hot new name is a fundamental necessity. After all, selling people stuff they don’t need is all about branding and hype.

If what you’re doing is pointing out new ways to meet actual needs, recognizing that needs differ from person to person and library to library, that resources differ from person to person and library to library, and that some people who’ve been doing great work may not like to be told they’re old hat if they’re not on the bandwagon right this minute…well, then maybe the brand name is more of a distraction.

That’s particularly true when the brand name itself becomes a divisive issue.

I don’t believe John Blyberg, Michael Casey, Casey Bisson, Jessamyn West, Meredith Farkas, Sarah Houghton, Aaron Schmidt, Luke Rosenberger, Steve Lawson, and a bunch of others are in the New Coke business. (Or, for that matter, Steven Cohen, who was pushing social software in libraries years ago…)

I believe they’re looking for ways to solve real needs in real communities using a variety of tools, some newish, and that most or all of them recognize that each library and each community has a different set of critical needs. I’ve disagreed with each of them on occasion; I generally admire the work each of them is doing.

I believe their work would be equally effective with or without a brand name–except among librarians who really don’t buy into New Coke or like to be labeled as old hat, where the work would be more effective without the brand name.

But what do I know? I’ve only been using old and new technologies to try to make library services better for, oh, 38 years now…

37 Responses to “Taking the bait”

  1. Meredith says:

    Damn and here I was planning on re-branding myself. What do you think? Meredith 3.0? Meredith to the Extreme? Meredith Ultra? The Meredith Experience?

    I’m pleased to be on your list of people whose work you admire, especially after being recently told that I’m “old school” and not L2 (http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/index.php/2006/03/23/cil-day-2-information-literacy-and-instruction/#comment-40690) which really just broke my heart. πŸ˜‰

  2. walt says:

    Yeah, that Mark’s a real heartbreaker. (I don’t do emoticons, but…)

    I like the Meredith Experience, or maybe ChromMeridith, the shiny new version? (iFarkas?) [We saw Robots over the weekend. Time to be upgraded!]

  3. Angel says:

    I saw Mr. Abrams post, but initially did not give it much thought. Shows how I am mostly tuned out of the L2 thing. Well, I am glad you took the bait.

  4. I read that post and I groan, because here’s the thing: the patron that uses the Ideas Worth Stealing (or L2, whatever) is not going to identify it as such. They’re just going to see the Cool New Things Their Library Is Doing, and the people you really have to “sell” to are the librarians who have the ability to implement it in libraryland. I think its clear that the Library 2.0 label can make some of these librarians defensive. So why label it? Why not just say “Hey, here’s some cool stuff, and here’s how it can benefit you, your library, and your patrons.”

    In some cases, branding can be an extremely effective marketing device, but in some cases its more of a deterrent. To continue on with the pop example, anyone remember the Pepsi AM fiasco?

    (I think iWalt has a nice ring to it…)

  5. Taking a leaf off the Apple, I suggest MeredithPro. MerePro doesn’t quite have the right look, does it?

  6. walt says:

    iWalt approve this comment. Or is that “This comment is approved by Crawford XP Pro with SP2”?

    Gotta admit, I was thinking about changing the banner background on my personal site and Cites & Insights from Websafe Blue to Hot New Web Lime Green…but maybe not.

  7. Stephen says:

    ot an excuse r reason really but I was just trying to make a satirical commentary on a discussion that’s lost perspective, balance and humor. There’s a real new soda called Fruit 2.0. I thought that was funny too. I guess parody has lost currency – Sigh. Good thing librarians still defend it in court for intellectual freedom issues.

    I hope we haven’t reached the point in ths profession where one should be always just be assumed to be mean spirited? I worry our profession has no room for silliness. Sad, really.


  8. John says:

    Let’s just settle this the old fashion way once and for all. πŸ™‚

  9. I’m honored, but a bit surprised, to see I made your list, Walt. It seems that we all agree: Library 2.0 (or whatever the heck you want to call it or not call it) has some great ideas, ways to improve and create new services for our users.

    So…let’s do what I (and many others) have advocated all along. Take what we can from the ideas that Library 2.0 has engendered, and stop with all the pointless polarization of naming it, not naming it, whatever.

    We all want good service for our users. Every single one of us. Let’s stick with that and stop whining and griping at each other. It does nothing but demean the profession and the medium in which we do this (namely, the biblioblogosphere).

  10. walt says:

    Stephen, I sort of buy that–except for this post, in which you trivialize any disagreement about the branding (“So what”–what a brilliant argument!) and accuse those who are less than enthusiastic about the bandwagon as engaging in “change resistance wrapped up as commentary.”

    That was a remarkable post. After starting out with “I also think the discussion about Library 2.0 so far has been very educational for everyone with the following cautions:” you proceeded to dismiss any arguments about the name, the concepts, or the newness. In other words, it’s great to discuss this as long as it’s an entirely one-sided discussion.

    II love silliness. It was hard for me to read your post, in context of the blog’s past, as being pure silliness or parody.

    You know, here’s the funny thing. I don’t work in a library. I don’t much care if the library I use (but don’t work at) gets smeared with the “that’s so Library 1.0” side-effect (not that I think that would happen); I know they’re paying attention to their users, trying to solve real problems, and engaged in the continuous re-examination and consideration of useful changes and the needs of the community that should be part of any good library. And suggesting that my commentary, at least, was actually change resistance is so offensive and offbase that I’ll assume there was no such intent. Well, no, take that back: I do resist change for the sake of change; we have more than enough desirable changes for the sake of improvement not to get caught up in Change Fever.

    It’s pretty clear from a range of blog posts and comments that there are a fair number of dedicated, progressive, thoughtful librarians who find the brand name (and, indeed, the Movement as such) divisive and offensive, even as they could be significant players in implementing the concepts.

    It’s pretty clear that there are a lot of librarians out there who need to be able to use some of the ideas without feeling neglectful if they don’t sign on for the whole package.

    It’s pretty clear that technology as a way to improve library service is, indeed, nothing new (heck, I’m in the second or third generation of library automators, since I didn’t start until 1968, and there were lots of hot technological tools prior to automation, going back at least to Dui’s time)–although (as always) some of the new tools are both new and exciting (but still only tools). Doesn’t make the new tools any less shiny or any less useful (two very different things).

    Maybe your post was just harmless silliness. It sure did seem like trolling, though.

  11. walt says:

    Discontinuity alert: Moderating requirements (for some reason, and I can’t imagine why, Sarah’s comment triggered moderation; I know why Stephen’s and John’s did–one because it was the first comment from that address, the other because it has a link) mean that the comment above is a direct response to Stephen Abram, without seeing John’s and Sarah’s comments.

    John: Well, hell, I’m convinced. (I don’t use emoticons…)

    Sarah: You made the list because you’re one of many who are a lot more interested in the ideas and how they relate to actual library service than in brands and bandwagons. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list.

    As for your plea to stop “whining and griping”–I’d agree, but:

    If that means that people who find the brand distasteful are supposed to be quiet about it, while those who trumpet the brand and the bandwagon can do so without fear of disagreement (and can “satirize” any disagreement in the knowledge that there won’t be a response)…well, you know, I don’t see that as workable or desirable.

    If I was a big proponent of the brand, I’d like to think that I’d feel the same way (but don’t we all like to think the best of ourselves?). Honest discussion and disagreement, even heated discussion and disagreement, don’t demean the biblioblogosphere. At least not in my humble opinion.

  12. Steve Lawson says:

    I have a friend who is a DJ whose nom de jock is “Roscoe 2000,” a name he gave himself in about 1999, just knowing how beautifully dated it would sound right about now. So maybe I can be “Steve 1999” or something.

    Better, let’s continue the Coke analogy and go with their new product and shoot for “Library Zero!” I actually like that.

    Anyway, in Walt’s terms, I want more Library 2.0 and less “Library 2.0.” I don’t give a darn what you call it. I am personally not alienated by the label, but I can see that others are, so I usually avoid it. Now if you will excuse me, I need to get back to slathering lipstick on my OPAC catalog.

  13. Griping and whining is fine–as long as it’s about the issues. When it’s not, then we need to talk. It’s not at all that “people who find the brand distasteful are supposed to be quiet about it.” I don’t think anyone, anywhere, has ever said that. If people have a problem with the ideas espoused in Library 2.0, great–go at it. If people have a problem with the term, great–go at it (though I still can’t understand the violent reaction the term has induced in some). 99.99% of dicussion (both critical and promotional) has to do with the ideas that the concept includes–and that’s fabulous.

    What I have a problem with is people using an issue (any issue) as a springboard or excuse for pursuing a personal grievance with someone, using controversy over an idea to exorcise whatever personal demons they may have with the profession or people in it. Where the reaction is disproportionate to the stimulus, someone consistently attacks one or two people, one starts to notice a pattern.

    It’s interesting to me that I have only ever seen two instances of someone trumpeting the brand or the bandwagon, and yet I keep reading anecdotal references to all these times and places that people have done so.

  14. walt says:

    Fair enough. I’m not sure who the one or two people are (I’ve come under my share of personal attack in the past, albeit not on this issue) but I heartily agree that attack mode isn’t helpful.

  15. tangognat says:

    Not that I ever tired to engage in that much L2 commentary, but the references to change resistance people resisting change from the L2 folk basically convinced me that it was going to be futile for me to even attempt to engage in the discussion, and I decided to try to avoid the whole topic whenever possible.

  16. walt says:

    [I’m not responding to each comment, but I’m reading and enjoying them all. Steve L., don’t you find that just dropping the “opa” from “opac” removes some of the bristles? (Unless you’re in Greece, of course).

    (The iWalt thing is a little ironic. The Mac may be one of the great classics of wonderfully successful branding, particularly with those iconic SuperBowl ads. Only problem is, the Mac brand was so successful that Apple went from 15% market share to 2% market share…but Apple and Mac were and are certainly higher profile than boring brands like, oh, Dell…

    We’re now at the point where a product in a field that the Beatles say Apple’s not allowed to enter is bringing in more revenue than Apple Computer’s computers.

    And boy, is the next phase of the Apple vs. Apple lawsuit going to be interesting. Or not: These things tend to get settled.)

    Now there’s a digression. Which isn’t a bad idea at this point.

  17. Steve Lawson says:

    Walt, I think (but don’t know) that when Sarah says “someone consistently attacks one or two people,” the “someone” isn’t you, but another Library 2.0 skeptic, and the “one or two people” are the folks who seem to give him apoplexy on a regular basis. At least, that’s how I read it.

    And yes, I think there is nothing wrong with the noble word “catalog.” Half the users call it the “card catalog” anyway.

    Though the “Opa” idea is intriguing; makes me think we need an OPAC drinking game. Drink every time:

    * you get “Search returns no results” with no help on making a better search;
    * you can’t find your search term in the results;
    * every time you click on a cross reference that goes nowhere;
    * if the catalog has a cute acronym for a name;
    * if you can’t figure out how the results are sorted;


  18. Steven Cohen says:

    I had to look up apoplexy and found this:

    “A fit of extreme anger; rage”

    Wow. That guy must be really upset… πŸ˜‰

    As I mentioned tonight and to many of my family and co-workers today, my post which sparked a nasty but cleansing debate on my comments yesterday was not about Library 2.0, but about librarians’ searching skills. The topic could have been about fruit salad (or should I say, “fruit salad”) and I would have had the same reaction. Sure, I have my gripes with a few librarians. Don’t we all?

  19. Yes, Steven is right. Not you Walt.

    And I’m definitely up for Steven’s drinking game. Internet Librarian 2007? πŸ™‚

  20. Aaron says:

    steve! i didn’t know you used my library’s OPAC!

  21. walt says:

    Steve: I was pretty sure Sarah wasn’t referring to me.

    Hmm. The drinking game is interesting, but loads of drunk reference staff might give users the wrong impression… (Cute acronym for a name: I remember those days, which I guess are still with us, and I remember arguing against the practice–that the catalog shouldn’t be either exotic or a mascot. But I don’t name our cars or our computers either,…)

  22. walt says:

    Sorry about the delays; lots of comments seem to be hitting the moderation triggers, and I’m not “full time connected” (yes, I have broadband at home; no, I don’t have my PC on in the evening or check email more than once or twice after work).

    So any discontinuities between comments (all appreciated!) and responses (such as they are) has to do with moderation oddness.

  23. Steve Lawson says:

    >I had to look up apoplexy

    Dude, I just googled it! πŸ˜‰

    >loads of drunk reference staff might give users the wrong impression

    Yeah, I remember those Searcher’s Ed. videos in high school: don’t believe your friends who say “I search better when I’m drunk!”

  24. Steven Cohen says:

    Steve: re: apoplexy

    Ah, and I looked it up and answers.com

  25. Laura says:

    And I, meanwhile, just knew what apoplexy meant–you see, you can get something out of majoring in dead languages–but then my just knowing what it means, even if Iprovided etymology, doesn’t really qualify as a really well-vetted reference answer.

    I’m all for the OPAC Drinking Game–although given my rate of success with my library catalog, I’d be out fairly quickly.

  26. walt says:

    Twentyfive–and most of them good-natured. I think that’s a record for this here blog.

  27. I’d like to chip in here, a bit late. I don’t want to stir up more controversy now that the discussion has subsided from the controversy…

    However I want to point to Sarah Houghton’s comments about when “someone consistently attacks one or two people” and to Steve Lawson’s followup that “the ‘someone’ isnÒ€ℒt you, but another Library 2.0 skeptic, and the ‘one or two people’ are the folks who seem to give him apoplexy on a regular basis.” I have no clue who that someone is and I don’t care to know. I don’t even know in what context that said individual has vented his spleen. Maybe that someone is me, even. (I wouldn’t think I deserved that much credit, though.)

    Anyways…The point I really want to make is that, at times, there is a distressing lack of true, well-rounded conversation. That means that more than one side of a particular point of view is readily acknowledged. This tends not to happen, in my experience, even when the popular perspective is factually false and/or misinformed. People tend to readily respond to or link to posts in the biblioblogosphere with which they have agreement or sympathy. They tend to comment there, also. But if an unpopular side of the story is presented, there tends to be silence. No response. I could be wrong and misinterpreting things, but I don’t think so. Now, granted, not all critical or unpopular responses need responses in turn. But when *no* response *is* the response, time after time after time, then a pattern emerges.

    I can readily identify, for myself, one or two people (at least) in the L2 debate who really set my teeth on edge, NOT because I may disagree with them, but because their perspective seems so unalterably one-sided. Maybe this is true of whomever you’re talking about. Maybe there is frustration that has been misinterpreted as attack, at not being heard. If — repeat, IF — that is what’s going on, then that person has my sympathies. For a profession that professes to fiercely protect the rights of all perspectives, we are sometimes astonishingly intolerant of views and realities that differ from the masses.

    So let’s have discussion, by all means. But don’t be so sure that discussion in and of itself is a good thing. If there aren’t some alternative views expressed therein, the discussion is nothing but an echo chamber.

  28. walt says:

    Another excellent point, and the level of (generally polite) disagreement around here is another reason I’m so delighted with these discussions. If I was getting even 80% posts saying, in essence, “You’re right, Walt”–well, first I’d tune my mental spam filters, then I’d wonder what was going wrong, unless I was referring to Really Controversial Topics such as whether ALA should support the freedom to read.

    Incidentally, I think you can ask around and you’ll find that I do not delete comments because I disagree with the position taken. There are exceptions (hatred expressed in certain terms, use of certain terms), but other than spam, I pretty much let anything through. You want to call me an idiot or wrong, and don’t actually use expletives or group stereotypes in doing so? The comment will stand. And may or may not be responded to, since I’m frequently wrong and sometimes think I’m a bit of an idiot.

    (Well, I did delete one very brief comment yesterday, but that was because it was a request to make a tiny inconspicuous edit in another comment from the same person–which I did, before approving the first and deleting the second. Since we al maek mistkeas, it was an easy choice.)

  29. Steve Lawson says:

    @Steve Oberg: Sorry for being coy; I didn’t want to put words in Sarah’s mouth. I feel OK now in saying that the apoplectic one was Steven Cohen (which he, of course, recognized in his own comment above) and the person giving him apoplexy was Michael Stephens.

    I spell it out not just because I don’t want you to think I was trying to be cute (and because I have taken people to task for just that kind of vagueness in the past), but because Steven has posted a very moving apology to Library Stuff:

    As for the rest of your comment, I’m not sure what to say. I know that, through this whole Library 2.0 thing I have read Michael Stephens and Steven Cohen and Walt Crawford and Stephen Abram, etc. When it comes to commenting and discussing, though, I sometimes wonder if it is worth it if I’m too far apart from the original poster. Walt has mentioned recently (though I can’t find it now) starting to leave comments on blogs and then bailing out–I do that frequently when I disagree too sharply with someone. I start to question just how valuable the disucssion will be. Not all threads can be as nifty as the present one.

    Two more off-topic comments:
    (1) there are two many Steves/Stevens/Stephens in the biblioblogosphere (and Michael *Stephens* isn’t helping matters). I am chaning my name to Jessamyn.

    (2) What does WordPress have against comment previews? Walt, I’ll try and improve my print CSS if you put in a preview button for this little box.

  30. walt says:

    Jessamyn L. (OK, you said it): You didn’t even include Steven Bell. And I managed to get Mr. Cohen’s first name as Stephen once (twice?) because I was coping with Michael S…

    Preview button? Great idea, but don’t hold your breath–so far, this blog isn’t even upgraded to current WP standards. Maybe some day…

    I will note that I’m willing to fix trivial errors in comments if asked (and will do so as stealthily as possible), as long as it’s a matter of spelling or grammar, not facts or opinion.

    The unsent-comment post: OK, I can’t find it either. It’s possible that it’s a mini-essay in C&I or that I didn’t categorize it properly or that it’s a comment on someone else’s post. I know I said it, or something like that.

  31. Steve Lawson says:

    Sheesh, you don’t have to correct it, but I do know the difference between “two” and “too” (as in “too many Steves”).

    I have been posting here more often than on my own blog lately. OK if I give up See Also and just use this comment thread as my blog, Walt?

  32. Steve Oberg says:

    Steve (Lawson), no offense taken at all. And I have no idea why there are so many Steve(n)s/Stephens in the library blogosphere! But hey, Steve is a good name πŸ™‚

    I also agree that Steven Cohen’s post was very moving. I don’t agree with everything he espouses and I don’t know him personally at all, but his stock (which was high enough already) rose considerably with me.

    Now like you, I’d better get back to my own blog, er, real work.

  33. walt says:

    Steve L., I thought there might be a subtle joke, e.g., two too many…in any case, typos are the way of the world.

    Steve O., I do know Steven C. personally, have disagreed with him vehemently at times, and like him a lot.

    Work? WORK? (Sorry, a Bob Denver flashback.) (In any case, at my current 3/4 time status, I’m done…)

  34. Laura says:

    On the subject of comment previews, there’s a nifty live comment preview plug-in that both Jessamyn W. (not, of course, to be confused with Jessamyn L.) and I use. Of course, I just copied it from her–but if I can install a WordPress plug-in successfully, anyone can.

    I have a story about calling myself Laura 2.0 that I was going to go into earlier, but it’s too complex and tragic for comment fodder. If anyone’s really curious, hit me up at a conference some day. There are quite a few Michaels out here in biblioblogosphere land–and Michael Stephens is like a double whammy in name duplication. Thank goodness for hyperlinks!

    And while I’m at it wiht this insanely long comment at the bottom of a long comment thread: Walt, have I ever mentioned that I love the font you use on this blog? I don’t know what it is, but it’s pretty.

  35. walt says:

    Laura…first, I’ll think about it.

    Second, well, your comment isn’t that long–and I haven’t thought about the typeface for Walt at Random, in a long time, partly because I’m one of those arrogant bastards who insists on using my own preferred typeface for all websites (I get so *@# sick of Arial/Helvetica…), using the Accessibility switch in IE and the Advanced controls on the font options in Firefox. (I see everything in Arrus BT; while I like Berkeley Book even better and use it for C&I, it doesn’t work as well in a browser.)

    So…let me see, looking at the template and turning off my browser typeface overrides…

    Ah, that makes sense: I use Book Antiqua as first choice, Palatino as second, “serif” as the fallback. Book Antiqua (a contemporary rendering of Palatino, but slightly better designed for body text) should be installed on every Windows PC; the Palatino fallback should take care of Mac users. I deliberately chose typefaces that are part of the standard distribution for the operating systems. Palatino’s a little fancy for body type (the “Y” is the most flamboyant character), as it was actually designed as a heading type–but it’s probably the nicest body type among those that are on most everyone’s PC, and Book Antiqua is an excellent rendering.

    As may be obvious, I still care about this stuff, albeit not as much as I used to. You’re right: Book Antiqua does look nice on this blog.

  36. Laura says:

    Ah–I knew it was familiar from somewhere. I used Book Antiqua for my undergraduate thesis. I also went through a Palatino phase at some point, and later a Hoefler Text phase–I used that for my MFA thesis. I’m between fonts now, and I don’t really know very much about them, but my father was a hobby printer, and I must have inherited some of the taste. I certainly liked to play with the stuff when I was small.

  37. walt says:

    Laura, If I had the tools and time, I’d love to figure out just how different Book Antiqua and Palatino actually are–or whether Book Antiqua is just a pure recutting with a different name (since typeface designs can’t be copyrighted or patented–but typeface names can be trademarked). Excellent READ offshoot, by the way!