Saturday, February 26, 2005

Of Libraries and Blogs

Time for one of my rare library-related posts.

Courtesy of Instapundit, comes this link to a column by incoming ALA President Michael Gorman:

A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web. (Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of "web log.") Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People.

I had heard of the activities of the latter and of the absurd idea of giving them press credentials (though, since the credentials were issued for political conventions, they were just absurd icing on absurd cakes). I was not truly aware of them until shortly after I published an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times ("Google and God's Mind," December 17, 2004). Then, thanks to kind friends with nothing but my welfare in mind, I rapidly learned more about the blog subcultures.

Instapundit is rather less than impressed by Gorman's argument, and especially his snidely elitist tone:

Honestly, all this does is give ammunition to the people who say that libraries and librarians are obsolete in the digital age. I've always disagreed with that position -- but if Mr. Gorman is a typical specimen I'll have to rethink my stance, given that, judging by his comments, Gorman isn't even very good at using Google.

As usual, Glenn provides links and comments from others. Conservator offers this link to Karen Schneider at Free Range Librarian, who pretty much sums things up:

I can't laugh when Gorman represents librarianship, my profession, with outlandishly reactionary comments about information technology. I can only worry.

While Gorman is right to point out that not everything is available on the Web, his utterly condescending tone does nothing to further the cause of libraries or librarians. The Google deal, whatever its flaws, will help make library material more accessible to our users, and increase their awareness of what we can provide them.

As far as Gorman's contempt for blogs, this too is cause for concern. No, blog discourse isn't always the most elevated. However, blogging has become a powerful vehicle for the free expression of ideas, to the point that certain repressive regimes have imprisoned people for doing it. You would think the head of an organization supposedly devoted to intellectual freedom would respect that.


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