Tuesday, May 03, 2005

So, the latest on Dean Cronin

Seems my old dean has a penchant for speaking against people who use blogs, to put it mildly. To put things in perspective, I found out about this myself through some of the other fine bloggers out there that help me keep up. It does not surprise me however that Blaise Cronin would hold such an attitude considering that outside his little niche in strategic intelligences, he does not seem to get out much. This is a library dean who would come to the library only when he absolutely had to, and if he actually had to ask a reference question, the pain was quite apparent on his part.

I found out initially from a posting in the Free Range Librarian, who provides a brief commentary and then some links to where he found it. Actually, it is a bit more than a brief commentary, a passionate piece of writing, but when you have one of your favorite worktools slammed by a library school dean who seems more centered on Informatics than actual librarianship, you just have to get passionate. As I type this, I am trying not to get too passionate about it since I just graduated last year from the program at IUB, where I thought Cronin would be retiring only to find that he was actually invited back. So much for undoing the damage. The Free Range Librarian links to Tame the Web, Mr. Michael Stephen's weblog. He has a link to the news item in the SLIS Newsletter, so I went and took a look as well.

After reading the piece, I don't know if I should be angry, offended, outraged, disappointed, or a mix of any of the above. Since most of what he wrote has been cited in other places, I will leave it to any readers who visit here to look at the text and decide for themselves. What struck me as smug is the last line where he says librarians know better? Librarians know better??? What kind of condescending attitude is that given all the librarians out there that blog for a variety of reasons? So, are the blogging librarians all narcissistic and crassly egotitistical exhibitionists? I don't think so, but I do think it is time Dr. Cronin takes another look at the blogosphere and check out some of the fine librarians blogging out there (this is where I remind myself to maybe add some of those fine blogs to my list of links). Here I thought that Michael Gorman was an exception rather than a rule regarding those in high library science positions, only to have the dean of my own school go and pull a "Gorman" to the nth degree. I wrote a few thoughts on Gorman last month, and I thought I would be able to take a break from that, only to see it come back and hit close to home.

From what I have seen, most of the library bloggers out there blog not only for themselves, but for others, whether they do it to educate, as a public service, to show how technology can be better implemented, or for other reasons. Why do I blog? Well, in my case it started as a small experiment. I was fully aware of blogs, just never thought of myself as being able to say anything let alone post it out there for others to see. So, I took my plunge. Now that I have been at it for a short while, I can see it as a useful tool. For one, a place to document some of my experiences as a librarian, and if in some small measure those experiences help out another librarian or an aspiring one, so much the better. For another, it helps me think. I have always been a believer in the power of writing and reflection. I still do keep a personal journal in print (yes, there are some things that are really private), but blogging has allowed me some freedom to explore ideas. By reading and exploring other blogs, I learn from others and bring some of that knowledge back to my own experience. Do I know better? Only in the sense that as a librarian I am a professional skilled in evaluating the information I come across, including blogs, websites, print, etc. But any librarian can tell you this, and they likely take pride in providing such a valuable service. Now, I definitely don't "know better" in the sense Dean Cronin means of being higher than thou. Also, blogging allows me to share ideas about things I read and things I reflect on. Do I think all those things are the best thing out there? Heck no, but I hold the hope as I stated before that maybe someone will find them helpful or interesting. It boils down to a combination of something I do because it is helpful to me and something I do because as a librarian it is another extension of my role in public services.

I often note that people like Gorman and Cronin always find some apologist for them, someone who will say something along the lines of "if you look at it differently," or "he was only doing a satire." You can find Cronin's apologist here. While I do agree with that writer that Cronin makes a couple of decent statements, the overall tone is not excusable for someone in his position. Somehow taking such a condescending tone about others diminishes any credibility Cronin may have had. And if it means I have to rant a little, then so be it. The nice thing about blogs is you can get away with some ranting. Who says it has to accomplish anything? I think arrogant academics like Gorman and Cronin need to be called on it, not apologized for or made to look as if "they just did not mean to say it that way." Anyhow, there goes my little moment of rant.

A final note. In my explorations of blogging, I have come across various composition teachers who use blogging with their classes for various projects from class pages to ways to give their students new ways to express their voices. I wish I had some links to put here now (makes note to look into this). My point, or one of them, is that, yes, there can be some really "crappy" bloggers out there who as an educator would make me cringe, but even those often have something to say. But more importantly, blogging can be a very powerful tool, a way to empower those who did not have a voice before, a way to engage learners who might not be able to otherwise. In Dean Cronin's eyes, I am betting those composition students are just another bunch of narcissistic egotists with nothing worthy to say. Maybe in addition to stepping into a library now and then, and looking at blogs now and then a bit more, he can actually step into a real classroom (other than the highbrow strategic classes he may be teaching) and learn a thing or two. Then again, I can always hope. In the meantime, I will keep on blogging and urge others out there to do the same. To close, I would like to post a comment by Mr. Jeff Humphrey that he posted to the Tame the Web blog. He wrote the following about librarians who blog, which I think summarizes quite nicely some of the reasons why we do it:

"I see two common traits of librarians in the blogsphere. 1) They are actively finding and implementing technology to better serve their users. 2) They use every means possible to share their technology experiences with others. Overall, they are driven by action followed by observation, which leads to "publishing" their views via blogging, some of which will eventually be studied in a more academic fashion. This runs counter to an academic model of observation followed by publishing which hopefully leads to action."

As I look at it, not far from the ideal of the National Writing Project and the teacher researcher. Probably why becoming an instruction librarian seemed so natural to me. I am interested in action, then learning from it. For now, that reflection will have to wait for a later blog entry.

On a P.S. note, I found this last blog as I was wrapping up this post. I think it helped me keep a bit of perspective. Does it still make me upset the dean of my school said what he said? Yes, it does. But maybe time will prove us right, or at least vindicate us somehow. At any rate, the writer does give an interesting reminder about being a bit more thick skinned and about the value of opinions (some opinions). A different view I could not leave out as I saw it if nothing else to at least strike some balance.

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