Thursday, July 28, 2005

Michael Gorman speaks. . .again

Being a common grain of salt in the big soup of ALA, I often think I can stay away from Mr. Gorman and his pronouncements. I will be direct in saying that I do not like the guy, or rather what he represents (I have not met him personally. For all I know, he is very likable in person). I have his words and actions to go on, and it seems everytime he says something, he sinks himself just a little bit more, not to mention the profession. That is what irks me, the fact that he seems to effortlessly make the rest of us in the profession look bad. His latest pronouncements are found in an interview he gave to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and in another interview to the GJ Sentinel. Readers can find responses to Mr. Gorman's remarks from the Librarian in Black and the Free Range Librarian K.G. Schneider. Both blogs feature, in addition to the authors' remarks, comments from others interested which I think are reflective of how people feel about the issue. I had seen Ms. Schneider's post earlier, and I left the following comment there:

"And then the "older librarians" wonder why is it the "young guns" have it in for them? With a comment like he won't be going to jail at his 64 years for anyone dealing with an issue of intellectual freedom, it's no wonder. He should not worry though, I am sure there are plenty his age who would be willing to stand up for what is right. And if not, plenty of us on the younger end willing to do it. Also, I have to agree with other commenters. The guy represents the organization; he is a very public face. He really should be thinking before he opens his mouth because he should know reporters and others will actually pick up on stuff like that, then use it against the rest of the profession. Just a thought."
I don't want to sound glib or light about the generational issue that seems to be another of those things that keeps coming back. But in this case, when Gorman mentioned his 64 years of age, he heaped it on himself. During my time as a public school teacher, during my time in library school, and my time teaching college, I always thought that standing for the right to be able to read what one wished in peace and without interference from Big Brother was an important right. I thought it was something that the American Library Association stood for, after all, they have that whole Office of Intellectual Freedom as well as other resources. So, to hear the president of the organization say that he is not going to jail at his age over "that kind of stuff" sounded both dismissive and, well, idiotic. "That kind of stuff" is supposed to be the stuff that we stand for in this profession. It is the kind of stuff that many librarians have fought for, written about, educated others, and defended over time. I said it in Ms. Schneider's blog, and I will say it here again, if he is not willing to go to jail, I will be willing to go if need be. I do have faith others his age would do the same, if it came to that, but I am sure the remark also gave some of us younger ones cause to think. If that is how a senior member of the profession, and the president of our professional organization, really feels about issues of privacy, what kind of example does that give? How am I supposed to look at it? Oh yea, my organization stands for intellectual freedom and your right to privacy, just as long as it does not make me uncomfortable? I don't relish the thought of jail; I am sure most librarians don't. I am also sure others over time who have gone to jail over civil disobedience or to stand for what is right did not cherish it either. But they went to jail if it came to that because it was right, because it was important, because someone had to make a stand in order to bring change. If that is how Mr. Gorman really feels, I am seriously concerned about the message such a remark says. And if it was a faux pas, he probably should at least clarify it. As it stands now, it looks poor on him and on the organization he represents.

I am sure Mr. Gorman will have his defenders, especially among the cataloguing community given his involvement with AACR, but I don't think that should give him a free pass. And before anyone says I have it for cataloguers, I will say it here nice and clear that I have the utmost respect for cataloguers and their work. For one, they make my work possible. For two, it is a public service as well. As for Mr. Gorman, he at least needs to think before he speaks. And if that is how he truly feels, then this humble librarian at least has a reason to be concerned.

And I am not even going into the whole Google thing. I will leave that to others who have already done a better job than I could.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Excellently written! I am so glad Karen linked to this post. I left this comment by Gorman alone for once, although it has me more upset than any of the previous ones, because I knew someone else would actually do a much better job of commenting on it than I would. Again, I'm glad I was right and that I found it.
Now I'm supposed to be weeding my aggregator, but I've added your two blogs anyway.