Monday, October 17, 2005

On gatekeeping and other questions

This was prompted by another librarian blogger who recently read Mr. Walt Crawford's recent edition of Cites and Insights. Mark Lindner, of . . . the thoughts are broken, takes a look at some of the questions that Mr. Crawford poses. I initially was going to leave a comment at Mark's blog, but as I found myself making some notes in response, the comment became a bit longer. Taking notes often is a sign that one actually wants to write more than just a comment, so here go some of my thoughts in the hope of continuing the conversation.

I did read Walt's article and the parts that Mark refers to. I will admit that at the time I did not give it much thought in the sense I went on to read other things. Maybe a part of me also had the feeling someone else would pick up on it, and I would not have to write about it. In that regard, it seems I was right. It also seems I ended up writing about it anyhow. Mark poses an interesting question in regards to the "widely read library bloggers." He observes that "most of them write short posts often, or mainly, linking to other items." I wonder if that is a symptom of widely read bloggers in pretty much every field. Political blogs are a fine example of this. The "widely read" (dare I use the label "A-list"? Guess I just did) in politics seem to be nothing more than collections of links. I have found that if I want some good content in that regard, I have to dig for it and look for the less trodden paths. There is nothing wrong with providing links for others to look at. However, I suppose that I like some content, some thought, something to ponder much like Mark does. Some of the "widely read" in our field have become link collections. Mark mentions that he is wresting with the idea of removing his "widely read" bloggers from his aggregator. I am not quite ready to take that step yet. But as I look at my roll on Bloglines, I notice that I have a large share of "smaller" folk (there is a bad label for you, as if the size or readership mattered when it comes to the quality of the content) in my aggregator. As of late, I notice that they tend to have more of what I find to be interesting.

On the topic of gatekeepers, do we have to be gatekeepers? Sure, I like the idea of opening doors; I do it almost every day. But for me, I open those door leaving it up to the patrons to walk through or not. I think I like the idea better of a bridge builder, someone who builds bridges so others can cross and get to their destination.

On the question of "do you really want to know what some array of strangers concluded about an article—or do you want to be guided by a handful of "trusted strangers," the bloggers you believe offer good advice (5)?" (This comes from Cites and Insights). I will have to side with wanting to be guide by the handful that I trust. I think this is a bit of common sense, but it is also something that is part of our profession. We often tell students and patrons to evaluate sources and to choose the best sources to meet their needs. Librarians do this for a living, so it would be contrary to what we do if we just took the word of just anyone without some verification. It has to be noted that trust is something that is earned. Actions, in my case at least, speak very loudly and clearly. So, if someone has proven to provide good insights on a topic consistently, given thoughtful analysis and guidance, that is where I am placing my trust. Does that make me elitist? I don't think so, but if some people see it that way, so be it. I don't see myself morally superior in the sense Mr. Crawford may suggest. It is my choice, an informed one I hope.

From Mark's post, I also like how he explains what he hopes from the "widely read." He makes the clear distinction from expectations. I have to agree to the extent that they are bloggers, and bloggers will always do whatever they want to do. It is the ability to roam and wander as one pleases that makes blogging what it is. Expectations, like bets, are off. Having said that, maybe what I will say next may sound quaint, old fashioned, or even idealistic. I come from the "Uncle Ben School of Thought" where you learn that "with great power comes great responsibility." If you have a gift, a power, an ability, you should make the best use of it. I could go on, but I was never one to preach too much. I am starting to get self-conscious writing this. All I know is, at least for now, I had someone inspire me to be a librarian. Some day it will be my turn to do it for someone else, and thus I will have repaid the faith placed in me. That's just me though. Maybe my hopes are a bit higher that those who have so many ears tuned to them would do more. Yes, I know a lot of them do plenty, and that is admirable, something to look up to. Yet I think Mark brings up an interesting idea in hoping for a little more. Just a thought.


walt said...

Another excellent post (I've already commented on Mark's post), which I'll print and save for reflection and commentary.

Just one small favor, if you don't mind: It's "Walt." My father might be "Mr. Crawford," but anyone who's met me knows that the mantle sits uneasily in this case. And hey, I'm young yet: Only 60.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Walt: Thank you for stopping by. I always make Cites and Insights a "must see" the moment I know it is out. And, fair enough, "Walt" it is. I usually play it "safe" with people I have not met personally until they tell me otherwise. What I am discovering is that I am meeting many wonderful and talented people through their writings. Keep on blogging and reflecting.


Mark said...

Ah, now I see how you knew Walt commented on my post. And he "corrected" me long before I met him, too.

Excellent addition to the conversation, thanks.