Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Something on L2

Ok, so that was about the best title I could come up for a label that to be honest is making me sick. If you are like me, sick of the label and hype, you can stop reading now. Believe me, you won't offend me because as of late I am avoiding much of the Library 2.0 discussion (if it can be called "discussion"). I finally read Walt Crawford's essay from Cites & Insights entitled "Library 2.0 and 'Library 2.0.'" I have been putting it off. I am a bit exhausted by the term. I know that it will either pass, or something will come to pass. Either way, the news will spread, and I will find out, and if there is something useful, I'll learn it and put it to use if I can. When I started blogging, and more importantly, trying to keep up with the many ideas librarians and information professionals share, this is not quite what I envisioned. At any rate, I am reading Walt's document, and much of this I wrote as I was reading, so in a way, it is not exactly the neatest document because I am somewhere between trying to make sense of things to myself and trying to stay away. I read his work because I respect the author, and I know I will find something interesting and thoughtful. The fact that he has basically provided a history to this whole L2 meme with a good critique is just a bonus. I also read it because more and more people are referring to the document, so it's about time I find out.

Like Walt, after a while, I needed an overview of what has been said, preferably an overview not written from Mount Ubertechno or from Luddite Valley. I don't see this forthcoming other than Walt's piece (at least not with the systematic attempt to cover the voices and what they said). So, in reading this, I am not sure what it is I am looking for. I guess I like the concepts of technology and service, but I dislike the bandwagon.

Walt writes about public libraries and the push to make them primary information centers. Yet public libraries are so much more. Sure, they provide information; they should be especially good at local information. I cannot thank enough my local branch that got me the information on registering my vehicle, the local schools, etc. when I was moving into town. They also let me check my e-mail with just an ID. Maybe we should be looking more at libraries as places: places to come together, places to get some good reading and A/V, places where you can get good information from experts. This last is not emphasized enough. Anyone can pull up information from the Internet, assuming they have access to it. Now, whether that information is good or not, relevant or not to the patron's needs is the real question. I don't visit my local branch as much as I could, but knowing such a welcoming place is there is very reassuring. Is this community mission not part of L2? I wonder. Am I asking the wrong question? As some bloggers have pointed out, some of these philosophies are not new, well at least the service part. I could be wrong, but for me it simply goes back to how do I serve my community. The rest is just details.

Walt's observations on IM versus VR made me think. He writes,

"I am inclined to believe that using IM for online reference is a good thing (presumably alongside email, phone, and in-person reference for persons with different needs and preferences)--but, you know, virtual reference was a Movement not all that long ago."
He suggests then we should look at any bandwagon carefully before committing. This resonates with me because I have a very open philosophy with my students when it comes to them asking for help. In-person, phone, e-mail are all open. Heck, if smoke signals worked for them, I would learn how to send them too. I have been giving thought to making my IM public to them. Not that I am expecting a sudden influx. I just see it as another way to be available. Yet to some this is something I should have done sooner, after all, according to Michael Casey, one of the defining moments of L2 is that 2005 was the tipping point for IM. I may be running behind.

I find it interesting to read the 62 points of view. They are diverse, and they are often opposites. Going on the basis of those lines, I don't see much of the overview or distillation I was looking for, not that we should expect one. Some of the views are disturbing; others make sense; still other views are more alienating. Maybe it's like a Zen thing, go with the flow or let it flow around you kind of thing, like a stone and a river. I certainly don't have the answer. Maybe I don't need an answer. Maybe I need to know if it (whatever "it" is) works and how it will help me assist my students and academic community better. Seems simple enough, well, to a simple librarian like me anyways.

I have to chuckle when Walt ponders, "I guess wanting to contemplate something in print form is awfully old fashioned." I chuckle because there is a lot I contemplate in print: articles, lesson plans, drafts for pieces I write (such as this one), books, and so on. If that is old fashioned, then so be it. I'll just say that there is something about writing the old fashioned way, making notes, etc. Pondering that may be a short reflection someday, but for now, I'll just say it works for me.

Maybe to a measure, this is part of what bothers me: the confrontation. As Walt asks, "why is it necessary to denigrate current service offerings in order to suggest new ones? How about saying 'We're doing great for some people. Can we reach others with appropriate library services within our resources?'" (emphasis in the original). Unfortunately, our profession has some who would easily denigrate their own colleagues if they are not keeping up fast enough. I made a note on that here if anyone is interested. I think we can do many wonderful things with new tools, but is providing books really so behind the times? As an educator, I am all for improvement and innovation, but I also see value in the things that actually work already. Yes, there is room for improvement, but we should also be taking pride in the things we do well.

Maybe a part of me is just rebelling. I am not very appreciative of experts (with or without quotation marks) telling me what to do, especially when they expect you to do it because they say so. "This is it, be with it or get dumped on the ditch of the information superhighway." This meme seems to be getting more of this vibe. Even the cases where some people want to be conciliatory, I get the impression they do it with gritted teeth. It's just an impression from the trenches.

I'll disagree with Walt on him not being sure that L2 can be parodied. I think it's just waiting to happen. If Web 2.0 is already being parodied, as this example shows, L2 cannot be far behind. Actually, this meme is just asking to be parodied, and it is a pity I am not the one to do it. Not one of my gifts I am afraid, but I have faith it will happen. If it happened to ALA'a Read Campaign, it sure can happen to L2. I am just wondering who would sue who if a parody happened.

So, at the end of the day, when it is all said and done, what bothers me? The confrontational tone. The apparent fact that much of the movement seems to leave a lot of people behind. While librarianship often talks about equal access, much of L2, and Web 2.0, assumes what Blyberg calls permaconnected. Here is a question: what good is it for me to have the latest CD or DVD burner in a public library if I lack the technology to use what I created at home or on the road? This is just one question. There are similar questions that are not getting asked, or simply conveniently tossed aside, in the rush to have the latest in the bandwagon. The hype also bothers me, but hype has a way to pass. What's to like? I like the new tools and ideas, even if they seem to be proliferating faster than a bunch of rabbits, and some of it proliferating with a high redundancy. I mean, how many more social bookmarkers do we need? Choice is a good thing, but after a while, one cannot learn every single tool. I sure as heck ain't opening a new account on yet another bookmarker or other tool just because it is the hip thing to do. Show me it actually works, and I may look. If I am convinced, I may even pass it along. I also like the philosophy, if it can be called that, of striving to be better and to serve others better. It seems like such a simple philosophy, and yet some make such a fuss over it. I have not found any deep wisdom, but it was interesting to read Walt's compilation and reflection. Anyhow, I don't know about the rest of you, but I am headed back to my trench.

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled."

--Richard Feynman, U.S. Educator and Physicist

"Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present."

--Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

"A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization."

--Samuel Johnson


walt said...

Good,thoughtful comment. I would clarify one thing: I believe "L2" is, to some extent, self-parodying. Which makes it hard to parody--how would you distinguish the parody from the reality?

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Walt: Well thanks for stopping by. A good question, how would we distinguish the parody from the reality? L2 seems to be growing on its own steam, the movement as well as "the movement." And what saddens me, if things are any indication, is that some things will get ugly before they get better. I just read Stephen's Lighthouse, and his post on L2 about all the libraries failing to keep up was not exactly, shall we say, inclusive? At any rate, you keep up the thoughtful work and keep the rest of us informed. Best, and keep on blogging.

Mark said...

I saw that post of Stephen's too and was all set to jump on it; may still.

I did see a wonderful "nonexistent" post in response to it though. I just wish the author hadn't turned off comments so I could thank them.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Mark: Well, if you jump, I will certainly look forward to your writing. The thing that irks me is that some of these evangelists all proclaim (or try to) how they want to be inclusive, yet very often they do that in the midst of putting down those that don't keep up. And they sure as heck don't denounce their fellow preachers who go on a "fire and brimstone" approach. And what did you mean "nonexistent"? Did you see it one moment and it was deleted? Yea, there is another thing that makes me wonder at times. People who turn their comments off. I am sure some have their reasons, but still, closes the conversation. Just a thought. As always, best, and keep on blogging.

Anonymous said...

I've done a Web 2.0 parody, I could possibly do an L2 one as well, but I don't feel angry enough to do it yet. My emotion about the deteriorating tone of this debate is more of disappointment than anger. Not that I haven't played with ideas for a parody in my bunker ...

morgan said...

Whoops - the above comment wasn't meant to be anonymous.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Hello there Morgan. Thanks for stopping by. I personally don't have the energy to write a parody (certainly not because I have not thought of it once or twice), so if you do, you have to share. Best, and keep on blogging.