Friday, November 07, 2008

Listserv egoism

A friend of mine recently said in exasperation, "Librarians are so stupid in their smugness." She was referring to what I call Listserv Divas. Divas is not gender-specific, by the way.

This is a real problem with listservs of all kinds, not just library ones, but I think it's particularly irritating in library listservs. Why? Because we are all trained in the same things, and belong to lists that (usually) reflect our interests and skills. And when I say we're trained in the same things, I'm talking the SAME THINGS...who hasn't read Michael Buckland's What is Information article? Or Arlene Taylor? Or the AACRII? We're all riffing off the same playbooks here.

I promise I'm not trying to be bitchy. But my friend has such a valid point. On two fronts.
Firstly, you have the people who assume that the people on the listserv are novices or idiots or something, and answer questions with built-in smugness and condescending attitudes. Mostly just an annoyance.
Secondly, you get the people who post questions on listservs simply to be validated against their peers in the real world. It's actually the second one that makes me more frustrated. "I said that it was this way, and my [stupid] colleague said it was this way, and I want you all to validate me and make me feel good about myself. Thanks!" What a freaking waste of my time. I read listserv posts because I think I might be able to help, not to break up cataloger schoolyard fights. And anyway, local practice dictates so much of what we do....if you want validation, go read the AACRII and then argue about it in the real world with your real peers. Having me tell you that you're right (or wrong) doesn't really solve the problem for you on a local level. Theoretical posturing doesn't get the work done.


Mark said...

Amen to the issues with AUTOCAT today ... and many other days anymore, sadly, and to the gist of this post.

But I would like to politely disagree that we are all trained in the same things anymore, if ever. I see this claimed both explicitly and, more often, implicitly in much of our literature and on blogs. But it simply isn't so.

Sure, most of us read Buckland's article and Bush's article and .... But I've been here at UIUC for 4 years now and I simply cannot talk to most of my fellow students.

Most of them will simply shy away in something between a mouse running from a cat and a deer in the headlights when they find out I'm a serials cataloger. Although, the cataloger part is more than enough to spook most of them.

Even where we have (supposedly) read the same things there should be no assumption that we have taken the same thing from them.

I guess I'm on the hook to prove my point in this too--that we all haven't received the same education--but I would really love to see something/anything backing up the other side, other than most of us read some of the same things. But that (alone) should be clear to any of us who has read the same work of fiction or AACR2 rule that we aren't getting the same thing from them as the next person.

Sorry for the picked nit of disagreement--perhaps AUTOCAT today has me riled up--but I do appreciate what you write here. I just personally find it hard to fathom having anything like the same education as the rest of my fellow students in any sort of way that amounts to any sort of a shared sense worth speaking of.

Scribe said...

No, I totally get where you're coming from. And in fact, my friend who was complaining about listservs wasn't even complaining about the same listservs that I'm on--because she's a reference librarian and I'm a cataloger. We don't speak the same language at all, realistically speaking. And you and I don't even speak the same language (serials?! gah! :), but at least when I mention a 505 field you know what I mean. Or if I ask you "what is information?" you will probably answer "an antelope!"

Mark said...

Very true! :-)

Have a great weekend.

"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.