Saturday, April 19, 2008


Librarians are bossy

The younger, 2.0 librarians are quite proud that they don't "shush," can wear trendy clothes and tattoos, and have Wii and e-books streaming out the wazoo in their libraries. But they are still just as bossy as my generation and the generation who were my supervisors and revisers (in the old days of the 1960s, everything you did was revised or inspected by someone above you in seniority and position). Here are some rules to participate in an electronic list by a group called Web4Lib. Note: each statement could stand alone and be perfectly understood, but in true librarian fashion each has to be expanded and explained, some with parentheses. (Librarians love parentheses.) A version of these rules appear everywhere that people are sharing information on the web, but I'm betting that a librarian is somewhere way back in the family tree of every listserv and Usenet BB. Don't let those IT or OT folks pull your leg. They are really librarian wannabees who had better math grades. In fact, I think Moses was the first librarian--at least he was good at making lists and organizing information.

Guidelines for Appropriate List Behavior

The following guidelines are offered as advice for how to best participate in this discussion in a manner that will both contribute to the experience of all readers and also reflect well on you.

Say something substantial. Simply saying "I agree" (in so many words) or "I disagree" (in so many words) does not meet this guideline. Specific technical questions are, however, quite appropriate, as are brief answers to such questions.

Say something new. Mere redundancy will not convince an opponent of their error. Explaining the same argument differently in an attempt to make them see the light has not been proven to be an effective strategy.

"Getting the last word" is for children. [Yikes--how condescending is that!] We're all beyond the age when we should be concerned with being the one to end the argument. Just because you are the last to speak doesn't mean you won the argument.

Agree to disagree. The likelihood of convincing someone to change a strongly held opinion is nil. State your case, but give up on the idea of converting the heathen.

Take "conversations" off the list. When list interaction becomes two-sided (two individuals trading comments or arguments) it is a sign that you should take the discussion off the list and correspond with that person directly. If the discussion was of interest to the general membership you will see others posting on the topic as well.

Remember that you are being judged by the quality of your contributions. No matter whether you are employed or not, or a certain age, or have a certain education, you can create a good professional reputation by how you contribute to a large electronic discussion like Web4Lib. On the other hand, you can ruin your reputation even faster and easier.

NEVER send email in anger. [Isn't that in the Bible? I know I've heard it at church.] Go ahead and compose a message in anger, since that may help you work through what you're angry about, but don't send it. Sleep on it. You will nearly always decide to not send it or to recompose it. There's a reason for that.

Be civil. Treat others how you wish to be treated. No matter how insulting someone is to you, you will always look better to the bystanders (of which there are many, I hasten to remind you) by responding politely.

Respect the rights of others. An electronic discussion is a commons. Your right to post ends at the right of others to not be insulted, badgered, or to have their time needlessly wasted.

4 comments:

mdoneil said...

I loved parentheses before I was a librarian.

I still love them, however I can lead a normal life without them. (Assuming this is normal.)

Manycolored said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manycolored said...

What's it mean if you love nested parentheses?

(My suspicion is that it correlates with being a geek-librarian (including a 12 year romantic history of getting involved only with geek-techies (see?)))

Norma said...

Wow--you've got the algebraic formula for parens down pat!