Archive for July, 2007

Post Number Five: Hip Shushers?

July 16, 2007

It has been more than a week since the publication of the New York Times article “A Hipper Crowd of Shushers” (in the Style section, July 8, 2007).  This was an article on a group of young librarians in NYC who have formed a social organization called Desk Set which arranges meetings for drinks and noshes in the environs of art galleries  (this one has a library-themed exhibition) and other places with high intellectual-fun content.  This article makes much of the fact that these librarians, archivists, and library students behave like other young, smart urbanites:  they like to dance, they wear some thrift-store chic clothing, they are very tech-savvy, they have tattoos (one “guybrarian” has “a tattoo of the logo from the Federal Book Depository Program peeking out of his black tee shirt sleave”).

The appearance of the article has prompted reams of comment from library bloggers and library watchers.  As no one else in the LIS753 room has taken official notice of this article and the teapot tempest it has stirred up in the biblioblogosphere, I thought I might put in a word.

Many of the bloggers reacting to this thing have taken exception with the New York Times reporter Kara Jesella`s take on the stereotypes associated with the library profession.  Some think the whole concept of a stereotype-to-be-overthrown is false.  Others think she is replacing one sterotype with another: that of the ‘hip librarian,’ which could be just as deadly.  Some are annoyed that these young New Yorkers have been singled out by a powerful news source to represent the new face of the profession, when in fact the profession has many faces, and many of the older faces belong to librarians who believe that they are still ‘hip.’  The commentary has ranged in tone from  deliciously droll  to acidic.  One blog that has a nice collection of links to several of these blog reactions is that of Eric Childress.  I would recommend scrolling down to his comments collection for those links.

As for me, sure, I thought the Jesella article was a bit fluffy: it was in the Style section, after all.  And sure, there might be something about the piece that invites an unwarranted generalized image of young library professionals.  And O.K., I might agree that there is more self-promotion coursing through the NY metropolitan bloodstream than you might find elsewhere (one blogger cracked that the next article should be about young, hip NY sanitation workers).  Yet I can`t see why so many people are reacting with such apparent revulsion.

The Desk Set organization is quite new.  They seem to be people who are interested in having a good time and meeting other like-minded people in the library world.  I see nothing wrong with that.  Maybe some of them really are snobby, self promoting jerks— but I see no real evidence of that either in the Times piece or in their myspace page.  This group looks to me like a bunch of smart people looking for smart fun, and finding ways to promote literacy while they are having their fun.  I notice that they are selling a tote bag with their ‘Desk Set’ logo on it.  That sounds to me like a real organization, possibly the sort that will evolve into a fraternal/service organization, rather than the hipper-than-thou clique that some bloggers are portraying.

The overall tone of the NY Times piece was positive.  So much of the library-blogging reaction has been negative that I wonder why this piece should have struck a nerve.  Do the bloggers who disliked the piece because it partially dealt with stereotypes really think that these twentysomethings with their Dewey decimal designated cocktails represent some new stereotype?  Again, I don`t see that.  It looks to me like they are speaking for themselves and not presuming to speak for the profession.

Perhaps in the discussion of this little human-interest feature that appeared in the Times there should be less emphasis on who thinks who is ‘hip’ and more emphasis on the lessons one might take away from the creativity expressed by this Desk Set crowd.  That would be really hip.

Worth Reading, Lib 2.0 Fans

July 12, 2007

For anyone interested in nature of Library 2.0 processes for the library worker and the reasons why they are important, I draw your attention to todays blog post by David Lee King.  David is a librarian at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library (check out the Digital Boot Camp) and a well-known figure in the Lib 2.0 world, as Professor Stephens can attest.  His blog is full of thought-provoking observations about library-tech stuff and the ways we can use it.

In recent posts Mr. King has suggested the “Basic Competencies of a 2.0 Librarian,” a nuts and bolts list of digital skills that a “2.0 Librarian” should possess.  After the second of those posts, which updated the first, he was challenged by a commenter on his blog, who wondered why Library 2.0 skills should be necessary for most librarians.  This person wanted to know why these skills are useful for the library world when they can`t be used on most library computers.  Mr. King`s response to this comment took the form of his post for today (July 12th, 2007).  In today`s post, David Lee King presents a reasoned rationale for learning the Library 2.0 skills in the context of the way our society (and our libraries` place in it) is evolving.

This group of posts by Mr. King is directly related to the content of LIS753 and I recommend them to everyone involved in this class.