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Catching up on the Internet Librarian

Last week, I went to the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey. It was eye-opening in a lot of ways. And I couldn't do justice to all of the content ...

These blogs can:

Library Stuff
Tame the Web
Free Range Librarian
The Shifted Librarian

A couple of choice ... paraphrases from IL:

Stephen Abram's keynote on online trends: We cannot teach Boolean! We need to realize this and move on ... in this hotel, there are electric eyes in the restrooms of this hotel because we cannot teach well-educated people to flush!

Barbara Quint's endnote on the life of a searcher: If we need to let go of the "L" word in order to realize our worth and potential, so be it.

Yes, the dreaded "L-word" argument made itself known. No one in the audience flinched, though, not even the public librarians ...

I have issues with the argument. Frankly, I'm sick of it. I think if people saved the energy they expend arguing about this and use that energy to convince laypeople that librarianship, in all its forms, is relevant, current and able to keep pace with the changing nature of information access and distribution -- things would be copacetic. Or maybe not. But's this isn't doing the profession much good to go over the same ground.

And it is the same ground. While doing a bit of research, I ran smackdab into this quote:

"The special librarian was even allergic to the word librarian and called himself by various other terms like information officer, research officer, and documentalist. He preferred to be classed with the scientists and technologists whom he served rather than with the librarians whose art it was that he practiced, though with improved techniques determined by the new thought-unit of his operation."

S. R. Ranganathan, "Special Librarianship -- What It Connotes," Special Libraries, v. 40, no. 9 (Nov. 1949).

I knew this argument had legs. I didn't know it was older than I am. Or that it literally predates my graduate advisor.

I've gone public with my issues over dropping references to libraries, librarians or librarianship. And my friend Marti can articulate it better than I can. What I'd rather do is try to figure out the resultant scenario if the following happens:

* A critical mass of special librarians do drop references to being 'librarians' and it takes within the profession, within the corporate world and by the public

* At the same time, public libraries have changed internally to the point where non-MLS holders reach professional parity with MLS grads, and it's no longer considered necessary to get a MLS to work professionally or run a public library

Don't be dismissive of the latter point: it was made at a career panel for library support staff ... there are a lot of people working in public libraries who don't see the point of going back to grad school if they can learn the skills (cataloging, reference, acquisitions, circulation, programming) on the job and are willing to devote their work lives to it.

I'm not a good chess player, because I cannot see 4 moves ahead. I can see 2 ... sometimes. 3 ... miraculously. I don't know what will happen to the L-word if one group drops it and another group picks it up. May be a mixed blessing. Or an pure benefit. I don't know. I don't want to be reactionary about this. I fear that I already am, though.