Work-in-progress for LISTen #43
I do caution that this likely has warts, typos, grammatical silliness, and worse. It is not a finished item and should not be treated that way. It is a work-in-progress that I am not finished revising and editing. It is planned that such be included in LISTen #43 in one form or another:
Commentary – The Strange Case of the Annoyed Librarian
For all the heat generated recently over the hosting by Library Journal of a blog by a person writing under the pen name “Annoyed Librarian”, there are disturbing things to be considered.
What is Library Journal? Is it a voice for the profession? While the publication may be that, it must also be remembered that it is a commercial entity. Unlike the libraries it serves, Library Journal has to turn a profit somehow. Library Journal is not owned by a professional association but rather Reed Business Information which publishes quite a few magazines and journals in fields beyond librarianship. Publications also produced by Reed Business Information include titles such as Modern Materials Handling, Home Textiles Today, Broadcasting & Cable, Daily Commercial News, Professional Remodeler, and more. The only thing that keeps such a publication afloat is the revenue derived from advertising and subscriptions. Library Journal is a for-profit entity quite unlike the predominantly not-for-profit world it serves.
As a for-profit media outlet, Library Journal is part of a world where it has to compete. Publications can host forums and blogs that do not necessarily agree with their editorial views. An example of such is the Washington Post which has a forum hosted by Ramesh Ponnuru who happens to be listed in the masthead of National Review as a senior editor. For those not familiar with such, the Washington Post is typically considered to be a liberal publication while Ponnuru writes for a publication associated with neo-conservatives. The forum continues and seems to be thriving. Similar works such as the blog network hosted by CNET, now part of the Interactive division of American television giant CBS, also allow for such diversity of views to be expressed even though they do not reflect the overall editorial view. For a year CNET had its own equivalent to the Annoyed Librarian known as the Macalope.
The outbursts and anger online over the hosting of the Annoyed Librarian's blog pose problems. For as much as librarians are supposed to be masters of information, are librarians well behind the curve in terms of media trends? Has the world changed and left librarians behind? It seems to be that even though librarians have tried to embrace Web 2.0 technologies that the louder librarians online don't quite see how the for-profit media landscape has changed. That becomes highly problematic, for example, in a public library setting when trying to answer questions at a reference desk without knowing about changes to the landscape that holds answers.
The Editor-in-Chief has made an open call for anybody willing to serve as a counter-balance to have hosting space from Library Journal. You could even potentially be paid for such! A big problem becomes whether it is easier to complain about somebody you don't like or to take action. If the granting of space to the Annoyed Librarian is such an existential threat to all librarianship then perhaps it is necessary to oppose such through a counter-balancing blog.
The two big benefits you could get from such would be the feeling that you are standing up for traditional values as well as some supplementary income perhaps. As someone who first saw their byline in newsprint ten years ago, I can say that the rules for the media realm are such that complaining about how hateful and spiteful someone may be is hardly as effective as providing competition. As such comes up in the for-profit realm routinely, it can hardly be said the skills to support providing competition are all that present in the non-profit realm most libraries inhabit.
Not all editorials need to give explicit marching orders in their calls to action. This one certainly won't. Sometimes editorials, let alone blog posts, are written just to hopefully jump-start the brains of those who hear or read such.
Be thankful that the Annoyed Librarian only got hosting space at Library Journal. Could you imagine seeing such as an arts and culture newspaper column distributed through a features syndicate that even the laity could see? Perhaps we can be thankful for small blessings that this is merely intramural for now.