Do Nice Librarians Finish Last?

I have a confession to make. I rarely read librarian blogs.

Maybe I should mitigate that last sentence by stating I rarely read anyone’s blogs. Call me lazy, but at least I’m catholic about what I avoid.

But I did get around to reading Steven J. Bell’s comments about us librarians being too nice for our own good–or even for our own survival. M. Bell argues our need to be pleasant and helpful could quite possibly be the death knell for us as a profession, our intellectual equivalent of a glass of elderberry wine from Abby Brewster.

I agree with him–sort of. But my caveat also ties into one of the perennial complaints about my blog, which is I don’t post much about librarianship.

For Steven I have an addendum; for my less-than-dazzled fans out there it’s an explanation. The reason there’s no discourse is the same as why I write about the profession about as often as Paris agrees to set her cell phone on vibrate during a court hearing: there’s nothing really interesting about librarianship to discuss.

Okay; that was a little harsh, but unfortunately it’s true. Sure we got the Web 2.0/social networking thing going on (with the occasional overheated panting about meta tags and digital preservation) to keep us from staring blankly at each other during ALA panel discussions, but it’s more of us groping for the The Next Big Thing that will save us from ourselves rather than us coming up with any definitive use of these technologies.

Yes, I know the kids/millennials/your-zeitgeist-demographic-here love the MySpace and the Second Life, but I’m not so convinced that jumping on the virtual bandwagon is going to deliver us from irrelevancy. We’ve constructed digital equivalents of screaming “over here!” with social networking sites and online games/podcasts, but are we really going to sustain their interest, particularly if we don’t have anything to offer other than mystifying advice on using library tools and resources to finish homework assignments? Compared to the easy ubiquity (not to mention the seeming authority) of Wikipedia, no wonder we’re being bypassed. Right now we’re in the professional equivalent of grabbing a pissed-off tiger by the tail then congratulating ourselves for being able to count the hairs on the tip.

So what are we going to do? What will be the Killer App of Librarianship? I have no idea, other than the vague idea that we have to come up with some sort of heuristic for dealing with the miasma of information that’s enveloping us all. Or better yet, having the solution for everyday folks when they wake up to the reality that they need something to assess and filter the info that comes barrelling at them via every electronic device they encounter.

If that day ever comes, that is.

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