Michael, We Hardly Knew Ye

On the eve of the ALA Conference, there’s a sentiment I’d like to express:

I’m going to miss Michael Gorman. And not just because I’m losing one sartorially spiffy dude to tease. I’m going to miss him because, quite frankly, the profession can’t afford to lose him.

I can hear the collective groaning out there, but hear me out: if librarianship is to survive as a profession, we need a contrarian–a lightning rod for us to react to, even if it’s out of frustration. Yes, I know he can come off as a Luddite and at times can seem quite glib about his views, but trust me–we are all going to miss him.

Why? Because he forces us to really think about what we espouse, important in a profession that is all too eager to jump upon The Next Big Thing. In the relatively short time I’ve been a librarian, I’ve seen various saviors come and go: document delivery, TQM, knowledge management–so many things that were going to Save Us, only to be marginalized or forgotten. We’re quite willing to jump on the next shiny bandwagon, only to find out later the paint job wasn’t quite dry (sorry–been watchin’ too much Pimp My Ride). Someone like Gorman demands we truly think why we’re so gung-ho about whatever looks hot and electronic.

We are not a true profession if we are in general agreement about the Big Things. We need tension, the frisson of disagreement to generate new ideas and new goals. Sure we quibble about detaily things, mostly how X or Y will look or act, but we never really discuss why we’re focusing on X or Y in the first place. Gorman happily filled that role for us.

‘Bye Michael–don’t forget to write….