Re: Nothing is the Future, ctd.

Some of the commenters to Wayne Bivens-Tatum’s post “Nothing is the Future” seem to be under the odd impression that his post is an response to Library 2.0/101. It could be one till you get to the last paragraph of his post.

I’ve used "mobile" just as one example. The same could be said of various service or organization models. You can plug in any term you want, and know that when anyone tells you that thing is "the future," they’re wrong. And to be clear, my criticism isn’t of any particular services or trends. If there’s a new, popular way for librarians to communicate with or reach out to library users, by all means librarians should adopt it, or at least experiment with it. My criticism is the hype and the reductionism, and the implied claim that some librarians really know what the future holds, and that it just happens to be centered around whatever they happen to like at the moment. Maybe they’re convincing themselves, but they’re not convincing me.

(Emphasis mine.)

From the bolded text, Mr. Bivens-Tatum is addressing all forms of library future hyperbole. While Library 2.0/101 make an excellent target for such criticism, the logic presented also makes an excellent case for the librarians who are overly cautious and/or completely rejecting minor changes to the practice and profession (e.g. the people who make the overzealous argument that rejects any new service, program, event, material, web tool, or website based on their own biases without patron consideration or input). It’s a dangerous, dismissive, and ultimately untenable position to maintain in this information-communication revolution. It’s antithetical of the evolution of knowledge and ultimately critical of anyone working on better content delivery, regardless of their means and methods. If the zealotry of the web 2.0 techno-narcissists with their grand prophetic-like innovation announcements is bad, then their counterpart in the sneering cynical criticisms of pompous ludbrarians[1] rejecting deviance from the status quo is equally harmful for rational forward looking discourse.

(To provide a visualization of how I am seeing this, I made up a simple chart.)


I count myself in the middle of this chart, perhaps with a leaning towards the right end. The middle sentence between the two bolded ones in the quotation holds more of the essence of the “change in the library” conversation that I’m interested in. It is about watching and listening to what patrons are doing and saying and then providing materials and services that work towards or meet their expressed needs. If I can provide both a low tech or a high tech solution, who gives a damn which is used so long as there is a solution? I am beholden to the end result (patron with need satisfied), not the process that achieved it.

Tim Spalding in the Thingology blog makes an excellent concluding point in his reply to the Academic Librarian post, stating:

It says something that hasn’t been said before as well. But if it prompts librarians to dismiss technology’s impact on the future of libraries, it will do great harm. Instead, I hope people use your essay as a way to "kick it up a notch" intellectually, get past the small stuff and confront the very real changes ahead.

(Emphasis mine.)

I couldn’t agree more. It’s really time to get past the crap, get over our hang-ups, and talk like adults. This divisiveness that has been generated is really beneath a profession who values the free exchange of ideas. Let’s start acting like it.

[1] Luddite + Librarian = Ludbrarians.

3 thoughts on “Re: Nothing is the Future, ctd.

  1. Interesting – your last paragraph kind of sums up what I thought about Obama’s visit to the Republicans. Can we all just get over ourselves and get s*** done already?

  2. Pingback: uberVU - social comments

  3. Your last paragraph resonates with me, as well. I am currently in library school and there was one class last semester in which I spent a lot of time frustrated with future ludbrarians and felt myself getting closer and closer to the right end of that spectrum.

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