Mar 242007

…and that sometimes can be a problem.

fock you

A couple of weeks ago, Laura Cohen put it so well when she prodded us all about collegiality :

A collegial person goes with the flow, supports prevailing sentiments, and doesn’t make waves. Such a person may advocate for an idea, but doesn’t push the point if others become too uncomfortable or resist. A collegial librarian preserves the comfort level of colleagues.

This is both deadly and dangerous for our profession.

A couple of days after Laura’s post, a bit of a hoo-har blew up on an Australian Library list run by our professional association when something that another member found offensive resulted in all posts being suspended for a couple of days and the list administrator, who was blameless, being temporarily removed. The professional association has since called for a review of list etiquette.

At the time, I thought the behaviour of our professional association was far more offensive than anything the original post contained. The wording of list etiquette wasn’t actually the problem – it was the unfair, panicked way that it was applied – showing little understanding of the general mores of online communication and with an outdated understanding of what constitutes professional debate.

Now, did I make a comment to that effect on the lint post? No. Did I make a submission to the etiquette review? No. Why not? Frightened of causing offence, worried that it may be a problem for my career, didn’t think I had all the facts, didn’t think the issue was about the wording of the etiquette policy at all. I think I showed professional cowardice.

In contrast, Julia’s response on her MySpace page was a corker. She was sardonic, funny and very accurate in her aim. She was also rude and outrageous.

Today Dorothea has written an apology for comment she made on a blog post: Caught, and an apology, and thanks. As usual, she is direct, honest, learned and witty. I enjoy her blogging because it makes me sometimes gasp and to start thinking – sometimes she’s just plain cranky and wrong – but at least she’s putting herself out there. We need people like her to take risks, say what we don’t dare, sometimes get it wrong and to get us questioning. She certainly didn’t hold back when she quit her professional organisation.

What do I see? A complacent, sclerotic, myopic mess with (usually) good intentions and (almost always) abominable execution. An organization in which the answer to deprofessionalization is recruitment. An organization that can’t or won’t embrace open-access publication despite its members’ crying need for another clear, unambiguous example of same. An organization that defines itself in terms of buildings rather than people. An organization that is five to ten years behind the technology curve. Finally, an organization that is too big and too entrenched to change from within.

Image uploaded to Flickr by jaxxon December 18 2004.

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  4 Responses to “I don’t want to cause offence…”

  1. Hee! May I quote you?

  2. Absolutely. Glad you weren’t offended.

  3. […] and ready reputation as being the place to go for the best uncensored scuttlebut. This has prompted Kathryn Greenhill to blog about the way that librarians handle controversial issues, and what gets in the way of open […]

  4. […] on a regular basis—scared of me? People are scared of me? For heaven’s sake. But then again, “sometimes… just plain cranky and wrong” is a fair assessment, perhaps even a […]

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