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Monthly Archives: February 2011

A rhetoric of newness

“Whenever we ask what new technology can do for textual scholars, we must not lose sight of a deeper questions: what is at stake in the work textual scholarship does, digitally and otherwise? What makes this work worth doing? Progress narratives almost always leave something important behind, and information culture itself has been accused of systematically forgetting its own history, and of succumbing to a ‘rhetoric of newness’ and ‘rhetoric of amnesia.’”

Galey, A. (2010). The human presence in digital artifacts. In W. McCarty’s Text and Genre in Reconstruction: Effects of Digitalization on Ideas, Behaviours, Products, and Institutions. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2010.

Nothing much one can do about it

I’m sitting in a coffee shop on the outskirts of LAX waiting for Tiff to get back into town and I realized something while talking with the barista and listening to Iron and Wine… I am really jealous of men who can grow beards. Damn you genetics. Damn you straight to hell.

Embedding a librarian on Twitter

I like the idea (there is a “but” coming). It’s like lightening round librarianship. Info-improv. You dive into the fire hose and see if you can remain standing. BUzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

What if a reference librarian was assigned to a college course, to be on hand to suggest books, online links, or other resources based on class discussion? A media-studies course at Baylor University tried the idea last semester, with an “embedded librarian” following the class discussion via Twitter.

At the start of each class session, the professor, Gardner Campbell, asked the 11 students to open their laptops, fire up Twitter, and say hello to their librarian, who was following the discussion from her office. During the hourlong class, the librarian, Ellen Hampton Filgo, would do what she refers to as “library jazz,” looking at the questions and comments posed on Twitter by the students, responding with suggestions of links or books, and anticipating what else might be helpful that students might not have known to ask.

“I could see the sort of germination of an idea, and what they wanted to talk about,” she said, noting that it let her in on the process of students’ research far sooner than usual. “That was cool for me,” she added. “When I work with students at the reference desk, usually they’re already at a certain midpoint of their research.”

BUT! how frazzled would a person be after doing that a few times a week? And what, really, is the benefit to the students who, rather than thinking deeply about the subject at hand, are instead scrambling to catch all the articles and citations being thrown at them by the librarian? I’m an information professional, not a circus monkey.

I wish I could quit you

I took the advice of a friend and decided not to change the channel.

On the commute to work this morning (1 hr to go 16 miles), I listened to the latest New York Times Book Review podcast on my iPod. Instead of immediately flipping over to NPR’s All Songs Considered, I swiped the off switch and sat a few moments in silence with the 4 million other drivers on the road.

I started daydreaming something I’ve been daydreaming for a few days now. The excitement swells, and then the fear, and then despair washes it all away. (Typical daydream story arc, right?). The dream is the idea of completely disconnecting from the internet, or at least most of it. Stop blogging (which no one reads or enjoys), stop tweeting (which is more distracting than helpful), stop posting to photos (which I rarely do), stop trying to populate digital spaces in which I’m the only person in the room.

I develop these elaborate plans. Gantt charts that outline a plan of retreat, backing out of one space after the other, leaving only a witty envoi behind (like “[lacunae]” or “connection lost”). First Twitter, then all the minor spaces, then Facebook, and finally the blog (I would chronicle this, of course). Within a few weeks, the only way to reach me would be via email or phone. I would spend time developing relationships (something I’ve yet to really do in 3 years of living in LA), being with my family, and exploring the city. My days wouldn’t be full of news streams and status updates, but books and music and seascapes (gods, did I mention I live by the ocean? I can hear it from my doorstep. But do you know it’s been months since I’ve seen it?).

It all seems like a brilliant idea and then fear sets in. I’m still not a full fledged librarian: how will I show potential employers that I’m interacting with the profession and appropriately tech-savvy? Luddites are very much not in vogue right now in the library world. How will I stay up to date with the news and tech that is allegedly so essential for modern info professionals? Who am I if I am not (1) successful, (2) full of ambition, (3) at the top of my class, (4) “engaged.”

Of course, these future employers seem to be the only ones that care about this.

Then the despair. There’s no way I could quit it. I would always feel compelled to get back in the game. No one would take me seriously. There it is: this unnatural (perhaps illusory) feeling of being trapped by a spectre. Gods I hate that. So let’s just ignore it and write another blog post.

And here we are again. Happy Friday to all of us who live in public. =)

The cult of originality

“I am no particular fan of genealogy. But it certainly produces more substantial knowledge than ranking academics and universities and persecuting students who are held to a standard of originality by which their professors manifestly do not abide.”

Peter Stallybrass, “Against Thinking.” PMLA 122(5), p. 1585.