Over at Library Juice, Rory Litwin recently posted “Geeks and Nerds Battle for the Soul of Librarianship.”
Really? We’re seriously doing this?
Maybe next week we can invite the jocks and the burnouts to join us…
Nicole Engard points out that she shares qualities from both lists. Good librarians tend to. I know I couldn’t fit myself comfortably into either of these categories, as outlined here. (Do I really read too much science fiction to be a good librarian?)
And yes, Rory’s trying to make a larger point about the place of technology in librarianship, which he’s mentioned before — and more eloquently. But do we have to stuff ourselves into antagonistic boxes to have this conversation? Do we have to imply that “geeks” are anti-intellectual, or that “nerds” represent librarianship at its purest?
The best geeks around share a commitment to using technology to serve the goals of their institutions, firmly settled on the foundations and principles of librarianship. I don’t see how you can read Michael Stephens talking about the importance of avoiding technolust or Michael Casey on Library 2.0 or Lori Bell and crew on Second Life Library 2.0 and come to any other conclusion.
Rory tells us:
“I think that the current advance by the geek front within librarianship is succeeding in replacing an important intellectual knowledge base – that is, a store of bibliographic knowledge combined with knowledge of the principles of librarianship – with a technical knowledge base that is already quite well-established by other professional groups, namely web designers and programmers. Thus, it seems to me that the success of the geek army in the battle against the nerds may end up being a losing battle for the profession of librarianship as a whole, once the bodies are counted, the damage assessed, and the spoils taken.”
Librarianship has always taken from and overlapped with other fields. Setting technology apart in this way makes as much sense as saying we lose the soul of our profession when we market our programs, since that knowledge base is established by marketers and PR departments… or saying that we are losing the battle for our profession when we involve ourselves in literacy programs or intellectual freedom battles or having programs for teens — because, after all, other fields are doing all of these things, and often doing them quite well.
Rather than setting up this artificial geek/nerd distinction, which only feeds into the divide Rory perceives, perhaps we can embrace both. Perhaps we can get excited about technology that allows us to serve patrons better. Perhaps we can get excited about having “geeks” on our side rather than being dependent on outside groups who aren’t necessarily building on the same knowledge base or principles.