Last week, Jenny Levine was kind enough to post about this blog and a couple of things I said re: the importance of libraries keeping their best people. (Yes, I can get a little fangirly, too… Jenny likes my blog — yay!). Her original post here, and followup here. So, because we librarians can apparently argue about anything, the comments on her take on the issue got a little heated, leading first Walt Crawford (comments galore here as well), then Dorothea Salo to post about the flap. Terms like “movers and shakers” and “drudges” got everyone’s dander up on one side or the other.
We certainly do get hung up on language; which, given our profession, is somewhat understandable. When you deal with words every day, you get a certain sense of their importance.
I don’t think anyone’s arguing that libraries shouldn’t keep their “best people” (at least, I hope not). We’re just arguing about who those “best people” might be — again, trying to fit things into tidy little boxes when this is so situation- and library-dependent. (And, any institution not trying to keep a Jenny or a Walt or a Dorothea should think again…)
But then poor Library Journal gets dragged into the mix, since obviously “movers and shakers” is somehow equivalent to their “MOVERS & SHAKERS.” (Disclosure: I was on their 2002 list, and wrote a number of the profiles in this year’s issue.) I think the fact that LJ is recognizing some of the good work that librarians and library workers do each year is a Good Thing. We have enough articles and special issues talking about library buildings, library programs, and library collections, so any effort to recognize the people behind all these accomplishments should be applauded.
Part of the objections seem to boil down to “why not me” from other people doing Good Things who don’t make it on the list, and part to boil down to the simple fact that we’re never going to agree on the top 10 or 20 or 50 of anything, from US News library school rankings to Booker prize winners. That doesn’t mean that the people on the list haven’t done good work, nor does it mean that thousands of other librarians aren’t doing good work every day. I’ve talked privately with some of the people who have been named LJ “Movers & Shakers” who were taken aback by the reactions in their own workplaces — ranging from total indifference to outright jealousy. Why can’t we be happy for each other? Why can’t we see how very cool it is that librarians who may not have run across Meredith Farkas’ wiki, or visited the AADL web site to see what John Blyberg has been up to, or read about Bart Birdsall’s activism have now had the chance to do so? Why can’t we let their work inspire us?
And I think it’s telling that the conversation got so far off track from Jenny’s original post. Why aren’t more of the comments addressing what libraries can do to keep people? If she’d used different terminology, would we even be having this discussion?
(I’m going to tackle the “self promoting” part of this argument in a separate post; I think it deserves its own discussion.)