Listening to NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday this morning, I heard two particular things to blog about:
1. The word “meritocracy” was used in two very different segments … first, I heard it used by Bob Barr in the context of allowing gays in the military. <soapbox!>Of course they’ll let gays in the military… for the same reason they recruit poor people: politicians see the military as a disposable population. </soapbox> I heard “meritocracy” a second time in a later segment about the Internet undermining culture. Andrew Keen used the word to describe the professional media, as in journalists, producers, and so on. He claimed that the Cult of the Amateur – in the form of Web 2.0 – was corroding popular culture and the “authority” of traditional media outlets… (and I’m telling you about this on a blog, which you might very well be reading in an RSS feed; so many issues to tap into here, so little time).
2. This interesting anti-change sort of segment was immediately followed by a bizarre little story of a library in Arizona that has turned its back on Dewey and gone the way of a Barnes and Noble, using subjects or genres to group books into stacks and sections of the library. I really don’t see how this is any different from Dewey or LC or any other classification system since it is, after all, another classification system… but I haven’t visited the library so I can’t really say. [Edit: I forgot to add the other interesting choice of words: during this library segment, the “library official” referred to the people visiting the library as “customers” whereas the radio announcer referred to them as “patrons” – I’ve seen this distinction get rather thorny between librarians before, so I wonder how librarians will react to this use of “customer” by a Barnes and Noble library. On a side note, I went to a bookstore with my honey later in the day and asked her, “How would you feel if you walked into a library that looked like this?” And she answered, (quite perfectly) “I wouldn’t be able to find anything.”]
Please do listen to the Andrew Keen interview and the piece about the library – these two segments alone are somehow bizarre to me. Perhaps this is due to combing through the ALA conference schedule and seeing so many pro-Web 2.0 events planned.
It seems to me that libraries (or librarians?) are reaching a sort of adolescence. As an organized profession, we are relatively young – maybe a little over a hundred years old? And we are exhibiting all the signs of a stressed-out teenager: we make big deals about some small things, we think the strangest things are signs that we’ll die a death of humiliation when actually we’re just experiencing growing pains. Yes, growing pains. I think more and more fields will need the skills of an information science degree, but we’re still in the midst of figuring out our place in the world so we won’t be able to see the role we fill for a while yet.