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Cites & Insights, Ethics & Zines

:: The v5 n1 January 2004 (pdf) issue of Cites & Incites: Crawford At Large, is now available. Walt discusses an interesting thread on ethics and librarians who blog, first raised by Karen Schneider at Free Range Librarian. In her first post on the subject, Schneider wrote:

For some time I've grumbled and groused about the practices of librarian bloggers. Too many of us want to be considered serious citizen-journalists, when it suits us, but fall back on "hey, it's only a blog" when we'd rather post first and fact-check later, present commentary as "news," or otherwise fall short of the guidelines of the real profession of journalism. (This is doubly ironic, considering how librarians squeal when people without library degrees claim to practice "librarianship.")
My reaction: I do not in any way, shape or fashion, consider myself a serious citizen-journalist, and while I don't tend to fact check much, that's because most of the stuff posted here hasn't required me to do so. That said, I am careful as I can be not to post information that might be considered irrelevant those who visit this site, nor would I post something I thought might include incorrect information or data. Karen continues in another post:
I'll repeat my concern that librarians, in particular, need to be very cautious when they blog. This is a meta-ethical issue: when you blog as a librarian, even as a librarian "just goofin' around," you are representing what people think about librarians. Yes, that weight IS on your shoulders. You know how you hate it when we're represented as frumpy, meek shushers? I'm with you, but I hate it even more when our own kind represents us as clueless, sloppy, and uninterested in the ethical issues related to the world of information and how it is represented. In the same vein, I love it when I read a blog such as Tame the Web or Shifted Librarian, where I can catch the enthusiasm, real-world observations, and yes, opinion of Michael Stephens and Jenny Levine, presented with a minimum of typos, a maximum of style, and a certain je ne sais quois--that friendly, fact-based, service-oriented approach--I'd call "library flavor."
While reactions to Karen's posts have been divided, I appreciate that she has raised an issue that is at the very least, a reality check for those of us who blog on behalf or, and thus representing, our profession.

In an unrelated note, Walt discusses the beginnings of Cites & Incites, and how at the time, he termed it a "zine":

I started calling Cites & Insights a ďzineĒ because it isnít a newsletter, itís certainly not a blog, and it fits my own historic definition of a zine (based on the old days of science fiction): a nonprofessional or semi-professional periodical based on one personís (or small groupís) enthusiasms and reflecting that personís style.
I was pleased that Walt referenced the term "zine", or more correctly, "fanzine", for purely selfish reasons. I published my first sf fanzine in 1969, and confess that I've been less than thrilled with the co-opting of the term "zine", to reflect amateur publications of a literary or artistic nature, as Walt mentions subsequently. Fanzines as published by sf afficianados can be traced back to the 1930s. (Fact check: don't believe me? Check out The Immortal Storm by Sam Moskowitz, which chronicles the rise and history of science fiction fandom in the 1930s.)

OK, now back to posting stuff of interest to science and technology librarians...


Thanks for the trackback; I know not everyone agreed with me, but I don't care too much about that. I continue to insist it's indefensible for librarians to post carelessly and then excuse themselves by saying "it's just a blog."

Thanks here also. As for zines, well, "fanzine" never really described C&I, but I thought the more general "zine" did. Now it's sort of a semiprozine (a term still in use in the SF community, I believe: isn't Locus a semiprozine?) but, as you know, I gave up on the word. Sort of. There's still COWLZ (dormant though it may be).

So now I'm refusing to allow "journal" to be co-opted by Scholarly Refereed Journals.

And still interested in ethics, but then I always have been.

You're welcome, Karen. I think you raised an important issue in any case, and in doing so, speaks to your commitment and passion for our professions.

No problem, Walt. Whatever happened to COWLZ? I love creating acronymns. Now that "blog" is a banned word in 2005, I've been mulling over what new acronyms might emerge in its place: http://www.podbaydoor.com/archives/001738.html#001738

Locus, yes, a semi-prozine indeed. The Hugo Awards created that category in 1984 when it became obvious that Locus would continue to sweep the fanzine award. Of course, since then, it's won all but three of the Semiprozine Hugos anyway.

Ethics continues to fascinate me long term. I think the world would be in much better shape if ethics were taught in elementary school and continued through junior high and high school. Of course, I have no evidence to suggest why this might work, but I believe it would.

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