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ALA President-Elect Michael Gorman Slams "The Blog People"

:: Michael Gorman, Dean of Library Services at the Henry Madden Library, California State University, Fresno, President-Elect of the American Library Association, and considered by many to be a leader in our profession, is taking a beating online for his Library Journal column, Revenge of the Blog People. The column begins with (and maintains throughout) a condescending tone, as he writes:

A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web. (Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of "web log.") Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People.

Ostensibly, Gorman's column is a response to criticism leveled at him by bloggers for an op-ed piece he wrote for the LA Times ("Google and God's Mind," December 17, 2004), in which he questions "the usefulness of Google digitizing millions of books and making bits of them available via its notoriously inefficient search engine." However, he also chose to use his column to condemn anyone who dares to blog:

It is obvious that the Blog People read what they want to read rather than what is in front of them and judge me to be wrong on the basis of what they think rather than what I actually wrote. Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs. In that case, their rejection of my view is quite understandable.
I do not recall ever reading something so hard-edged and mean-spirited in its dismissal of a new, exciting movement, There is little point in defending Weblog Nation, or the many diverse applications of weblogs being utilized in libraries today. In my library system, at least fourteen blogs are used for applications including dissemination of library news, project management, e-journal maintenance, software working groups, digital projects, management of our knowledge common, and more. My guess is that none of the participants consider him- or herself a charter member of The Blog People. The weblog, for what it's worth, has provided a new way for rapid distribution and exchange of diverse ideas, new ways to communicate, to share information and opinion, and create communities of like-minded librarians interested in sharing their knowledge and experiences with others. (As an engineering librarian, I introduced the weblog as a project management tool in 2004 to a number of engineering design classes in which I teach sessions on library and information resources, and continue to do so this term.)

The larger concern, however, is that he is the next leader of the largest library association on the planet, which means he is moving into a position of major influence in the profession. On his website, he stresses that he hopes to be "an effective advocate for our shared values and a leader who can help the association to seize its opportunities and rise to its challenges." In acknowledging his adamant disdain for weblogs and those who create them, I wonder how he plans to accomplish this without alienating a growing population of intelligent, articulate, and passionate librarians, committed to their profession, and who are already among the converted. I also wonder, what about younger librarians, those new to the profession or about to enter it, what might their reactions be to the dismissal, by one of its noteworthy leaders, of a relatively new but growing component of librarianship?

Of note, Jessamyn West reports that Gorman has since indicated his column was intended to be satirical, but does state that he is not a fan of blogs, and notes that he has "an old fashioned belief that, if one wishes to air one's views and be taken seriously, one should go through the publishing/editing process." Times have changed. That process still exists, and must continue to do so, but it should not be the only way to air one's views and be "taken seriously."

One of my favorite of many responses to Gorman's column appeared on library_grrls:"Despite the fact that this is indeed a satirical piece, I resent being compared to a B movie." Imagine the sequels... The Blog People vs Larry Flynt. 24 Hour Blog People. Ordinary Blog People. The Blog People That Time Forgot. Darby O'Gill and The Little Blog People. The Curse of the Blog People. Games Blog People Play. An Enemy of the Blog People. Where Have All the Blog People Gone? Blog People Who Die Mysteriously In Their Sleep. I Like To Hurt Blog People. Blog People Hate Me and They Hate My Glasses. The Best of the Village Blog People. All Power to the Blog People. Let My Blog People Live. Man of the Blog People. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Blog People. Blog People are Dead. We The Blog People. The War of the Six Million Blog People. OK, enough. Thanks, IMDb.

Jessamyn, who supported Gorman for the ALA Presidency, wrote the following in his website guestbook:"Lovely website, have you considered a blog?" My guess is, no. Then again, who knows?

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:: Michael Gorman, Dean of Library Services at the Henry Madden Library, California State University, Fresno, President-Elect of the American Library Association, and considered by many to be a leader in our profession, is taking a beating online for h... [Read More]

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» More on Gormangate from The Pod Bay Door
:: As my friend Tony Dalmyn noted, I didn't include a link to Michael Gorman's original column in the LA Times, Google and God's Mind, in the previous post about his Library Journal column about blogs, so there it is.... [Read More]

Comments

"Never attribute to malice, that which can be explained by ignorance". I think we should give Mr. Gorman a little slack, as he is obviously complaining about 'blog people', who he apparently defines as those who are posting to their personal journals and not the 'bloggers' who are making professional use of blogs.

I think the first comment makes a good point, as well, let's consider who's making such fuss about this..."blog people". Anyway, while professional use of blogoshpere is to be applauded it does not change the fact that serious research takes place largely if not entirely outside of this realm.

Thank you for your comments. It is possible that Mr Gorman was ignorant of weblogs, but if so, it certainly doesn't justify such a grand, sweeping dismissal of the movement. His use of words and phrases like "species" and "Blog People" was very condescending, with a holier-than-thou feel to it. As for making the fuss, well, bloggers are reacting to an assualt on what they do, and it is not just bloggers from the library world who are dumbfounded and nonplussed by Mr Gorman's remarks, others are reacting in kind. It is critical for those of us within librarianship who blog to respond, especially when the comments are coming from a respected and influential leader within our profession.

Regarding serious research taking place outside of the realm of blogs, I agree, except if the blog itself is peer-reviewed (which I have yet to see). In my comments, I defend the publishing and editing process, I did not say or imply that weblogs have supplanted or replaced the reporting of peer-reviewed research.

Michael Gorman still doesn't get it.

He says:

I am certainly no fan of "blogs," having an old fashioned belief that, if one wishes to air one's views and be taken seriously, one should go through the publishing/editing process.

By making this statement, he is clearly implying that there are rules for being taken seriously in any written work, particularly opinion pieces.

He is quite simply mistaken.

Does he need to be reminded that there are no regulations for being taken seriously? To say or write something meaningful and intelligent is not the exclusive domain of publishers or newspaper editors.

Is that what communication means to Michael Gorman, that I can't say or write something meaningful if I don't belong to the right club, or I didn't file for a permit, or I don't publish in the right newspaper?

Blogging is shifting the paradigm of thinking in this regard, and I'm afraid Mr. Gorman can't see the forest for the trees. There may be a lot of crap in blogs, but that does not preclude other people from making great use of this medium. Some of the great writers of the next generation could be empowered by the blogging culture, and to deny that it is possible is extremely shortsighted.

I think he also makes the mistake of assuming that the blogosphere is simply a haven for opinion makers and would-be investigative journalists, when blogging involves many other sorts of writing. I would offer that most of the blogging universe is taken up by people simply writing the equivalent of online diaries. That's what web logs are. And what is wrong with that?

A single blog may never even have value apart from satisfying the individual writer, but that value is still tangible to someone.

Judge a person's words by what he or she says, not by how it is said or where it comes from. That's Ethics 101.

"Anyway, while professional use of blogoshpere is to be applauded it does not change the fact that serious research takes place largely if not entirely outside of this realm."

*grin* But after all, serious research takes place *entirely* outside the covers of LJ too. :)

What Mr. Gorman's article does is to point out that the same attack drivel that he complains of in the blogosphere is easily publishable in professional magazines.

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