Alchemical Thoughts

Ah, the eternal time crunch

Posted on: July 23, 2007

I have observed over time that the 2.0 technogurus in the library profession tend not to cut much of a break to librarians who may simply not have the actual time to be doing every geeky 2.0 thing and playing with every shiny toy that comes along. It is a big reason I pretty much stay out of that whole conversation. That, and I learned a while back when the term was gaining steam that "if you did not get it," then you must be some fossil that must be weeded out. "Not getting it" has become the label of choice for anyone who questions the 2.0 technogurus. So, what made me want to write this little ditty? I was reading a post by the Librarian in Black on "How did professionalism get pitted against tradition?" It was one of those posts that I usually read and then move on, but I clipped this one,  and I have wondered about it for a while, so here goes. What struck me was the first commenter, Eliza. She writes:

"I am the only Reference Librarian in Mendocino County, Lake County has no Reference Librarians. Sometimes I feel guilty about not being able to do more than hand out tickets and mediate squabbles over internet use while answering reference questions in person and over the phone and of course while climbing under tables to re-connect computers, bring the system back up etc etc and sometimes I think that more Librarians should visit rural counties and stop harping that many of us do not have time for anything 2.0.

I have dropped out of two of InfoPeople's online classes because when there are not enough of us the needs of the circulation desk and all the holds coming and going take precedence. I have worked in a wealthy county where there were always 2 Reference Librarians on the desk and on two hour shifts. Try all day, one librarian. I have changed webpages, started blogs, email reference, radio spot telling all what we have to offer. Our county interface does not allow for My Space etc even if I had time. I think our patrons get good Reference service, but those of you from well funded systems need to cut some slack. There must be hundreds librarians like me, in small rural systems. We know most of our patrons by name, call back and make sure they got what they really wanted, e-mail to those who have it, mail to those who don't. Go easy and try not to preach too loudly."

This is a common situation, and I don't think in just rural libraries. I am willing to bet a few other poor places face it as well. I know there are days when I can't make it to some training or other because I can't get a sub for the desk, or, more likely for me, I am teaching a class. What irked me was the LIB's reply. After replying that harping on others is not her position and that what some government agencies do to their libraries is a crime (a view I don't think many will disagree with), her reply is pretty much a set of platitudes and reassurance that L2 is not all about technology. The LIB writes in her reply to Eliza:

"There are so many things that can be done that don’t take any extra time or money. Take a look at your policies—do they match up to the image you really want to present to your community? Do they still work for you? Look at your signage—is it full of “NO”s? If so, reword them to make them friendlier. Sign up for a free Flickr account and put the digital photos you take of your library’s events there, instead of just on your hard drive (it takes all of 60 seconds). Sign up for 5 RSS feeds from library blogs so you can keep up on what’s happening in the LIS profession. With 5 minutes a day, you can stay up to date. The list goes on and on. These are the things I recommend for people with no time and money, and there are a lot of people in that situation, unfortunately. It’s a crime against our culture, in my opinion."

Yes, it is a crime. It is also a crime in my estimation to question Eliza on what she may or not be doing. Eliza's point was one of simply not having enough time or the resources to do the things that the L2 enthusiasts are constantly recommending. Yes, there are a few things that are free and can be pretty easy to do (and the suggestions seem to be the stock answer from the L2 folks). Again, nice as the suggestions are, and they are good, they still do not address the larger issue Eliza raises in the first place: her lack of time and resources and a feeling of alienation from peers who may have it better than she does. It resonates with me because I happen to be another of those librarians who don't have the time to simply be toying with every new shiny innovation and traveling around to tell others about it. On a busy time, I teach upwards of 60 classes a term, in addition to desk rotation, outreach, collection development. And then, there are my kids, as I affectionately refer to the many students I have consultations with. And before I get the possible question of what I may or not be doing, I think my record (looking over my professional blog may help) and cv can speak for themselves any day. At the end of the day, I don't have a favorable opinion of some people who harp on the ones who "don't get it" or "don't make the time." I could have said I feel sick of such harping, but to be honest, I stopped caring what those folk may or not think a while back. I do what I can. I do it to the best of my humble abilities with the resources I have. I get some good feedback from those I serve, so I must be doing something right. Overall, I am not losing any tears.

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