Steven Bell commented in a recent ACRLog post that there hasn’t been much reaction to the Taiga Forum Provocative Statements. I’ve seen a few reactions online and here’s mine — YAWN.
Seriously, I found a lot more to like about John Dupuis’ crititicisms of the Taiga Forum Provocative Statements than about the statements themselves. I’m just not sure what the rest of the profession is supposed to do with these statements — I don’t know what they’re supposed to provoke. Some are really doomy-and-gloomy, others are needlessly vague, and few seem structured to provoke positive action or change. For example, look at #10:
… 20% of the ARL library directors will have retired. University administrators will see that librarians do not have the skills they need and will hire leaders from other parts of the academy, leading both to a realignment of the library within the university and to the decline of the library profession.
What are the skills librarians don’t have that they should? And what can we do about it? Nothing I guess, since it’s the people who are second in line (who apparently don’t have the skills to run the library of the future) who are making these pronouncements. Personally, I see a lot of tremendously flexible, passionate, visionary librarians in this profession who are more than capable of leading libraries into a bright future — Jenica Rogers-Urbanek is a great example of such a leader (congrats on the new job, Jenica!!).
Another one I found curious was #5:
libraries will have given up on the “outreach librarian” model after faculty persistently show no interest in it. Successful libraries will have identified shared goals with teaching faculty and adapted themselves to work at the intersection of librarianship, information technology and instructional technology.
Like John, “identifying shared goals with teaching faculty” seems to me what outreach is all about, at least at my small, non-ARL University. How else do we work with faculty to identify shared goals if not through outreach? I must not understand what the word means. But I certainly do agree that we’re much more interested in faculty than they are in us, and that it’s critical that we align our activities with their goals than to push our own agenda as if it exists apart from supporting their teaching and research. But really, is that a provocative statement or an obvious one?
All these statements provoke in me is a sense that AUL’s and AD’s in ARL’s are living in a world that’s a million miles away from my small academic library.
Has anyone else commented on the irony of their tagline (A community of AUL’s and AD’s challenging the traditional boundaries in libraries)? And they challenge those “traditional boundaries” by being an invitation-only organization that only invites AUL’s and AD’s from ARL libraries (wow! that’s a lot of acronyms). And then, at their invitation-only event, they have their closed discussions and tell the rest of us what libraries are going to be like within five years. Still feels pretty darn elitist to me, especially since they publish their statements as a PDF which allows for no dialogue on their site with others. How about sticking those statements into a CommentPress site and starting an actual conversation?
Really, I’m much more eagerly awaiting the provocative statements of the Library Society of the World. C’mon, Josh and Steve, you know you want to!
Updated to add: – not being a member of the elite ARL (Association of Research Libraries), many of you may not know the lingo they use. AD = Assistant (or Associate) Director and AUL = Associate University Librarian. Both of which mean second in line to the throne (which is the position of Director or University Librarian). I remember not knowing what any of that meant when I was applying for jobs while in library school and applying for a University Librarian position because the ad was so unspecific about qualifications and I assumed that it meant “generic academic librarian” position. D’oh!
While I don’t have any idea what Josh and Steve have up their respective sleeves, I can assure you that provocative is on the way. From a couple of fronts.
I dunno, this is kind of self-parodying isn’t it? I mean, this is the group of futurists with the website with “font-family: cursive;” and all their stuff in PDF right? The people who prominently say “Drop us a line!” in the sidebar (as long as you are an AUL or AD (and if you don’t know what that stands for, you obviously aren’t, you loser))? The folks who say in their 10th statement “we suck and should not be promoted?”
Not much room for satire there, but maybe the LSW can do something with this mess.
I couldn`t agree more! (Even though I don`t know any of the acronyms you used and I`m not even an american… this transfers to Norwegian libraries, too!)
Love your blog, by the way!
Well, as the ‘world’ part of the LSW ;)… What can I say. Seen it before, read it before, shrugged at it before.
Within the next five years, libraries will be. The rest depends on us. Right now I am working to get along the academic and research programmes of my university- and it seems to be working. The challenge has always been to prove our value- not assume we have none.
Really those statements are just a big shovel for people too willing to dig their own graves.
I find the Taiga statements immensely irritating, because I don’t find them thoughtful. And so, if by provocative, they meant “irritating”, then they’re doing great. If they meant, “likely to spark meaningful conversation about the ideas held therein”, I’m not impressed.
And, also, thank you. I’m very excited. 🙂
On the main page for the site, noticed that the afternoon discussions at the 2008 Taiga forum “used a modified form of ‘Open Space, an exciting and challenging technique for structuring group dialogue,” so they got that going for them at least (and maybe that’s all).
I agree with you. Another case of the big research librarian administrators having their own little clique and then proclaiming that what they think should apply to everyone in academic libraryland.
These Assistant Directors should stop going to meetings and spend at least half a day a week working with ordinary students and faculty on their campuses. Then they would value more the posse of grad assistants and support staff doing the real work.
Library Society of the World has already — with some brief attention, and then a shrug and a yawn — taken on the Taiga comments. See http://friendfeed.com/e/f4cd4887-b981-4d74-92e0-63d23d4eb30d/This-year-s-Taiga-provocative/
As far as I know, we were the first to engage with the Statements — LSW in the lead, as always.
Sorry the provocative statements didn’t do much for you Meredith. When the folks who write them do the writing they really don’t know what to expect. The goal is mostly to create some discussion whether it’s good or bad – hopefully in a way that challenges librarians. Seems these didn’t hit the mark this time. I do agree that the folks who put them out needed to do a better job of creating opportunties for comment and conversation. That was an oversight that needs correcting.
While I’m all for reactions of any type – and I would really like to see other folks creating their own provocative statements – I don’t doubt some of them would be well worth reading – I think it’s important for reactors like you to separate out the ideas from the people who write them. It needn’t turn into a “let’s get the pitchforks and torches and get after those AULs and ADs” reaction. What happen to the “take risks and don’t be afraid to fail” inspiration one often finds here – doesn’t that apply to library administrators?
Keep in mind that all AULs and ADs were front line librarians in their careers. If they’re like me, they haven’t forgotten that experience (and still look forward to their turn at the refdesk and the occasional instruction session), and their jobs are mostly about getting the resources and support their frontliners need to get their work done – and to support innovative new ideas and services. TAIGA is simply an occasional professional organization of folks with similar jobs and common challenges. It has no formal structure and no hierarchy. There is nothing elitist about it, though that is what others may want to believe.
Rather than getting all worked up about the statements and TAIGA, I’d suggest that folks talk to an AUL or an AD about the statements or whatever is on your mind. Maybe you have one at your library. You might find there is a lot of common ground. If you don’t know an AUL or AD, and you base your opinions only on the statements or what someone else said or wrote, that doesn’t seem too open minded, and that’s not what I’ve come to expect from the many great librarians in this profession.
Not sure I see the pitchforks coming out from Meredith here. “All these statements provoke in me is a sense that AUL’s and AD’s in ARL’s are living in a world that’s a million miles away from my small academic library” seems pretty mild. Meredith says that the operation is “elitist.” The site has no list of members. The site has no way to contact anyone unless you yourself are an “AL” or “AUD.” That’s what seems elitist. From my vantage point it looks like a smoke-filled room.
There were complaints that there was little discussion of these statements, right? Well how many Assistant University Librarians and Assistant Directors are out there making blog posts and comments and trying to generate discussion?
As for the “take risks and don’t be afraid to fail,” I don’t believe the the exhortation means that one shouldn’t expect to be criticized when people disagree with the substance of what one is saying. It means that messing up and having people say mean things about what you did on blogs is not the end of the world. You seem to be OK with it, Steven. Are the other folks involved not commenting here because they are so scared of us with our pitchforks? Or because they never really engage with librarians in this space at all?
There’s at least one academic library director (outside the one at my institution) who I communicate with frequently. She’s the one in comment number five above, and she doesn’t seem so excited about the statments either.
Steven, I’ve tried a lot of experiments and have been criticized for some of them, which does sting when it happens, but I don’t think anyone should put themselves “out there” without expecting to be criticized. There are two ways one can take criticisms: get really defensive about them or learn from them. I have to agree with Steve Lawson that what I said about the statements making me feel like the concerns of AULs and ADs at ARLs are a world away from what my concerns at a small academic library are is pretty darn mild. I would bet that my library’s Director would probably say the same thing about the statements if she read them (though I can’t speak for her — we just often tend to see eye to eye on things), so it has nothing to do with some issue I have with administrators. It’s about what was written and its negativity and fatalism. The issue wasn’t who wrote it at all, but the feeling that the statements “provoked” for me.
My issue with the elitism was completely separate and I’ll agree with Steve again and say that it looked like a smoke-filled room to me (for all the reasons he gave and for the lack of a place to comment and engage in a dialog). I think it’s odd that you’re telling people that instead of criticizing the Taiga statements I should talk to an AD or AUL. I don’t have any problems with AD’s or AUL’s (and I’d assume that most people who criticized the statements don’t either). My criticism was of the statements and the organization, and I have no earthly idea who was involved in writing them other than you, though I assume you were not solely responsible for their content.
When I look back at comments you’ve made on my blog, you’ve accused me a number of times of criticizing administrators as a whole when really I was criticizing something an administrator did or said. There is a difference. I can’t speak of the people in Taiga by name because all I know is that it’s a group of AUL’s and AD’s from ARL’s (whether it’s every AUL and AD at an ARL or just 5 or 6 is a mystery to me). And I think that’s a shame, because I’ll bet those statements do not reflect the views of every AUL and AD, and there’s no way for us to know whose views they do represent. Hence the smoke-filled room feel.
Try, fail, and learn from it. And what you might take from my post is not that I’m anti-administrator or want to take pitchforks to AULs and ADs, but that some people feel like these statements are negative and do not represent the reality they’re operating in, and that most people don’t appreciate provocative statements that are written by a shadowy invitation-only group that doesn’t provide any means for discussion and feedback. But if you want to assume that I’m anti-administrator, you can believe that too, though it couldn’t be further from the truth. Administrators come in every flavor, just like middle-managers and front-line workers. I’m sure some AULs are out of touch with reality, while others are moving and shaking (or shoving and making) with the best of them (you and Scott Walter immediately come to mind in that latter category).
Points well taken from both Meredith and Steve. In fact your comments are quite sensible and do help me to learn from the experience. I’m more than fine with having anything I write or say being criticized as long as it adds to a good discourse on the topic. In fact I think Steve does a particularly fine job of putting the issues into perspective without going over the top (which is what I think John did in his post).
Sorry Meredith if I have gone over the top myself in accusing you of being anti-administrator. I think you make a good rationale for why that is not the case. On the other hand I do sense some hostility out there from others.
I can understand you feeling that the statements do not resonate with your in your current library postion – and that may be owing to them coming from folks who mostly work at research universities.
I have just finished writing (on the ning for TAIGA) a message to the group sharing some thoughts on what needs to be done in the future to be more open and transparent. This experience should be a good wake up call to the group (one of which I am only a recent member I suppose) to pay more attention to the way the next generation prefers their communication. I encouraged them to do more to be open and transparent, and more inclusive in the future. So I appreciate your comments and I hope something good will come out of it.
[…] include: Steven Bell (ACRLog); John Dupuis (Confessions of a Science Librarian); Meredith Farkas (Information Wants To Be Free); Steve Lawson (See Also…); Dorothea Salo (Caveat Lector); and Roy Tennant (Library Journal […]