Friday, February 25, 2005

ALA Boss-to-be Dislikes Blogosphere

Librarians vs. Bloggers. Someone has decided to start slinging mud between the traditional gatekeepers of information with the modern users of information. This won't end well.

Michael Gorman has a point about Google not being the be-all-end-all research tool that some people might surmise it to be. It will not replace hunting through the stacks at a library, nor will it have the same familiarity as holding a book or other source in your grubby little mitts as you churn out yet another academic monograph. It certainly won't replace a non-literary primary source like those found in the sciences of history, archaeology and anthropology. Web-based research is useful for general searches, and may give some good ideas for where to look when trying to find a specific source. Even the Turabian guide to research papers, dissertations and theses has information on how to properly cite web-based sources. Google has merit as a research tool, but it is not the one true way. On this, Mr. Gorman and I agree.

However, the ALA President-elect has chosen to defend himself with a series of ad hominem arguments when he faces his critics, my fellow bloggers. Let's look at how Mr. Gorman defines a blog:
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.")
Well, Mr. Gorman is certainly attacking the intellect of bloggers here. This quote also reveals his contempt for anyone who does not publish their work through a small, academic peer-reviewed publication or other professional writer's organization. This may come as a surprise to Mr. Gorman, but blogs have the ability to be reviewed instantly by anyone. It's quite an egalitarian process, actually. In fact, new information previously unknown by the writer can be delivered quickly and efficiently, with the effect of having a writer revise his statements if he is so convinced by the information. Blogs have the ability to be reviewed by everyone, and if you base the internet on the premise of "All men are created equal" then you will have the largest set of peers available for review, won't you, Mr. Gorman?

But wait, Mr. Gorman doesn't share such egalitarian views about bloggers when they disagree with him:
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.
Mr. Gorman, what people think about what one writes is a reaction to his ability to clearly communicate his point of view. In this case, Mr. Gorman could believe that those without his credentials are not allowed to criticize his statements. Or, he could also have miscommunicated his ideas on the subject of web-based research.

Let me be clear: I agree with him on the idea that Google should not be someone's sole tool for research. Always have corroborating sources and alternative research methods available when doing academic research, or even journalistic research. Check facts by as many methods as possible. He is, however, being an uncharitable fellow in his opinion of those of us who enjoy writing via the internet. So, I shall address Mr. Gorman in the way I believe he was addressing those of us who blog: Is Mr. Gorman incapable of clarifying or defending his position, or is he being an elitist snob?

I leave it to my fellow bloggers to decide.

(Article found via Instapundit.)

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