Scott McLeod posted 10 Questions About Books, Libraries, Librarians, and Schools today on his blog Dangerously Irrelevant. He has presented these questions at a few library conferences in the last month to varying reaction.
It seems that some have loved his comments, while others have scorned his questions saying he knows nothing about libraries and librarians.
I recommend you click the link above and read the questions. Here are my thoughts:
a) These are questions. He’s playing devil’s advocate. He’s pushing librarians and educators to move beyond their comfort zones and ask themselves hard questions.
It seems to me that librarians approach the issue of technology and how it may or may not replace us in one of two ways. The first is with “kid gloves”. We approach the concept gently, not making eye contact, moving slowly. We sit in committee meetings and we discuss and discuss and we shoot down progressive ideas that might make us increasingly relevant or, worse, we form a COMMITTEE that never sees the light of day again. The second method of dealing with these tough questions is to get depressed, to go meetings and library conferences and sigh and say “Well, this is just the way it is” and whine.
There is a group of young punks doing their best to push forward and get out of the box, but they face barriers. Barriers including administrators, educators that just don’t understand or fellow librarians who don’t make an effort to help build on basic ideas and turn them into realities not just in one library, but in many.
b) One of the responses that Scott McLeod received said something about him not spending a lot of time with teacher librarians, because if he did, he would understand the profession more effectively. To that I say, thank goodness he asked these questions. Let’s assume Mr. McLeod doesn’t spend a lot of time with librarians and has only met one in his life and she was mean and had a bun in her hair and carried a yardstick. If that’s the case, then these questions tell us that this is what our profession looks like to those on the outside. This what educators think, this is what schools think, these are the questions parents are asking.
But even if Mr. McLeod was buddies with the Librarian of Congress and the President of YALSA and every information literacy instructor in the country, you have to admit he’s asking good questions. Why? Because he’s not a librarian. He’s someone who, as an educator, interacts with librarians and uses the services they provide, but he asks good, hard, demanding questions that we either do not ask ourselves or do not ask ourselves in the right way or with the right perspective.
Read the questions. Your gut reaction will probably be less than pleasant. But then go back and read them again and don’t take it personally. He’s not saying we’re talentless hacks, or being replaced by tech – he’s asking that if in the worst case scenario, how can librarians prove their value and work with old-school librarians to think in a more innovative way.