Wednesday, May 9, 2007

surface tension

I recall some discussion—too much discussion—during grad school around the definition of the library profession. Is it library science or information science? Is it a science? Is there a difference between library science and librarianship? While I do understand to the power of naming things, at some point you move forward. You stop spinning your wheels with semantics and define your vocation and its value by what it is that you do.

I've been reading Steve Hardy's blog and have sensed some wheel spinning. And so I ask: What shall we do with creative generalism? ("How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?")

Mr. Hardy: I hear you clucking, big chicken. I agree that it is important to remove the blinders and take in the vista. Tunnel vision = BAD. But I also think there comes a time to move past the manifestos that reiterate much that has already been those you've quoted at length.

Please don't take this the wrong way. I would not likely have heard, for example, of Weiner and Cybernetics had it not been for your blog. But further delving (yikes...does that disqualify me as a creative generalist?) reveals that dear Norbert's passion was the co-mingling of different areas of study, not the discussion of the importance of the co-mingling. Your magnificent third- or fourth-hand quote of Weiner was, after all, in the introduction of his book. He's written much. Check him out.

Perhaps this is beyond your intended scope, or I've missed your intention entirely. It just seems that you're skimming the surface. Excessive philosophizing is often lost on me. Pragmatism rules supreme in my noggin. My inclination is to dive in and get wet rather than analyze the reflection.

The result of my graduate studies was [drumroll...]: a "Masters of Arts in Library and Information Studies". What does this gobbledygook mean to immigrant families, teen parents, residents of correctional facilities, or homebound customers who receive library services? Bupkis.

But ask them what it means to them to have resources available freely to them that help them function and prosper in a new culture or help their children build the skills they need to be successful in school and life or help them to merely pass time or find a sliver of peace amidst chaos. I'm fairly confident you'd get a much different answer. And I'd rather let that define the importance of what I do.


Leila said...

"...Norbert's passion was the co-mingling of different areas of study, not the discussion of the importance of the co-mingling..."

Dear Erin, in one sentence you've skewered all of post-modern crap and those of us who swim in it. Très, très funny. Best, Leila

erin said...

I don't mean to be too snarky - I wouldn't read his stuff if there wasn't some's just a little hard to distill. I'd love a dialog and I welcome scrutiny, but I don't reckon he'd stop by. Ah, well.

I've gained you as a passerby, so I'm a happy camper!

Steve Hardy said...

Hey Erin,

"Big chicken" here. I've been semi-offline for the past several weeks and I only just now read your post. Not sure where to start in reply/defence...

Well, firstly, I hear said wheel spinning as well. But so what? I'm a hobby blogger and in my spare time I post on a topic of interest to me. Seems to me that there are many others out there doing the same thing, some more shallow and others more profound or provocative. Creative Generalist started really just as a personal bookmarks log and gradually others (such as yourself) came along for the wanderings.

As both a librarian and a pragmatist you may appreciate that I once managed a start-up general-interest magazine championing "eclectic curiosity". It grew from nothing to mag of the year in just two years. That was definitely a get-your-hands-dirty rubber-meets-the-road type project. I've since moved on but I'm still engaged in similar initiatives. And yet I still quote and philosophize at CG.

What encourages me about your rant is that you believe more tangible effort can be made with regards to creative generalism. So, sure, let's delve, Erin. What would you suggest be done? What next steps make sense to you?

Or were you just throwing stones from across the alley?

Creative Generalist

ps - oh hey Leila

erin said...

Read my reply here.