Michael Gorman

John M. did a post about Michael Gorman after hearing about one of his books on my blog.  To keep the cross-blog dialogue flowing, I thought this might be a fitting time to post a comment I made about Gorman on our “Advocacy in Libraries” message board. 

I posted the following on the week we had to watch a video of Gorman addressing the CLA in Vancouver when he was the ALA's President-elect.  Classmates were posting their thoughts about Gorman's speech (which was very good and engaging – much like his books) but I wasn't sure if they had any background on the furor around his “blog people” article which I thought was especially relevant because we were using other, similar types of new, cutting edge technologies (streaming video, e-learning suites) to take an U of T class that we otherwise wouldn't have had access to.  Also, simply because it was important to know that this was somebody who was leading the largest library organization in the world who had made some incredibly disparaging remarks about a large portion of that organization's membership.  (I don't have the same venom for him that many do because of his remarks and like John M., would love to have a beer with Mr. Gorman, just to hear his thoughts and experiences on the library world and beyond.)

So anyhow, here's what I posted.  (If you haven't before, you should read the “blog people” article I link to in the first line.  And man, do I love that “Melville Dewey” line in this post!)

Here's a link to Micheal Gorman's original “Blog People
article. I should've linked to it in my last post rather than going
with the (ahem) rather inflammatory quote that I did use. [Note: I originally linked to a Librarian In Black blog response to Gorman's original article] Apologies for
the that. But obviously, like Wendy [note: our instructor] mentioned in her weekly update, I
too have definite feelings about this (although in the opposite
direction).


I think Michael Gorman does a grave disservice to
the profession with divisive comments like the ones in this article,
whether they are meant ironically or not. Saying: “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” insults
pro-technology librarians, many of whom have the same MLIS degree that
he does. That reeks of elitism and is exactly what I think libraries
(and librarians) should avoid at all costs.


For the President-elect of the ALA to happily admit that “Until
recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog
People” is simply shocking. Whether or not, you're a fan of technology
(or its potential for libraries), librarians are in the business of
information and blogs are part of that web of information. That would
be like Melville Dewey standing up at the first ALA convention in 1876
and saying “I have not spent much time thinking about that new
invention the telephone or the 'Telephone People' who like it so.”

The reason of the outcry in the blogosphere was his attack on Google's digitization plan for the contents of hundreds of thousands of books. He says this project is “a triumph of hope and boosterism over reality”, I would reply with Michael Geist's
comment from his session on copyright at the CLA conference that
“Google Books has the potential to be nothing less than a card
catalogue for the 21st Century.” (By the way, Michael Geist has one of
the best blogs around having recently completed a “30 Days of DRM”  series of posts that was as timely and informative as anything you'll find in scholarly articles or monographs.)

Gorman says: “If
a fraction of the [money being spent on the Google Books digitization
project] were devoted to buying books and
providing librarians for the library-starved children of California,
the effort would be of far more use to humanity and society.” but his
geo-centrism is telling. I think that the Google Books project has FAR
more potential for usefulness to all humanity than improving the
library collections in a single state. For example, right this  moment, Google Books allows me to find 201 references to him using the search string [“Michael Gorman” + librarian] in a wide variety of books – something
that would have been impossible prior to this project. If Michael
Gorman's work were of interest to someone in Bel Air *or* Belize, Google Books would
allow them find it.

Wendy observes that the hue
& outcry that followed the Blog People article could've been better
spent in library advocacy or other endeavours and this is very true.
But I would argue that perhaps instead of writing articles that divide
the profession and lead to this type of outcry in the first place,
Gorman would be better off spending his time advocating for those
library-starved children in his home state (which, while we're on the topic of starving children, is a good place to mention that, if California were a
country, would have the 7th highest GDP of any nation in the world.)

Hmm, that just kinda peters out a bit, eh?  I should've had a better summary line.  Oh well.  Anyhow, here's my attempt now:

Libraries are about sharing information freely.  Google seems to be about sharing information freely (although technically, they are a commerical entity and the information is paid for by advertisers – more on that someday in the future.)  Bloggers are about sharing information freely.  So why the animosity, elitisim and divisiveness? 

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