[Spoiler warning: it’s because I think it’s awesome.]
I’ve been modding for Librarian Shaming since it made the jump from a most excellent post on the Dracut Library blog to tumblr (arguably its natural environment). The site’s caught some flack from the start, but that seems to have ramped up in the last week or so. Whether that means that the numbers of followers and posts have reached some kind of critical mass or that we’ve just hit the backlash portion of the internet meme lifecycle, who can say.
I won’t endeavor to do some kind of point-by-point rebuttal of the critiques I’ve seen, both because I’d rather talk about what I like than get defensive*, and because I’m sure I’ve missed some. But I will start out by speaking to the notion that Librarian Shaming is somehow bad for the image of the profession.
Here’s the thing: I love how many followers we have, and I love that we’ve gotten press. But honestly? This is a moderately popular blog that’s been getting the meme-flash-in-the-pan treatment for a few weeks. Most of the attention it’s received is from within the library world, even after getting picked up by the web press. We’re just not that influential, and that’s OK.
I’ve heard a number of folks worry about how some of the more negative submissions could adversely affect patron support for libraries, and I hate the idea of making any library worker’s life anywhere any harder. But the thing is, any “supporter” who would hold something some anonymous library worker said against you never supported you in the first place. And I certainly don’t think that any public collective action by libraryfolk should be held to the standard of, “But what might our most wingnutty hypothetical patron think of this?” Reasonable people will recognize the site for what it is: a place to vent.
Which is not to say that I, personally, have been down with every submission. Like anyone else, there have been submissions I’ve found challenging or upsetting or painfully wrongheaded. This is a good thing. I really dig that we’ve sparked some conversations about patron interaction, dealing with works we find reprehensible, and pay. Do I think these discussions will necessarily change the world? No.** But it’s really good to see them happen, and see them expand beyond tumblr.
That brings me to the main reason I think Librarian Shaming can be good for the profession: it lets people vent their challenging and upsetting and potentially wrongheaded reactions to the work, the stuff they struggle with or do on the sly, and do so anonymously. One critique I’ve seen a few times goes along the lines of, “If I said this stuff, I’d get fired!”
That’s the point.
I think Librarian Shaming has gotten the number of followers and submissions that we have because many libraryfolk haven’t had this kind of outlet before. So many of us have blogs and social media accounts and marketing collateral — often both institutional and personal — to talk about the positive and inspiring parts of our work.*** But we have a fear of publicly copping to the things that frustrate us; and it’s a justified fear, because that can get us into serious, potentially life-altering trouble.
But Librarian Shaming gives an avenue for that kind of emotion, and even lets folks laugh and commiserate about it to the extent that they’re comfortable. And that’s what I love about working with the blog: the tremendous outpouring of positive, funny, joyful responses that I’ve seen to so many of the posts.
I’m not going to say it’s perfect — even I wonder from time to time if we should change the name, for example — but overall it’s been a really wonderful experience. And one I’m proud to be a part of.
I’m just not sure where it should go on my CV quite yet.
* Yeah, I know the post title comes off as at least a little defensive. But I’m a sucker for parallelism.
** Again, we’re not that influential.
*** Not that I’m saying that we, as a profession, do enough of that. Oh gods, no. But the tools are there.