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Shut Yer Piehole, Gorman

Update: I was too hard on the WSJ reporters. Read my explanation. I won’t change this post, but I shouldn’t let my contempt for Gorman obscure my sense of fairness.

It’s All Good reports that Michael Gorman again went after Google (in re the project now called Google Book Search) in an article in the Wall Street Journal (11/1/05), asserting once more, “The point of a scholarly text is they are written to be read sequentially from beginning to end, making an argument and engaging you in dialogue.”

Have you noticed how none of us have said anything? It’s not that we have drunk the KoolAid and now agree with Gorman. It’s that we’re so over him. I just don’t hear Gorman any more.

Gorman has labored strenuously for nearly a year to alienate most of his constituents, including many people (not me!) who supported him for his one-year post as ALA president. Like George Bush, he has wasted precious capital on completely the wrong things. Gorman has used his time in office to take ill-considered, rambling, fundamentally wrong-headed pot shots at librarian bloggers, Google, and technology in general. He not only hasn’t toned down in the face of criticism; with the WSJ comments, it’s clear he thinks he’s quite clever by half. I only hope that if some other “MSM” outlet covers Gorman, it has the wherewithal to ask how well he truly represents librarianship.

The sad part is there is much to be said about Google, yet it’s happening elsewhere, away from the Wall Street Journal. The good discussions, the really acute, witty, thought-provoking critiques, take place on Web4Lib, among the likes of Rich Wiggins and Roy Tennant. Meanwhile, thanks to Gorman’s spittle-flecked ravings, the rest of the world can think of us as simple-minded throwbacks. All the “@ Your Library” money in the world can’t compensate for that kind of enduring bad press.

I’d like to think Leslie Burger will be different. She doesn’t have to do a fresh install of Red Hat to impress me; it’s also o.k. if she doesn’t read blogs. But following the humiliating regime of Michael Gorman, it would be nice to have an ALA president who made us look just a tiny bit better in the eyes of the world, and who encouraged us to harness technology at the beck and call of the services we provide. Leslie, soon it will be your time. We count on you.

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  1. Alane wrote:

    Blogging as I do in affiliation with MPOW, Karen, I could not be so forthcoming :) But I am glad you are. And as I point out in the post….there’s no evidence offered to support the silly claim that certain texts must be read sequentially, also “making an argument and engaging you in dialogue.” Which reminds me of the screaming book in the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts Library, in Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone. Maybe Gorman attended a private school in Old Blighty…might account for the biliousness.

    Friday, November 18, 2005 at 5:29 am | Permalink
  2. Angel wrote:

    At this point in time, anyone sounds better than Gorman. I think you got it right, by now most of us have stopped listening to him and just moved on. I know I did. I would like to think the new person will be different, but at this point, I will wait for the actions to speak. After Gorman, I am just not willing to give anyone in that position the benefit of the doubt. Best.

    Friday, November 18, 2005 at 6:28 am | Permalink
  3. ludewig wrote:

    Thanks for this. I only wish your post could be published in the WSJ, as are Gorman’s remarks. As it is, a few hundred of us read rational takes such as this, while many more unknowing WSJ readers casually read Gorman’s article and take it at face value, as he is ALA president.

    Friday, November 18, 2005 at 6:57 am | Permalink
  4. This his theme that bothers me the most, “they are written to be read sequentially from beginning to end.” How can a library profession have such a profound misunderstanding of scientific scholarly literature? Hell, doesn’t he provide book chapters via ILL? What about things like Annual Reviews? Lecture Notes in Computer Science? Landolt-Boernstein? That’s not scholarly literature? I’ll be so happy when he’s gone. Good luck to Burger, she’ll need it.

    Friday, November 18, 2005 at 7:35 am | Permalink
  5. Loriene Roy wrote:

    Hello, Karen, et al,

    Library workers have always been concerned about the impact of technology in the workplace and on reading. Early articles indexed in “Canon’s Bibliography of Library Economy” (the precursor to Library Lit) cite articles on the fear of the impact of fluorescent lighting on catalog cards, for example. We sometimes forget that readers/viewers gather information from a wide range of media–the arrival of a new type of information/new format hasn’t been shown to displace other formats of information.
    As for me, I welcome resources that help deliver materials to audiences that might otherwise be unable to access materials. I serve on the boards of several projects that employ technology on digital access initiatives–, the ICDL (International Children’s Digital Children’s Library), and, some years ago, with Four Directions (a U.S. Department of Education grant with tribal schools, supporting them in the development of culturally responsive curriculum using technology). I report on these and other issues in my blog–

    Cheers and megwitch (Ojibwe for thank you),

    Loriene Roy
    Candidate, ALA President 2007-2008

    Sunday, November 20, 2005 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

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