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Britannica Stirs the Pot

I love it when my predictions come true. Britannica is indeed using Gorman’s gorp to stir the pot (or hold a “forum,” as they think of it), as the following email that flew into my inbox this morning indicates.

So out of the tens, even hundreds of thousands of librarians Britannica could have selected, they pick the guy who is dedicated to bombasting us back to the Stone Age. His subjects are “many,” they warn us. I’d prefer “few but deep,” but perhaps that’s just me. Not only that, but there’s a part 3; he’s not even done yet.

Naturally, I am encouraged to give the B-dudes loads of link-love on their site. Free Range Librarian “could play a prominent part on this forum.” But do i wantz that cheezburger? (Hey, Pappas, thanks for letting me comment as much as I want… that’s so Web 2.0 of you!)

Do you all remember when I said, no, I am absolutely not supporting Michael Gorman for ALA President? More precisely, I said I was supporting Barb Stripling for ALA President. I had spent years on Council with Gorman and Stripling. My words seem prescient: she had a blog, she understands technology, she has the common touch… O.k., o.k., I’ll stop rubbing it in. Just remember this: Gorman was ALA President for a year, but he’s ex-president for life, and he’s riding that pony to town. For millions of people he now represents librarianship. We have a lot of work to do. (danah boyd, girl, we’re counting on you.)

Should we who get these messages post on that site… or count on the power of trackbacks to draw the conversation back onto the Web… or take some other approach? (I have considered translating Gorman into plain English… and possibly translating the English into lolspeak.)

I’ll ponder all this, and hope for your comments, as I spend this day rendering unto Caesar.



Dear K.G. Schneider: Published at the Britannica Blog ( ) is the first of three biting commentaries on learning and education in the era of “Web 2.0.” They’re written by Michael Gorman, past president of the American Library Association. His subjects are many, including blogging and the “citizen journalist,” intellectual laziness in the era of digitized sources, Wikipedia and anonymity on the Web, and the “cult of the amateur” and the “flight from expertise” that many see as characteristic of the Web today. Notable writers will be offering additional and alternative views. These writers include:

  • Sven Birkerts (Harvard University; author of The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age)
  • Nicholas Carr (noted writer on information technologies and author of The Big Switch: Our New Digital Destiny)
  • Andrew Keen (author of The Cult of the Amateur: How the Democratization of the Digital World is Assaulting Our Economy…)
  • Thomas Mann (noted reference librarian)
  • Dan Gillmor (director of Center of Citizen Media and author of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People)
  • Clay Shirky (consultant, writer on information technologies, and professor in New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program)
  • danah boyd (fellow at the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for Communications)
  • Matthew Battles (formerly of Harvard University’s Houghton Library and author of Library: An Unquiet History)
  • Scott McLemee (author of the “Intellectual Affairs” column for Inside Higher Ed)
  • Robert McHenry (former editor-in-chief, Encyclopaedia Britannica)
  • Gregory McNamee (veteran freelance writer, author of 25 books, and a weekly contributor to the Britannica Blog)

We encourage you to visit the forum, comment on the posts, and leave a link in your comments back to your own site. For the benefit of your readers, we’d appreciate a link to the forum from your site as well. We expect considerable traffic to the blog during these weeks, and you and your site could play a prominent part in this forum. You’re welcome to comment as often as you like, in response to as many posts as you’d like. Best wishes,

Theodore Pappas

Posted on this day, other years:

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  1. Trackbacks, definitely. Your discussion will be hidden otherwise. Or at least post there, and also blog your responses!

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 6:42 am | Permalink
  2. Mike Giarlo wrote:

    Folks who want to follow this discussion without subscribing to the entire Britannica feed can sub to the following:

    Give ‘em hell, kgs.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 8:36 am | Permalink
  3. To me, this middle ground between the Web 2.0 fetishists (Get rid of authority! Computer processing is all we need! Get rid of expertise! Use contribution is all we need) and the head-in-the-sand traditionalists (everything is Just Fine in library world. What we do works great! All we need is more of it, the only problem is our lack of budget, and the only solution is more budget–I insist wikipedia is completely useless, even as I use it every day myself!)

    —that middle ground is exactly the place I think libraries as a sector SHOULD be staking out, and the ground I try to stake out myself.

    I think all us sensible need to try staking out and definining this reasonable middle ground against those two ridiculous extremes (one of which can be found inside and outside the library world, the other of which is unique to the library world).

    Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 2:41 pm | Permalink
  4. kgs wrote:

    Jonathan, I concur. It’s not only important work, but it’s interesting as well.

    Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 4:22 pm | Permalink
  5. zephoria wrote:


    Friday, June 15, 2007 at 10:17 am | Permalink
  6. Peter Murray wrote:

    There is a part 3 to Gorman’s blogging career? His author page only lists two. Was there a third one there earlier and it was pulled? (For what it’s worth, Clay Shirky takes Gorman to task.)

    Friday, June 15, 2007 at 6:17 pm | Permalink
  7. kgs wrote:

    He promises three, and if you can believe this, I hear there are more than that!

    Friday, June 15, 2007 at 6:22 pm | Permalink
  8. kgs wrote:

    go, danah, go!

    Friday, June 15, 2007 at 6:23 pm | Permalink
  9. Peter Murray wrote:

    Ah, yes — I missed that part in the Britannica trying-to-drum-up-traffic e-mail that you received. (Don’t yell at me, please, I know it was in the first sentence of the e-mail. :-) )

    Friday, June 15, 2007 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. LibrarySupportStaff.Org » Michael Gorman’s Sleep of Reason on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 11:39 am

    [...] Free Range Librarian has a follow-up post with an announcement from Britannica Blog…. [...]

  2. Pattern Recognition » Shirky FTW! on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 11:54 am

    [...] excellent responses at Free Range Librarian, Information Wants to be Free, Wandering Eyre, David Lee King, Tags:authority, [...]

  3. Web 2.0 vs Michael Gorman « JPLL 2.0 on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    [...] Karen Schneider’s response [...]

  4. down the drain « on Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    [...] Everyone and everyone who blogs about libraries has been talking about Michael Gorman’s blazes on the Britannica blog, and about some weird public blog dissing at NASIG. Okaaay. I think it’s because it’s the same old debate, floated for the millionth time. [...]

  5. [...] himself is now apparently willing to share his ideas through blogging…. though, perhaps, as K.G. Schneider points out. a little too obviously encouraged by the Britannica marketing folks in a clever [...]

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