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Such a Week

We moved from Richmond to Palo Alto last week. I wanted to comment about Anne Lipow’s death, but was often offline. I posted only the briefest of comments on the blog entry set up by Infopeople. I did not have enough time or mental wherewithal to prepare my thoughts very carefully, and I did not want to fall into the trap of a comment that was the victim of “the upright pronoun,” to borrow a phrase from Philip Gerard (see “Taking Yourself Out of the Story: Narrative Stance and the Upright Pronoun,” in “Writing Creative Nonfiction,” Gerard and Forche, eds.). The comments on the blog are by and large beautiful memories of Anne herself, as it should be, and I am glad that in my haste and exhaustion I did not mar that festshrift with a contribution I would later find marred by solipsism.

So will this be a comment about Anne? No. I wrote a brief essay about Anne for class, styled as a letter to her. I’m proud of it, and I will share it with others on request, but it’s not intended for general consumption. I will miss Anne; and I will always be particularly humbled and grateful that in the fall of 2001, when I had first moved to California and was very lonely (not to mention, at times, afraid), Anne was so good to me. Anne was a great librarian, a great innovator, a great publisher, and a great person. She deserves us not only to remember her, but to continue following in her giant footsteps.

What I will say is this was a particularly bad week to read “The Seven Deadly Sins of Library Technology,” an article in American Libraries that professes to skewer virtual reference, but as the title suggests is a broader, vaguer assault on technology per se, based, as far as I can tell, on a traumatic experience the author had with a VR implementation gone wrong. Perhaps the article is intended to be cleverly contrary; perhaps it is intended as wise advice; perhaps it was simply a chance to take a speech and retread it into an article. It fails on all counts, and then some. I will be explaining what is wrong with this article later this week, after I have written my comments, and revised them, and revised them again.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I plan to dissect this article very carefully, not because I am a kneejerk technophile (if you have heard me rant about online instruction, you know better than that), but because this article needs a response longer and more available than a letter to the editor, and also because it provides such a great opportunity to talk about librarianship.

And by the way, thank you to Marcia Poggione of Xavier University Library in Cincinatti, who provided wonderful VR for me yesterday, while I was deep in a lather about a major assignment I am turning in this week, and when my browser froze and we lost the connection (this computer is a pig), emailed me yet more information. What a great reminder that good librarianship done well is what we are all about.

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