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But Still It Sucks

I was doing fine with Meredith Farkas’ post last week about grotty library interiors et al., a post revisting a number of observations and ideas that I largely agree with on many levels. But yesterday’s post caught me short with this:

“I created the title of last week’s post (”It’s Not Just the OPAC that Sucks”) because I was feeling like I would bang my head against the wall if I saw one more person write about OPACs sucking. OK! We get it! Now what? It’s great to see people criticizing things and coming up with new ideas (and there were some terrific posts on the woeful state of the OPAC). But then the groupthink takes over and people just echo the same ideas over and over again, without adding anything new or productive. What’s the point of that?”

I’m not asking for affirmation of every single idea I toss on this blog, but I was taken aback that in the space of two blog posts we went from “public libraries shouldn’t smell” to “the sucky OPAC is so fifteen minutes ago.”

First, if there’s one area I would truly love to see groupthink take over, it’s the idea that OPACs suck. Let us all be in lockstep on this issue. Let us march down the avenues on this issue. Let us rise up in arms and repeat: They suck. They suck. They suck.

One thing I know is that an idea can be well-repeated within the early adopters and virtually unknown by the vast communities we work with. From my vantage point, I am not at all sure that as a profession we “get it.” The idea that the OPAC sucks (which is really a broader commentary on service provision and even the state of our profession) is just barely trickling down from the earliest of adopters to the body politic. The question of why they suck–a troubling question, once explored–is a surface only yet being scratched.

Even if we do “get it,” it helps to know (as we do hand-to-hand combat, person by person, hill by hill) that there is a groundswell of agreement that this is an area deserving of our attention. It ain’t easy fighting this battle, and we need all the help our peers can provide us. In real life, moving a library organization from a library-centric to user-centric perspective requires blood, sweat, toil, and tears, and some of the key people you need on board with this idea are not there with you just yet.

I would encourage us all to continue to think, write, talk, and yes, argue about the limits of library technology, and how we get to the next stage. Intelligent critique of what has been the central technology of library services for decades is not some short-term meme we can set aside and move on from.

I’m now off for a day in which in at least one tiny way I hope to do my part to un-suck the incorrigibly unsuckable.

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