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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

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