There must be a light of some kind

2 views on the slipperiness of words:

Words are clumsy tools. And it is very easy to cut one’s fingers with them, and they need the closest attention in handling; but they are the only tools we have, and the imagination itself cannot work without them.

(Frankfurter 1947: 546) as quoted in Harris, R., & Hutton, C. (2007). Definition in Theory and Practice: Language, Lexicography and the Law London: Continuum: 135. [as seen in my “Words of Wisdom” text widgety thing on the upper right column on my blog’s main page. Wow, I really need to do some CSS work; I can’t stand that being all caps.]


wish i didn’t have this nervous laugh
wish i didn’t say half the stuff i say
wish i could just learn to cover my tracks
guess i’m not concerned enough
about getting away with it

every time i try to hold my tongue
it slips like a fish from the line
they say if you’re gonna play
you should learn how to play dumb
guess i can’t bring myself to waste your time

there must be a light of some kind

ani – light of some kind – Not A Pretty Girl

[light of some kind last used here 3 years ago] Quite interesting some of the issues discussed in that post from just under 3 years ago to those of today. I clearly face many of the same frustrations.

Looking for a light of some kind

So. Words and me lately. Some successes; some phenomenal failures. The failures are failures of presentation, and not failures of intellectual content or intention, but they need to be exposed to a light and I need to figure this out. Thus, my current prayer that “there must be a light of some kind.”

It may be hard to find a light while locked in a gas station bathroom to think, but for now I’m thinking about possible resources ….

the heat is so great
it plays tricks with the eyes
turns the road into water
then from water to sky
there’s a crack in the concrete floor
that starts at the sink
there’s a bathroom in a gas station
and i’ve locked myself in it to think

ani – shy – Not A Pretty Girl

[shy last used here Dec 2006] Still some of those issues being faced, also.

I have decided not to follow up on my Gorman posts, the comments others and I made on them, nor on MG’s presentation. I realize that I said I would but I have changed my mind. Things did not turn out so well and I had to consider myself a failure, on one scale at least.

I have forgiven myself (somewhat) and am trying to put it all in perspective. This has been good for me in that it brought to head something that has been bugging me [about myself] for a while. I am getting some help for the issue, and am open to other ways to think about and act on doing what I need. In that regard, I’m pursuing a few discussions on how others deal with issues of communicating their concerns within the field at large. On that note, my thanks to those who sent me some perspective after writing the failure post.

I intend to continue pursuing the same sorts of arguments, and lines of reasoning, as I have been but I also intend to strive to find a better way of presenting my ideas and critiques. Here in my space I will continue to push the bounds of what passes for “professional discourse” in the larger field, as I feel that there is plenty of ethical justification and even ethical responsibility for doing so.

Towards that end, I hope to soon have a comment policy and a “statement of purpose” which in some manner lay out what it is I am attempting to do: what kind of critique[s] I am making, the purpose[s] of my critique[s], my desire for seeing [and participating in] actual dialog, my express desire to be challenged and called on something when I should be, etc.

On the fine art of not being self-conflagrative

we couldn’t all be cowboys
some of us are clowns
some of us are dancers on the midway
we roam from town to town
i hope that everybody
can find a little flame
and me, i just say my prayers, then i just light myself on fire
and walk out on the wire once again

and i say …

counting crows – goodnight elisabeth – recovering the satellites

This song was once very important to me, primarily this section. Every morning, walking into work, was like lighting myself on fire and stepping out on the wire. Every. Single. Day. During the depths of my deepest struggles to climb out of the depression these words had motive force for me.

In fact, there was a curb out back of my previous library that ran from the street to almost the back door itself. It swept down a small incline from street-side to door-side. Straight ahead [and in line with a pillar and one long edge of the building] it ran until almost the end where it curved rapidly 90 degrees to the left. The surface of the curb was interesting in its own right. It was generally a bit higher than the surrounding sidewalk and several inches higher than the parking lot and drive that it bordered. The surface was not entirely even and even had a slight tilt to the sides at points [both directions], covered in yellow paint it could be slippery faster than the surrounding bare cement, and over time portions [much eventually] got literally torn up and made ragged by all the university service vehicles parking along it, running over it, and tearing it up with the plow in winter. I imagine the elements did a little work on their own over time. [Sadly, now, a few years later the curb is a complete mess and is, as such, highly demoralizing on the rare occasion that I see it any more.]

One day, dangerously depressed, heading into work I was listening to this song when I came upon the curb. “Hmmmm,” I wondered. “While I metaphorically continue to light myself on fire, can I actually walk down this curb?”

I did OK for a first effort. From then on, I walked down (and up) that curb whenever an opportunity presented itself. Winter was frequently not a good (or possible) time for curb-walking, nor were rain and wind, generally. But there were always exceptions. Keep in mind I frequently had a backpack.

I became quite good at “walking out on the wire.” I walked it no matter who was at hand to see me do so. [If this was the oddest thing that they thought about me I was on solid footing. 😉 ] It soon became somewhat of a small omen as to how the day was going to go. If I swiftly sashayed down the entire length then the day would be great; if I made it but had to struggle for it then I needed to be “cautious” [in some regard] that day; if I fell [or stepped] off then just hold on because there was soon going to be another time on the wire.

I sometimes walked the curb more than once in a day, and while each time had some “power”, it was the first of the day that had the most impact for the whole day. Rest assured, I made great strides to not let it actually be causal, at least not on the days I fell off. Sometimes an early “falling off” was just the universe’s early warning system letting me know that “today is not a day to be doing this.”

My point, long in coming, is that I need to learn how to walk out on the wire without the self-conflagrat*

Getting back on the wire—repeatedly—is perfectly fine. Missteps are expected. The lighting oneself on fire first has got to go, though.

NOTE: This was mostly written a week or so ago and should have closely followed the “O, most frabjous day” post.

I have been very quiet lately and there are several reasons for this. Despite the distraction of a new girlfriend and, in fact, thanks to much she offered there has been quite a bit of contemplation and reflection going on here. There still is.  I am working on some things but expect a bit more quiet and hopefully something different (soon).

This has been a most productive summer for me, personally, in many ways.

O, most frabjous day

Things have sort of “settled down” around here; here being the blog. Related things in my daily life got “interesting” and have only progressed. Today was a most enlightening day. [Yes, Christina, that “interesting” was purposefully vague, and for you.  😉 ]

Wow. What to say, or not say? Been working on this for a while now since …, well, mid-June.  Been doing a lot of thinking and a couple two days ago I started drafting a post, and some drafts of things referenced in the draft post and making a list of “sources.”

Been talking to some folks, in various venues, more face-to-face lately; been trying to talk to a few others, various venues, mostly f-2-f at moment but not entirely [I seriously need to reach out to a couple folks … once I has plan]; I have a new advisor at school; and also someone I am seriously discussing my perceived communication issues, amongst other things, with.

But today brought a whole new level of interestingness. I really am not about to go into much, yet and if at all, but today I listened to the entire Q&A for the Gorman colloquium and it seems my lived experience as perceived at the time [and some odd coincidences at school] led me to perceive my communication issues vastly differently from what they truly are.

After the very pleasant shock of how I sounded in my comments to Michael Gorman—direct, perhaps blunt, but level-headed and with little emotion—I had a few conversations with a couple of amazing women, some of whom I have already been talking with, that really helped put some things in perspective.

After today I have a much better idea of the issues I face—talking them through with wonderful and intelligent people also really helps.

I am not a failure. I also must remember the impossibly high standards that I set for myself before saying such silly things again. I did fail, momentarily [and in highly specific and narrow ways]. I am not a failure. I know so very much. There is always more to learn.

This little non-event has done some serious work for me. I have a much better idea of who I am and what I am committed to. I have fully embraced the knowledge that this commitment may well impact my earning potential. I will always be “that guy.” When what I want is to be this guy and in many more contexts.

I’m going to stay kind of quiet for a while most likely but know that I am working on some things. And, me? Please know that I am as fine as the wonderful little summer storms we had earlier this evening [yes, I adore them] and that I am Stargazing.

Today was a very affirming, most frabjous, day.

I am a failure

I have come to realize that I am a failure at the professional role that I have been trying to adopt for the last several years.  It is one which, in many ways, I am perfectly suited for.  For instance, I can shoot holes in most any argument presented by most anyone, preferably with the intention of helping the argument be strengthened.  I’m also pretty good at adding nuance to arguments and discussion, or at least insisting that others do so.  Unfortunately, in other ways, I am ill-suited for it.  Sadly, the ways in which I am failing are much, much harder to change than others.  I cannot simply acquire more education to fix this.  I need to change a fundamental way in which I present myself.

I am a very passionate person, about a great many things.  Professionally, my greatest passions run to our bibliographic structures, past, current, and future.  It is why I spent another 40+ hours on my education post-Masters.  A job doing something with these structures, traditional or otherwise, is what I desire.

Unfortunately, my passion, especially in its extemporaneous, face-to-face version mostly seems to come out as anger, at least to others.  I do not fully understand why that is, but it is old and deeply ingrained.  It is also somewhat connected to my coming back to life from the intensely deep chronic depression I was in when I retired from the Army.

I would give anything to change this and have desired to and have worked on it for the last several years.  It is certainly a professional handicap, particularly for the role I want to play.

Was my behavior yesterday—my comments to Michael Gorman—disrespectful and/or unprofessional?  Only you can decide.  My intended behavior was not, in my opinion.  You may well disagree.  What about my manifested behavior?  Well, I won’t say I’m proud of it.  But neither was it what I intended.

I do stand by everything that I’ve written or said on the subject, though.  Some of it I wish was expressed better, especially what I said in room 126.  But then that is the issue.

Another place where I am failing is in much of my blogging.  I frequently take a comment by someone and in my reply broaden it so greatly—kind of like riffing on it—that I am no longer addressing the comment author.  I may, in fact, specifically not be addressing the commenter.  But.  That is a dangerous thing to do because I am often unclear that that is what I am doing and, thus, some folks take my replies personally when they really shouldn’t.  Or they simply don’t believe my intentions.  Now in external appearances they are fully justified in doing so.  I cannot deny that.  Thus, I am a failure at that, too.

Another area in which I often fail is distinguishing at what level, if you will, I am talking.  I also make frequent shifts between “levels”—theory vs. practice, cultural reality vs. how I believe the world (or some portion of it) ought to, and could, be, and so on.  This one plays out frequently in my exchanges with my dear friend, Jenny.  Jenny frequently argues from the cultural reality or, at least, cultural perception perspective.  This is something she is imminently more qualified for than me and I greatly appreciate her doing so.  It reminds me of how the world really is, or seems to be, for many others, sometimes even for myself.  I, on the other hand, am often arguing for how I think the world ought to, and could perhaps, be.  Our discussion of whether or not Michael Gorman is qualified to address the topics on which he spoke is a perfect example.

Jenny’s argument (greatly simplified) is that having been ALA President does, in fact, in our cultural context of librarianship qualify anyone to address the future of libraries and other topics.  This is true. But my argument is from another angle.  I prefer a world in which real qualifications are required for something this important.  I am not saying he is completely unqualified.  That would be completely asinine.  He is highly qualified to address much of what he did, and much of it he did so eloquently.

But much of it he is not.  The fact that he was ALA President is completely irrelevant to whether he is qualified to speak about Dublin Core or metadata in general.  And the fact that he willfully and belligerently holds to a view of DC and metadata that is so overly simplistic is one prime reason why he is unqualified, in my opinion.  He is an extremely intelligent person who could easily choose to upgrade his knowledge if he chose to.  But his willful disregard for the state of portions of our field is a political move.  In fact, it is a move which plays well with many in our profession and serves a purpose.  The purpose is even one which I greatly support.  But there are far better and more honest ways to do so.

But I have a hard time expressing these things so that people will listen, especially the people I am trying to critique.  And no one, including myself, is above critique.

So.  There it is.  I am a failure.  I am, currently anyway, constitutionally incapable of playing the professional role that is most important to me.  I have no idea what I am going to do about this.  I truly don’t.  And that fact scares me.

Over time I have had many, in various ways, tell me that they appreciate what I do and that the profession needs people like me.  I cannot agree more.  But it needs people who do what I do who can do so more eloquently and either with much less passion or, at least, with that passion much better expressed.

Even if librarians and the profession don’t deserve it, those for whom we do what we do do deserve better.  Better than I seem capable of.

To anyone affiliated with GSLIS who is embarrassed or offended by my behavior—here, in person, or elsewhere—I truly and sincerely apologize. Offense is not my intention, but I do think what I am attempting to do is critically important to our profession. I just wish I could do it better, now.

[Comments are disabled for this post.]

What is it with UIUC and this guy

Tomorrow, Wednesday, 18 June 2008, 2 – 3:30 PM

Library Colloquium: Michael Gorman : Are Libraries Still Vital to Research?

Why do we keep bringing him here?

And, yes, I am well aware of his connection to UIUC. But, honestly, you’d think people might have outgrown him by now. Perhaps if more of our students could learn to think for themselves and to read a bit more widely ….

This quote from the news announcement I find particularly ironic:

If you need a refresher on Michael Gorman’s fascinating career, check his entry in Wikipedia which also provides links to some of his publications and other biographical sources.

There’s something just a tad bit too delicious to think about when someone links to Wikipedia to reference Gorman’s career. Don’t you think?

Part of the lecture is supposed to be on core competencies for LIS education, a major platform of Gorman’s ALA Presidency. I am assuming this post at Doc Martens’ theorywatch is in reference to them.

What a nice laundry list that. I will be interested in hearing how and to what depth they will be measured/evaluated. Or will it be enough for ALA as accrediting agency—as it is now—for programs just to claim that they address them. Actually, now, programs only have to claim that they address what they think is valuable [Yes, it isn’t quite so simplistic I know. But honestly that’s about what it reduces to.]. Not sure if this is much of an improvement but I need more details first.

I could just as easily pick on any set of these competencies, but I’ll choose those particularly close to my heart:

3. Organization of Recorded Knowledge and Information

3A. The principles involved in the organization and representation of recorded knowledge and information.

3B. The developmental, descriptive, and evaluative skills needed to organize recorded knowledge and information resources.

3C. The systems of cataloging, metadata, indexing, and classification standards and methods used to organize recorded knowledge and information.

Is it going to be enough that prospective graduates of accredited programs can list some principles, some skills and some “systems” used, or will they actually have to understand these principles, apply the skills, and demonstrate knowledge and ability to apply these systems?

Here’s a cite from an email about Gorman’s visit:

Michael will address the continuing importance of libraries to researchers and will cover the nature of research, the nature of the human record today, the skills of modern librarians (this will touch on the proposed “core competences” for ALA accredited LIS programs), and the importance of the bibliographic architecture of research libraries.

I have no doubt that Gorman will address these topics. My concern is with what qualifications anyone thinks he has to address these topics, or some of them anyway. The nature of the human record today. The skills of modern librarians. This is just funny. In a sad way.

Yes. I will be there. Who could resist such a show? And, honestly, as someone highly interested in the education of “modern librarians”—whatever the heck those might be—I’m dying to hear more about the ALA version of No Librarian Left Behind.

Update: Before any comments came in I realized I ought to say a bit more but instead went for a run. While I was out 3 comments came in [for reference sake].

I want to add that I do have some respect for Michael Gorman, or more accurately for some of the things he has done, said, and written. I have read several of his books and many of his articles. I hold many of the same values as he does, particularly values in relationship to the profession of librarianship. I just think they can and should be espoused and embodied differently than he does. In fact, if you search this blog you will find several cases where I defended or, at least, supported him.

But I also lost most of my respect for him over the last couple of years based on many of the things he has said and written. I do think he has much to offer our profession still. I just have no faith that he will stick to those things, nor that he will realize that he is failing at many of the things on the proposed list of core competencies; things which are critical to the future of the profession.

And while I agree with all 3 of the commenters so far, I do not agree with jenny’s 1st point. Having been president of ALA in no way whatsoever qualifies any one to speak on the issues he is supposed to be addressing. It may “certify”, allow, or more accurately, entitle one to speak on them. But then I didn’t realize this is an entitlement profession. In fact, are not entitlement and profession, at least in the senses I mean them, exclusive of each other?

So, lest any one get confused, I am not a Michael Gorman hater. I just do not think he is qualified to address, or even willing to properly engage with, many of the issues at hand. I am also fairly certain that I can back those statements up to anyone but the most die-hard MG fans or the ostriches of the profession.