On “repository rat”

I’d like to welcome my good colleague Shane Beers to the biblioblogosphere. Shane took over my duties at George Mason, and has done a lot better with them than I ever did. I’m happy to see other repository managers blogging, and thrice happy to see Shane.

He brings up something that I’ve heard from other people as well: annoyance at my insistence on the phrase “repository-rat” to refer to librarians who manage institutional repositories. Some of that is me, and some of it is deliberate and calculated rhetorical strategy. It seems worth picking apart.

The “me” part, I confess, is of a piece with my steadfast refusal to take myself and what I do too seriously. Back in the day, I called myself a conversion peasant. Now I’m a repository-rat. I’m stubborn about this, and I don’t anticipate changing it… but I also recognize that it leaks into how I refer to other repository managers, as well as the specialty as a whole, and I see how that can feel like disdain.

It isn’t. It takes quite a bit of dedication to stick with IRs, and an impressive array of skills to manage one well. (I’m not saying I do, mind. Not for me to say. But I’m steeped in this field, I know whom I respect, and I know what they are capable of.) Moreover, these dedicated, skilled people have to persevere in the face of widespread ignorance, apathy, and even opprobrium directed at them, never mind lousy software and badly-stacked odds.

Which leads me to the rhetorical-strategy bit. I feel like a rat in the wainscoting, ignored and despised and isolated. Why shouldn’t I? Why should I be any prouder of what I do than my employer (which has partially defunded my service), my profession (which barely acknowledges I exist and makes no effort to support me), or the open-access movement (which openly insults me when it doesn’t ignore me)? Why should I pretend to support and respect I don’t actually have?

And why is it uniquely my responsibility to redress these issues? If the institution I work for, the profession I have joined, or the open-access movement I am part of would like me to stop referring to myself as a rodent, howsabout they toss me a bone so I can move up the animal taxonomy a bit?

Like the immortal archy, I see things from the under side. There’s use in that, I maintain, just as there’s use in colleagues such as Shane asserting themselves to raise the profile of our work and the esteem in which it is held. I’m on their side, I truly am—I just approach the work from a different angle.

insects are not always
going to be bullied
by humanity
some day they will revolt
i am already organizing
a revolutionary society to be
known as the worms turnverein

—Don Marquis


A courteous interface is a marvelous thing. It gets out of the way. It intuits what you want, squeezing every tiny bit of information possible out of whatever tidbits you feed it. It doesn’t bother you with its nasty little internal troubles. It’s Jeeves, there with a pick-me-up when you’ve got a drink-fueled headache.

DSpace’s administrative and item-submission interfaces are more like the temporary Jeeves replacement Bertie got stuck with once, the guy who snarled all the time and snaffled socks. It is about as courteous as a New York cabdriver in heavy traffic. As a result, it wastes incredible amounts of human time—my time, my sysadmin’s time, my submitters’ time, the time of dozens of admins just like me. I promised to talk about that, so I will.

For example. Just this morning I got an unhappy email from a submitter who didn’t have access to all the collections in a given community. The said collections are two or three levels deep because of intervening subcommunities—and while I’m talking about wasted time, I’ll spend a few words on wasted cognitive capacity, because I have yet to meet anyone for whom the DSpace distinction between communities and collections is intuitive or useful. My submitters expect to be able to submit items to communities. They do not understand why some items on the sitemap (which is how they think of the communities-and-collections page) are bold and others aren’t. I hate wasting time and effort explaining this stupid and essentially otiose distinction.

Right. Back to my submitter and her problem. I had to click open every single collection in order to click again to check its submitter list. For those collections she didn’t have submit access to, adding it was a four-click process and could have been more: click to open the eperson list, click to go to the last page, click to select her address (she’s late in the alphabet), click to update the submitter group. Wasted. Time.

And don’t get me started on DSpace’s repo-rat–hostile habit of building impenetrable names for otherwise-unnamed submitter groups. COLLECTION_27_SUBMIT. Yeah, that makes all kinds of sense in my little rat brain, how about yours? (If you’re wondering, the number is the collection’s database identifier, which is almost impossible to figure out from the DSpace UI. Real friendly, DSpace.) And these names proliferate like rats, because there’s no way to tell DSpace “use the people I just told you about, plzkthx” without going through the added hassle of creating and naming an actual group, and no way to tell DSpace “use the standard access rules for this community” or “use the access rules for this other collection.”

So then I needed to set up a new collection for her. Could DSpace pick up on the submitter-selection work I’d already wasted a bunch of time doing? Could it hell. I had to go through the same clickety-clickety process all over again. There’s no access templating in DSpace; every single collection in every single community is sui generis. Just imagine how much time I get to waste when someone leaves the university and someone else takes over their DSpace deposit duties! Woo-hoo! Because obviously I don’t have anything important to do with my time.

Which brings us to the DSpace deposit interface. To be clear, I’m working from 1.4.2 here, not 1.5—but let’s be clear about something else too, namely that 1.5 doesn’t fix all of these warts, though the Configurable Submission system is indeed a step forward. So let’s waste some time, everybody!

You start your submission from a collection page, or you start from My DSpace, in which case it asks you to pick a collection. What does it do with this collection information? It determines whether you have deposit access, duh, and if your friendly neighborhood repository-rat has spent time customizing a metadata form for that collection, it uses that form. (Does DSpace ask on collection creation which metadata forms to use? It does not. That’s configured via a file called input-forms.xml on the server. Mm-hm, that’s right, I have nothing better to do with my time than seek out and edit—twice, because I keep a version in source control—bitsy little XML files DSpace leaves all over creation.) Anything else? Like surveying existing items in that collection for commonalities in order to prepopulate metadata fields? Nah. Machine learning would save a human being’s time or something. Can’t have that.

Next you run into this screen, which I loathe with a white-hot loathing neutron stars might envy:

First DSpace submission screen

The top question is just goofy. In my experience, this is true for less than one-tenth of one percent of submissions. The Québécois might have a use for that checkbox, but how many DSpace installations does Québéc have exactly, and why exactly wouldn’t a Québécois installation just put in dc.title.alternative by default? So why is every submitter into every DSpace installation forced to cope with that moronic checkbox for every single submission? Because DSpace doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about anybody’s time or cognitive load, that’s why. The default is correct, at least, but that’s decidedly small comfort.

(I suspect there’s a librarian at the bottom of this interface wart somewhere. What about MARC 246, someone must have screamed. Guess what? I don’t care about MARC 246. I care about efficient use of person-hours, which that checkbox unquestionably isn’t. I love my fellow librarians, except when I hate them. I hate them when they gleefully glomp every iota of patron time and effort they can get their little mitts on.)

The middle question is difficult to understand (for my submitters, anyway; more of them get it wrong than right), and DSpace doesn’t explain why you have to answer it. I get a lot of questions from submitters about putting in publication dates and citations, because my submitters don’t mentally connect those fields with that checkbox. But that’s what that checkbox does when checked: it adds fields to the next metadata screen for dc.date.issued, dc.publisher, and dc.identifier.citation. (How many repository-rats running DSpace just learned something? Don’t be embarrassed. It was months before I figured it out, too, and I had to go in and read code before I had it sussed.)

But it gets better (for “worse” values of “better”). Imagine Ulysses Acqua for a moment, trying to be nice to Dr. Troia and the little open-access basketology journal she wants to archive. He uses the input-forms.xml file to make a custom metadata form that puts basic citation information for the basketology journal in dc.identifier.citation so Dr. Troia doesn’t have to retype it every time. When Dr. Troia submits her first article, she doesn’t think to tick the middle checkbox, and DSpace doesn’t tick it for her. What happens?

SHE GETS AN ERROR MESSAGE. I kid you not. AN ERROR MESSAGE. It reads “You’ve indicated that your submission has not been published or publicly distributed before, but you’ve already entered an issue date, publisher and/or citation. If you proceed, this information will be removed, and DSpace will assign an issue date.”

I—I—I honestly have no words. Do I need them? Maybe I do. The Jeeves interface never, ever, EVER threatens to discard information Bertie has provided it. It’s hard enough to pry useful information out of Bertie as it is! And talk about your bizarrely opaque, unhelpful, and inappropriately finger-wagging error messages! (How does Dr. Troia fix the problem, if she wants to keep her citation information or date or whatever? The message doesn’t even say.) I am just agog that this grotesque interaction exists in a production software system.

(Yes, of course I’ve triggered it. How do you think I figured out it exists? I don’t go looking for smelly garbage like this, I assure you.)

But it even gets worse than that. Weird interactions between input-forms.xml and the deposit code can make checkboxes on this page disappear when they shouldn’t. I haven’t dug into how this happens—but it bit me hard, such that I had to be unhelpful and take a date.issued out of a thesis metadata form in input-forms.xml. Because hey, troubleshooting DSpace’s sclerotic deposit system is such a productive use of my time!

Returning to our initial screen once more: there is absolutely no need whatever to ask the submitter about multiple files. None. Simply assume that submissions may have more than one file! Asking submitters to think about it up-front instead of at upload is wasted time.

So there we have it. An entire wasted screen, multiplied by untold numbers of DSpace submissions. There’s plenty more in there, the licensing system not least; Jeeves interface, not so much.

EPrints, as a rule, is a much better gentleperson’s personal gentleperson than DSpace. EPrints, for example, asks for item type up front, and configures its deposit screens to match, without the intervention of either submitter or repository-rat. Who knows, this politeness may have something to do with developer attitude. The last time I waxed profane on matters repository-interface-ish, Les Carr was in my inbox less than a day later asking eagerly, “is this what you mean? would this solution I just came up with work for you?” Whereas DSpace gets on my case for being negative. I’m just sayin’ here.

No. No, I’m not just sayin’. It runs deeper than that. I’ve occasionally seen a few nods in the DSpace developer community toward EPrints interface accomplishments. Unfortunately, the feel of the discourse I’ve seen is “look at all the shiny AJAX! we want that!”

This is not about shiny AJAX, people. It’s not about shiny at all. This is about DSpace not wasting my time. There’s a ton of work DSpace could do with the aim of removing time-wasters before anyone writes a single line of Javascript or de-uglifies a single line of CSS. To do so, though, DSpace developers will have to learn to give a damn about my time and the amount of it DSpace has wasted and continues to waste. I see next to zero evidence of that learning taking place. (Tim gets it, which is why I say “next to zero” rather than just plain zero.)

Stop. Wasting. My. Time. That’s far and away the most important interface-development priority DSpace should adopt. For values of “me” that include “all repository-rats and willing depositors,” of course. DSpace’s interface needs to sit down at its mama’s knee and learn some courtesy.

Is librarianship a profession?

There’s been a more-interesting-than-usual round of posts about librarianship as a profession, and how that works with the existence of paraprofessionals. See Rachel, Rachel again, and Meredith for background.

Me, I’ve got my Greg Downey glasses on again. You knew I would, right? So what is a profession from a labor perspective, anyway? I can tell you this much: the usual dictionary definition, involving specialized training, a professional association, and a code of ethics is the kind of thing a real labor theorist (which I’m not, of course) would laugh at and immediately start deconstructing.

The point of being a profession is monopoly labor protectionism, driving up the price of the Elect. End of story. All the training, all the oaths, all the conferences, all that other stuff amounts to pissing in a circle to mark territory, hoard resources (i.e. jobs and social status), and keep the unwashed out. Where an individual doing a particular kind of work can more or less swan about naming her own price, labor perceives no need for the trappings of a profession; this is why computer programmers don’t at this point have one. That day, however, may be coming, given that global wage arbitrage is hitting the US programming industry hard.

Some professions guard their borders better than others. The medical profession is damned good at it, and so is the legal profession, though both are finding themselves pressured these days. The free market, you see, does not like professions; they make the peons all uppity and stuff, getting in the way of capital flow from rich capitalist to other rich capitalist. The free market dismantles professions whenever it can find a way to do so, usually in the name of efficiency and cost-saving.

Academia as a profession is hurting bad, and is starting to realize it. They did it to themselves, of course, wildly overproducing Ph.Ds and turning over teaching (which is a much more visible part of the profession than research, despite the actual emphasis inside the academy) to brutalized adjunct labor. Remains to be seen whether they can recover.

Notice something about the preceding paragraphs? I didn’t say a thing about specialized skills, who’s got ’em and who ain’t. From a labor perspective, that doesn’t matter, it’s a big red herring. Can you guard your borders and command an over-market price? Congratulations. You’re a profession.

It’s possible to sport the trappings of a profession without quite being one. My favorite examples are financial planners and realtors. There are credentials; they’re thoroughly bogus. There are codes of ethics, often roundly ignored with perfect impunity. There are conferences. Boy, are there ever. What there isn’t is a successful effort to kick out the amateurs. I could call myself a financial planner tomorrow, and not a thing would happen to me. I could turn myself into a Realtor™ in a matter of weeks. If I did, though, the so-called “profession” would do nothing to protect the value of my labor. Heard of some Realtors™ going hungry now that the housing bubble is popping? Of course you have. Real estate salesmen haven’t protected the borders of their so-called “profession.” It therefore isn’t one.

So how does librarianship stack up? Well, that’s interesting. I’ve been sitting in on another Greg Downey course this semester, one on library history. If you go back to the mid-1800s when this “profession” jazz was just getting started, you find out that the “professionals” were a bunch of overeducated white boys who basically wanted some extra social status (so that they would compare favorably with their brothers in law, medicine, and the clergy) and an opportunity to get together and drink them some fine, fine martinis now and then. Think I’m making this up? Go find out for yourself what the first few proto-ALA meetings accomplished; you’re a librarian. Besides, it’s pretty funny stuff.

Notably, these overeducated white boys weren’t sitting at ref desks or writing up inventory lists (this being pre-card-catalog). Oh, no. That work was too menial for such as they. They were either running libraries (from back offices that had little or no contact with the librarygoing public) or writing treatises on how libraries ought to be run. Sometimes quite important treatises (hello, Mr. Cutter), but still. The boundaries of the “profession” were quite narrow, and they didn’t include most of the people doing work in libraries, especially if those people were women.

But they defended their value in the labor market, and they kept the pool of that labor suitably small, largely by denying women access to it. They were a profession, by gum, whatever else you say about ’em. (Me, I say that Dui was a loon. Crazy as a bedbug, that man.)

The Carnegie library movement shook up that nice monopoly. There weren’t enough overeducated white boys willing to move out to the sticks, is what it amounts to. All this female riffraff started encroaching. So running libraries couldn’t be the boundary of the profession any more. What became the new boundary? Library school.

Fast-forwarding to today… as a profession, librarianship is a muddled mess. The simple fact is that defining “librarian” as “MLS-holder” doesn’t stand up to five seconds’ scrutiny. One part of the problem resembles that caused by the Carnegie movement: there are libraries aplenty run by non-MLS-holders. Most of them are K-12 libraries; some are rural public libraries. Since we have heretofore been unwilling to define “library” as “space managed by an MLS-holding librarian,” that part of the barbed-wire fence around our profession has been trampled into the dirt. Good thing, bad thing, who knows? But it’s a fact, that’s all.

Another part of the problem resembles academia’s issues: we’re importing lower-priced labor to do some of what had been defined as our job. This is called “deprofessionalization.” Got a non-MLS ref-desk assistant or copy cataloguer? Yeah, then congratulations, you’ve eaten away some of the boundary around librarianship. In academic libraries, deprofessionalization takes on a slightly different form: the import of Ph.Ds sans MLS. From a good-of-libraries perspective, this makes perfect sense. From the perspective of librarianship-as-profession, it further erodes our boundaries and should be stopped. Make ’em get MLSes. It’s not like they’ll find it hard (and more on that in a bit).

Now consider why Gorman and Yee make such a big deal of MARC and AACR2 as “the core of the profession.” Secret knowledge is assuredly an effective way to guard a profession’s boundaries, and the more involuted the knowledge, the better. The problem with that tactic is that the knowledge has to remain in some way relevant and useful, and like it or not, the MARC/AACR2 empire is crumbling. Gorman and Yee can squall all they want; it won’t keep cataloguers professionals, because the value of their bizarrely byzantine descriptive practices is rapidly approaching zero. They’re defending the ramparts of a castle nobody wants.

Not that Gorman is wholly free of deprofessionalization’s taint, either. There’s his coauthor, that pesky Walt Crawford to consider. We ought to give him an honorary LIS doctorate in purest self-defense. I’m just sayin’.

Speaking of Walt, who’s a systems analyst by training and trade, a third aspect of the problem is the profession’s unwillingness to redraw its boundaries to include computers and the people who work with them. Why does this unwillingness exist? In a nutshell, because many current practitioners can’t do squat with computers and are scared of being pushed out of the profession should the computer folks take over.

I cannot begin to express how stupid, shortsighted, and counterproductive this is. Fall on your swords already, computer-phobics; it is absolutely necessary to do so if we are to preserve any kind of profession for the future. Mene mene tekel upharsin. We are Babylon, if we don’t expand our borders, Babylon divided between the non-MLS Medes and the programming Persians.

And then there’s library school. Oh, boy. Where to even begin? Well, first, it’s worth pointing out that LIS has serious trouble defining itself as a research specialization, and that tends to bleed over into library schools, notably in the substantial number of library-school faculty who have never set foot in a library except as patron. At UW’s SLIS, Greg Downey is half journalist, Kristin Eschenfelder got into LIS through a side door, their bioinformaticist is, well, a bioinformaticist—and I could go on, at some length.

Again, from a disciplinary-vigor standpoint, this isn’t all bad. Everybody knows I think Greg Downey is the bee’s knees. From a defining-the-profession (or -the-discipline) standpoint, it’s pernicious.

Second, library schools are just aware enough of the problem of libraries being run by non-librarians that they don’t actually dare set the intellectual bar (either of admission or of program content) very high. I knew some people in library school who were, I’m sorry, dumb as a box of rocks. They couldn’t have managed my other master’s program, any substantive master’s program, in a million years. They concentrated in a certain specialty which I won’t name (but we all know what it is, don’t we, librarians?). I don’t have an answer to this catch-22; either possibility hurts librarianship as a profession. If we kick the idiots out, we inevitably create even more libraries run by non-librarians. If we don’t, we’re stuck with our watered-down curriculum and box-of-rocks classmates.

Third, there’s the ALA, which is only making matters worse. Let’s review: library school now forms the boundary of the profession of librarianship—a porous and problematic boundary, to be sure, but a boundary nonetheless. It falls to the ALA’s accreditation process to defend that boundary, to make sure that the MLS bloody well means something.

It so happens that I have had a close-on view of a library-school reaccreditation process; I shall be intentionally vague about the where and when and how. I was, quite frankly, appalled. The accreditors were dumb as a box of rocks. They were stunningly rude, ill-behaved to the point of legally actionable harassment, toward a number of people at the library school (which, I may say, put a lot of effort into preparing for the reaccreditation process, and did its best to treat the accreditors like royalty). These accreditors spent incredible amounts of time and spilled ink on trivialities while ignoring quite substantive questions, in large part because they were incompetent to judge the substantive stuff. They made no attempt whatever to probe beyond surface appearances. The whole process was as transparent and auditable as a brick wall. I tell you what, if these slobs were medical-school examiners, we’d be in the middle of the next Black Plague.

You ALA members? Ask where your damn dues are going. Right now, they’re paying for these epic morons to continue devaluing your profession and its educational institutions. Never mind all the other ways ALA screws the profession over, as a profession.

So there we are. Are we, in fact, a profession? On balance, in academic libraries we are, in public libraries we mostly are, and in school libraries we’re not. But that could change and is changing. We may not have much time left to get our act together.

For myself, I’m not worried. I’m one of those folks who, based on developments in the research enterprise, is likely to be able to barter my labor individually for a decent price no matter what happens to librarianship as a profession. I’ll still call myself a librarian, no fear there. The question is whether people nod respectfully when I do—or laugh.

Edited to add: Walt corrects me on his training, and his sense of what he is and does. Mea culpa, Walt, and I apologize for the error.

Names and naming

Ursula K. LeGuin’s magic system in her Earthsea novels is predicated on names and naming. If you know the so-called “true name” of a thing, you can use your power on it, you know something about it that lets your power work on it. (The name without the power is useless, as demonstrated by Ged after his struggle with death, and Tehanu before she comes into her power.)

At one juncture, in the context of bodies of water, LeGuin points out that names are relative; we all have many, and part of what names do is draw borders around us. But whose borders? We are named individually and as classes of people and things; also, we are named because of the use we are to a mage, or a dragon. (Does an individual rabbit have a name? To a mage, they are all kebbo: a mass plural, or at best an adjective, masquerading as a singular noun. Does dragonspeech even have plurals?) Our names rub up against the names of groups we belong in, and the perspective of the mages who give and teach and remember names.

Naming is power. Using names is power. Remember that.

I’ve been called a lot of things in my life—only a few of them, before you ask, profane. Aside from my own given name’s usage, what I’m called is fundamentally not under my control. Even with my own name I don’t always win; if you look in the ASIST conference-schedule index, you’ll see that I’m listed as “Dorothea (Dorothy) Salo” because of a panel-moderator error, even though my name is not and has never been Dorothy. (Nor is it “Dorthea,” or “Doretha,” or any of the other various manglings. “Dorothea.” Please. If you don’t have eight letters in it, you’re spelling it wrong.)

Oh, I try to guide. I very deliberately pick phrases like “conversion peasant” and “repository rat,” because my stance toward the world is generally one of captatio benevolentiae. But there’s only so much I can do. Not very much at all, really.

Often I am surprised by what I’m called, nominally or adjectivally. I still remember the shock of “wait, what?” when a high-school acquaintance called me “sophisticated.” It was just miles, miles away from anything I would ever have thought of myself. Or when an OEBPS working-group colleague told me in all seriousness that I was a software engineer specializing in workflows. Oh, hell no. I just make stuff work, when I can. Software engineers are people with fancy degrees and advanced skills in math and logic and programming who get paid a lot of money because they’re valuable.

Last night a professional colleague called me a “social epistemographer.” Well, that’s a new one—I had to look it up just to think about it! It doesn’t feel like a name I can comfortably inhabit. Like software engineers, social epistemographers have a context, and that context isn’t the one I live in. I may do social epistemography. I may even do software engineering now and then (though I have significant reservations about that one). That doesn’t entitle me to the name. Naming is power, but it isn’t infinite power.

The names I get aren’t always benign. The mean stuff tends to be just as askew from the truth as the nice stuff. I’ve seen my anger and confusion about graduate school and academia called bitterness. Resentful, okay, yes, but bitter? I’ve been called crazy, and not in nice ways. I have been crazy, but I’m mostly not. “Intimidating” is one I hear with more frequency than I’d like. CavLec is substantially to blame there, as I’m quite a bit meaner here than in more social contexts; the rest of it is physical presence, which there’s little I can do about at this late date.

Another colleague pointed out to me this morning that one reason for the first-initials-last-name practice that drives me (as a librarian who would like a little more authority control in her life) around the bend: female scientists can avoid having their work automatically dismissed by male scientists when they go by initials rather than name.

Ouch. Cage match, librarian self and feminist self, tickets on sale outside. This is a real problem—just ask female orchestral instrumentalists—and for an individual female scientist, using initials helps solve the problem. It’s a “go along to get along” strategy, though, and any such strategy has an unfortunate externality: it divides and defeats the universe of female scientists, because it lets the men go blithely on ignoring and undervaluing those they can quickly identify as female by their names.

When I replied to my colleague that using full names may destabilize the implicit sexism of the current system, she answered, in toto, “Some women just want to do science, not be martyrs.”

I get that. I do. I just wanna be a geek, some days; I don’t want to be a martyr either. I don’t have the privilege of martyrless geekdom, and my name shows why. Not because anything particularly pernicious is attached to my name insofar as it identifies me—but a lot of pernicious stuff is attached to it, stuff that I can’t do anything about, insofar as it identifies that I belong to the class of women. Context, again. My name, in some contexts, is harmful to me; it gives powerful others a way and a social license to hurt, exclude, and demean me.

It’s frustrating. I loathe that particular externality. Not only does it mean I both am and look more isolated than need be, it’s at the root of some of the rhetorical tricks I hate like poison, the “I don’t see sexism!” trick, also known as “I’m doing fine; what’s your problem?” Not to mention the “If you’d just stop kicking up a fuss, we’d all be fine, including you” trick.

I’m fond of my name, for all its polysyllabicity and the spelling difficulty it causes others. I guess when it comes down to it, I’m willing to live with a little martyrdom to keep my name. I shouldn’t have to choose, though—and neither should anybody else.

Training-wheels culture

My students are the connected ones, the technically-minded ones, the ones unafraid of novelty. Some of them flat-out don’t believe me when I try to (more or less gently) pass out clues about the technical atmosphere of librarianship. That’s okay. They’ll find out for themselves, and they’ll remember what I said, and they won’t be as shocked by it as I was.

I read through the freeform comments on Nicole Engard’s survey about what people learned and wish they had learned in library school, and I recommend that you do the same. It’s a curious mix. There’s a raft of comments wanting more (and more practical) technology training. There’s also a raft of comments wanting more and better cataloguing training.

Wait, what? Cataloguing? Not “cataloguing and metadata,” not “information management,” not “bibliographic and other sorts of description.” Cataloguing. From a bunch of librarians who manifestly aren’t cataloguers. What gives?

I’ve been letting that question percolate in the back of my head since I read the survey responses. I’m afraid the answer is probably an it’s-all-more-complicated constellation of mindsets and external forces, but I want to push back against what I see as the easiest and most obvious conclusion that could be drawn from the evidence, which is that MARC cataloguing is the center of the library universe.

(It ain’t the center of my universe. I don’t get anywhere near it myself, and I’m firmly in the Roy Tennant “MARC Must Die!” camp. If that makes me not a librarian, well, okay. I’m sure Peter Murray-Rust would find work for me somehow or other.)

Some while ago I went to a library-internal meeting at which people shared what they’d learned at the last big ALA conference. Someone had gone to one of Roy Tennant’s ILS talks, and had emerged rather shocked by his ideas. After all, she said, structured bibliographic description can’t disappear forever!

Aha. So now we have one locus of confusion. MARC and structured bibliographic description are not equivalent, except (it would appear) to a lot of confused librarians. I’m willing to bet that some of the librarians in Nicole’s study are reacting to what they see as a threat to the larger world of information organization, perceiving MARC as a proxy therefor. This is nonsense, of course, but who’s going to tell them that in such a fashion that they understand it?

I am consistently boggled by people asking me for training on DSpace’s deposit interface. It’s a series of brain-dead web forms, for Pete’s sake. No, they’re not perfectly usable (in fact, there are some pretty brain-dead design choices in there), but they’re just web forms! If you can do your banking online, you can deposit stuff in DSpace. Training?

But I see this all the time; it’s a much larger issue than DSpace. Librarians are a timorous breed, fearful of ignorance and failure. We believe knowledge is power, which taken to an unhealthy extreme can mean that we do not do anything until we think we understand everything. We do not learn by doing, because learning by doing invariably means failure. So a librarian just won’t sit down with AACR2, Connexions, and the AUTOCAT mailing-list archive and work out how to catalogue a novel item. Nor she won’t sit down at the computer and beat software with rocks until it works.

She’ll sit passively, hands in lap, and ask for training, feeling guilty the whole time for displaying ignorance.

So what does this have to do with how often cataloguing came up in Nicole’s results? Well, I don’t think all these librarians are asking for cataloguing training because it’s vitally important to their everyday work. They’re asking because they feel ignorant about something that they have been told (hat-tip to Yee and Gorman) is the center of their profession, and they don’t feel capable of learning on their own. MARC/AACR2 is bloody complicated, after all—and the more complex something is, the more librarians shy away from learning by picking apart one piece at a time.

Fundamentally, cataloguing training is not going to help these people. It won’t help them feel confident about MARC and AACR2, because I don’t know anybody who does (and I do know some cataloguers, thanks). It won’t help them feel more confident about the future of the profession, because like the librarian at the ALA-wrapup meeting, they won’t understand that the external forces that are forcing MARC out of the picture don’t really threaten them. (“I don’t see how programmers can do any better [than MARC]!” blustered one of Nicole’s respondents. That’s not arguing from a position of considered strength. That’s flat-out ignorance, is what that is. Go sit in the corner until you’ve done some reading up on data mining.) And it won’t help them do their jobs any better.

What they need is to kick off the training wheels, honestly. Their locus of control vis-a-vis technology needs to move a long way inward. There is nothing more frustrating than dealing with fear-based apathy. I don’t mind intelligent skepticism; I’ll prove a given tool’s worth or I’ll abandon it. I don’t mind dealing with genuine problems. They happen.

I do mind, quite a lot, having to stand over a grown professional’s shoulder teaching her to use a set of essentially self-explanatory web forms because she cannot be bothered to learn by doing. And I do this a lot. Once I’m done with the repository redesign, I’m going to come up with a screencast on the subject so that I don’t have to do it so often.

I think training-wheels culture may be the source of a lot of the friction between so-called “twopointopians” and their opposite numbers. When “look, just give it a try, okay?” falls on wilfully deaf ears, strident advocacy is a natural, expected response. I myself roll my eyes at some of the more “moderate” responses to Library 2.0 and new OPAC developments and whatnot because I know perfectly well that training-wheels culture uses “moderate” responses as figleaf excuses not to change, not to learn, and not to try.

One of the things I’m trying to do with my class is encourage them to lose their training wheels. Some of them don’t have any—but a few do, and I’m hoping I can do my little bit to encourage the decline and fall of training-wheels culture.

Demeanor and community

DSpace’s market position in the IR software industry is “the out-of-the-box, one-size-fits-all solution.” It doesn’t demand the up-front coding investment that Fedora does, nor is it as narrow-focused as regards ingested material as EPrints. Since DSpace is open-source software, it attracts those who cannot afford hosted IR solutions; such adopters, owing to poverty, are not likely to be overblessed with technical staff.

This has consequences for the composition of the DSpace user community. I’d bet my entire net worth and a bit over that DSpace adopters contain many, many more non-techies and accidental techies than Fedora adopters. (I consider myself among the “accidental techies” group, incidentally. I’m not trained for DSpace sysadminning or code-monkeying and I’m far from expert at either, but I do them anyway.) I suspect, in fact, that these are the great silent majority of the DSpace community—emphasis on the “silent.”

I have some fairly direct evidence to bolster this notion. I got a considerable number of back-pats at OR ’07 over the DSpace customization guide that Tim Donohue and I wrote for JCDL ’06. A considerable number. Toss in that Tim must have gotten a lot too, that the self-selected OR ’07 crowd is in all probability more technical than the general run of DSpace administrators, and that the guide we wrote is actually pretty basic, and… look, you tell me how technical the DSpace adopter pool is.

Over at Five Weeks, we have several participants who worry over their perceived lack of technical savvy. We’re doing our best to reassure them, in part because honestly, too many librarians feeling uneasy and defensive about this look for any reason to back away from the keyboard. Confirming their perceptions about their own skills only leaves them less likely to learn, while superciliously casting aspersions on their abilities sends them fleeing headlong away. Reassure them, and be rewarded with wider adoption than you’d have thought possible—Five Weeks’s forty participants are blogging and wiki-ing great guns over there, and the course hasn’t even started yet!

Do I think this lesson extends to the DSpace community? I surely do. Do I think the core of the DSpace community—coders, mailing-list participants, documenters, et cetera—is generally friendly to the community’s less-technical members? I surely do not.

When I started at MPOW, I did as many newbie DSpace administrators do: I ran into roadblocks, problems the FAQs and mailing-list archives didn’t solve. (Heck, I still run into roadblocks. Ask me why the repository I run doesn’t have RSS feeds running. I can’t answer you, because I have tried everything I can think of and I don’t know why they still refuse to work, but feel free to ask.) More often than not, asking the dspace-tech mailing list produced no reply. Not “no helpful replies,” not “no useful replies,” but no replies whatsoever.

Frankly, I didn’t think much of the DSpace community after that, not for quite a while. Things have changed for the better in the year and a half I’ve been doing this, but I still see problems going unanswered (not just unresolved, unanswered), and I wonder how many current newbies have the same bad taste in their mouths that I had back in the day.

I also see a disturbing tendency toward non-techie-bashing by DSpace techies. I offer examples not to shine a spotlight on individual people, because I admit I’ve had my share of eye-rolling “what a maroon!” moments on reading the mailing lists, but only to establish that this is a genuine phenomenon. For that reason, I’m not attributing examples in this post; the links will have to do.

This weblog post regarding the University of Calgary’s search for an ETD solution, for example, contains the bald order “DSpace is an Open Source product, where words like ‘cannot’ should not be used unless you really have looked into it. The underlying search engine can do all of the things required for Calgary, and all it requires is the alteration of the UI to support it”.

Hey, where did “out of the box solution” go? Like it or not, ETDs are a major IR use case. If DSpace doesn’t support them out of the box, that is not the problem of DSpace administrators, it is DSpace’s problem. Getting huffy at managers who may not be able or even allowed to mess around under the hood solves nothing. It certainly doesn’t fix DSpace to work right with ETDs.

(Think “allowed” is not a real problem? Think again. I won’t be DSpace-sysadmin-in-chief at MnewPOW, which suits me fine because Tomcat gives me ulcers. At the interview, though, I received several strong hints that my coding chops, such as they are, would not only not be required, but would be actively discouraged by the actual sysadmins. Fortunately, this seems not to be entirely the case, but you’d better believe I will be walking on eggshells at MnewPOW until I sort out what I can and can’t do.)

Now consider this reply to a list of feature requests. The content of the reply is great, thought-provoking stuff. The manner of expression of the reply is unnecessarily scornful, completely failing to address the actual content of the original post in its zeal to scold the poster. Also consider that as of this writing, that reply has been the only reply.

Look, it takes considerable courage for a non-programmer to post feature requests to the mailing list or Bugzilla page for an open-source software project. I’ve been around the block some; I know how OSS programmers generally react to that. Most DSpace admins, techie or not, probably have the same awareness, so if someone speaks up, trust me, it’s about something important. Dumping on someone for politely opening a conversation about features is a sure road to never hearing from him or her again—and never hearing at all from dozens of DSpace adopters just like that one. That in turn is a recipe for DSpace to set poor development priorities.

So consider this my public call to the core of the DSpace community to watch its communication style and demeanor. We weaken the DSpace project when we turn people off. We weaken the DSpace project when we fail to offer help. Given its market position, we weaken the DSpace project when we make unwarranted assumptions about DSpace admins’ technical capacity. Let’s not, okay?

Even here

I’m fat, graying, scarred, unfashionable, generally homely as the proverbial mud fence. It bothers me less and less these days, and today I was reminded why.

At break, I met another DSpace admin, who will remain anonymous in this post for reasons that will shortly become obvious. Unlike me, she is young and conventionally quite attractive. She introduced herself to me, and we talked DSpace geekery for a bit before she said in a low voice, “I was glad to see another woman in the room. There was this guy from [locale deleted] behind me who was going on and on about taking me out, and you helped me escape him.”

In other words, some creepwad came on to her. At a PROFESSIONAL CONFERENCE.

For future reference, I am always available as a haven for folks in like case. I give off plenty enough ugly vibes (never mind “tall and hefty and imposing-looking” vibes) to make these wankers piss off.

I don’t know who the perp was. I don’t want to know (though if I find out, he should worry). Right now I just want to tell him, loudly and publicly, that he needs to cut that crap out NOW. No woman should have to “escape” people in a professional setting. EVER.

And yet it happens. Not to me, because I’m old and fat and ugly and married. But it happens. And it shouldn’t. And when the hell is it going to damned well stop?

Do dwarves default male?

(No major spoilers for Discworld books in this post. Extremely minor ones if you don’t know about Cheery Littlebottom and Carrot Ironfoundersson.)

I used to hate the Discworld character Cheery Littlebottom. She annoyed the daylights out of me: a character who didn’t have to behave like a girl who nonetheless wanted to. Dresses, makeup, the whole silly act. Why on earth would anyone…?

Finally I got it. I got what Pratchett was driving at. And it’s so beautifully subversive and clever that I just have to share.

Cheery is a dwarf. Pratchett’s dwarves are a takeoff on the famous note in Tolkien about dwarf women being rare, bearded, and almost impossible to distinguish from male dwarves. Dwarf biological gender in Discworld is so difficult to distinguish in normal interaction that even the dwarves usually aren’t sure who’s which.

A one-gender society could conceivably be behaviorally indiscriminate; all members would say and do things that in gendered societies are associated with different genders. (LeGuin hints at this in some of her Earthsea tales, when male mages who have grown up in all-male Roke do “women’s work” quite naturally, because they’re used to it and don’t realize or don’t care that outside Roke work roles are gendered.) They wouldn’t care about how humans gender behavior; why should they? Nobody needs to know whether the dwarf swinging the axe or rocking the baby is male or female. Dress could also straddle the divide; why not?

But Pratchett doesn’t do that. From a human point of view, dwarf society is exclusively behaviorally male. Dwarves wear their beards proudly, swing axes and throw waybread (a riff on Tolkien’s cram, of course) at the least provocation, ponder gold and mine for it, swagger and brawl and wear lots of spiky metal and generally act in ways that code them male. The only time you see a Pratchett dwarf doing something coded feminine is when Pratchett can make a joke out of the contrast between the male presentation and the feminine social position—e.g. dwarf barmaids.

Check it out, though! Dwarf maleness isn’t what they biologically are, because a lot of dwarves are biologically female! Dwarf maleness is what they do, how they act, and it isn’t just humans who code dwarves male—it’s dwarves themselves; they call each other “he” and “him” and insist that gendered folk like humans do likewise.

Feminist scholars have a phrase for this: “gender as performance.” It’s a viciously hard thing to get people to agree happens, since folks are so invested in the idea that biology determines gender-specific behavior. But Pratchett slips performativity in like medicine in candy. It’s beautiful. My hat’s off to the guy.

Just to reinforce the point, Pratchett highlights the performativity of dwarvishness in the person of Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson. Biologically, Carrot is human; he’s six feet tall and beardless, and was born of (biologically and culturally) human parents. Culturally, he’s a dwarf; he was raised by dwarves, self-identifies as a dwarf, and is accepted by dwarves as a dwarf (though some humans do roll their eyes a bit). Dwarvishness: it’s not who you are, it’s what you do.

And along comes Cheery Littlebottom, who is a dwarf. And biologically female. And decides that she wants to perform femaleness as well as inhabiting it. Do the dwarves accept this, seeing as how they have a one-gender society that is theoretically not limited in its behavior by gender?

Do they hell. They decide that their male-normativity is so important to them that anyone who doesn’t perform maleness threatens the entire dwarvish way of being. Cheery’s behavior causes a huge furor among the dwarves. Some of them (notably, the “deep dwarves” depicted as the ultimate arbiters of what constitutes dwarvishness) consider her non-dwarf. To her credit, she keeps doing what she does, and (minor spoiler) eventually the more cosmopolitan parts of dwarf society learn to cope with their feminine outliers.

If you’re not seeing parallels with the whole Honorary Guy thing, well, what’s wrong with you? Programming cultures, geek cultures, gaming cultures, many other online cultures—they’re theoretically ungendered, but they behave male, and any behavior that codes feminine is automatically suspect—even coming from a bio-guy.

As I suggested in my honorary-guy post, any attempt to question male-normativity in one of these groups automatically codes feminine, and is considered a threat to the group identity itself. The perp gets smacked down hard, if not kicked out altogether. How else to explain why a guy got jumped on for questioning a sexist headline? A little while ago in one of my comics blogs I saw an exactly parallel scenario commented on (and I wish I could find the darn link again!). I daresay most of my readers can dredge up more examples.

Pratchett doesn’t sugarcoat Cheery, and I applaud him for it. There is no mass dwarf regendering in Discworld, though a few brave dwarves do follow Cheery’s example. There is no vanishing of dwarf prejudice. What I love most about Cheery, actually, is that she is herself far from free of prejudice, and there’s more to her than her gender-performative rebellion. She feels whole and real, insofar as a secondary fantasy character can, and she doesn’t offer any easy answers.

There aren’t any easy answers, after all. But at least Pratchett helps frame the right questions.

Sexism and group formation

I got Terry Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment out of the library again, because it’s a book I like with a message I needed just about now. I don’t know how many women in male fields (and no, that’s not a spoiler; it’s clacksed from the very first page, and the title is a dead giveaway too) Pratchett talked to before writing this one. Perhaps no one out of his ordinary acquaintance; the man has a gift for hitting bullseyes about human interaction.

A (minorly spoilery) passage that hit me this read-through:

He looked innocent, so possibly he didn’t understand the raging argument that had just broken out in Polly’s head. A credit to the women of your country. We’re proud of you. Somehow those words locked you away, put you in your place, patted you on the head and dismissed you with a sweetie. On the other hand, you had to start somewhere…

Part of the annoyance of being feminist is having these arguments with myself all the damn time. It’s such an energy drain. Do I call this one out? Did that person mean what was just said, or was it just a brain-fart? If I dig in my heels and howl, am I going to create more heat than light? Will anybody back me up? Why, for heaven’s sake, did that make me so angry? I’m a grownup, and it’s not like I haven’t heard worse before. Why can’t I just let stuff go? How much trouble am I willing to get into over this? Honestly, how much?

Meredith used the word “subtle” to characterize sexism in systems librarianship. I’m going to use the word “insidious” instead, and try to explain why. “Subtle” carries the connotation “intentional” to me, and I don’t believe that’s warranted. I don’t know a single librarian of either gender capable of even thinking anything like that absurd Forbes article (which from me gets no linklove, nuh-uh, no way).

And when I cut loose on CavLec finally, I didn’t get a pile-on in return the way Bess did. Well, I sort of did, actually; I spent a solid month and more answering email with my teeth lacerating my tongue to shreds. But the pile-on wasn’t an outpouring of blatant insult. It was an outpouring of “hey, um, WTF just happened?”

Insidious. The word implies invisible destruction of trust, which to me is just right. I started out, as I think many women of my age started out, honestly trusting that the worst of the struggle for gender equality was over, and that I could and should expect to be treated with courtesy and respect wherever I went. Not because I was a woman, not in spite of being a woman—but just because. Because it had finally been acknowledged that women are, you know, people and stuff.

When you think about it, against the tapestry of history? That’s an amazing trust. The wonder isn’t that it gets broken in some women. The wonder is it’s left intact as often as it is—and not just out of blindness, wilful or otherwise.

The reduction of women’s contributions to sniffed-at footnotes that annoys Pratchett’s Polly is only one insidious way to damage women’s trust in basic fairness. The one I most recently ran into boils down to honorary guyness (and I use the word “guy” rather than “man” intentionally). A woman can be an honorary guy, sure, with all the perquisites and privileges pertaining to that status—as long as she never lets anything disturb the guy façade.

It’s good to be an honorary guy, don’t get me wrong. Guys are fun to be around. Guys know stuff. Guys help out other guys. Guys trust other guys. And in my experience, they don’t treat honorary guys any differently from how they treat regular guys. It’s really great to be an honorary guy.

The only problem is that part of the way that guys distinguish themselves from not-guys is by contrasting themselves with women. Women are the not-guys. It’s an incredibly insidious set-up. When a guy cracks a pr0n joke, he honestly doesn’t have anything against women; he’s just affirming his guyness. Other guys take it so, and don’t think twice about it. It never occurs to the guys that these boundaries are artificial, that there’s nothing intrinsic to women that makes them not-guys, that there are better ways (e.g. group purpose, mutual support) to define a group and the desired characteristics of group members. And since that never occurs to them, pr0n jokes and the like get baked deep into group culture.

Honorary guys, now—some can see the guyness-affirmation for what it is to the guys and let it go. I know some honorary guys who do precisely that. Maybe their trust in fairness remains intact (after all, as honorary guys they’re being treated well); maybe it doesn’t. Maybe some of them come around to the guy point of view, despising women who haven’t become honorary guys. I’ve never quite dared ask.

I’m not that kind of honorary guy, I’m afraid. I’ve paid for it, and I expect I shall again. But at least y’all get to watch me talk through it all.

Mark, then, what happens to temporarily honorary guys who have trouble accepting the typical guy style of group-membership claim. Every guyness-affirmation from every guy erodes their trust, in that specific guy, in the group, in men, in fairness. My $DEITY, do they think about me like that? Heavens, that was disgusting and uncalled-for—do they know how they sound? If they know, do they care? How do these people treat their mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, female bosses, female co-workers? Do they laugh at them behind their backs? Do they laugh at me behind mine? If so, what am I doing here? Do I really belong, or am I just the mascot, just the dartboard, just the token?

Insidious. Let me tell you, insidious. Not least because the guys have no intention of causing these reactions, and no idea they’re doing it. I haven’t even touched the question of fear for one’s bodily and professional integrity, but in the worst cases, it’s real. If I’m in a hotel bar with these guys at a conference, am I even safe? If these guys have power, am I toast if I tick them off? Even though most guys would be outright horrified that any woman, especially an honorary guy they honestly like, would distrust them so.

Now mark what happens when a guy, honorary or not, assails the definition of not-guys as women by asking for the pr0n jokes to stop, please, and now would be nice. Every guy in the place has suddenly had his guyness, his group membership, even the very existence of and justification for the group, called into question. Of course the result is unconsidered defensiveness. How could it be anything else?

And that defensiveness is a serious, sometimes fatal, blow to the honorary guy’s trust in the victory over sexism. Not only will guys crack pr0n jokes, they’ll defend the practice, bemoan losing it as a diminution of group culture; I’ve seen ’em do it. Even though (here’s the insidious bit) it’s not really pr0n jokes they’re defending; it’s group cohesion. And when honorary guys have no more trust left? Well, I’m Exhibit A. Come to your own conclusions.

The story doesn’t end there. Groups blow up, feelings are hurt all ’round, everybody yells and screams, friendships are broken, people are blacklisted, nobody understands WTF just happened, the guys suddenly wonder if they trust honorary guys and if they should, and it all sucks amazingly. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, bled (metaphorically) all over it, wish like you wouldn’t believe that things had been different.

Meredith’s comments have a deeply troubling variation on the honorary-guy scenario; it isn’t only “guys” who use this group-cohesion method, and it isn’t only women who are shoved into the not-us group. I saw this same scenario brought up on a different library blog (I forget which, or I’d look it up); the female techie librarian targeted had the courage to dispute the homophobia with “And if I am [lesbian]?” Good for her. I hope her co-workers felt all due shame.

In addition to the homophobia, though, I want to call out the anti-techism in that anecdote, even though as an outrage it pales in comparison. How many librarians are defining librarianship as intrinsically analog? (Shortly after I was hired, I heard a librarian at MPOW angrily insisting that MPOW needed to hire “real librarians.” I wasn’t sure what she meant by the term, but I got the message loud and clear that she didn’t mean me. Was scary at the time, I admit.) How do we change that group definition without threatening those librarians’ self-concept?

I’m not saying anything here that a passel of sociologists haven’t said better than I ever could. That’s the funny thing about all this. It’s not hard to read about these things. There’s lots out there that would help us break these counterproductive patterns of group formation within our profession and in the larger world. We’re librarians. Why do we not read, why do we not research, when patterns like these damage us?

I have suggestions for worthwhile reading, but this post is too long already. You could do worse, though, than start with Monstrous Regiment.

ALA: Let’s destroy the profession!

Golly, said ALA. There’s small libraries all over the country who need low-cost librarian assistance. And there’s a ton of young eager-beavers with MLSes who need library experience to land their first Real Jobs. That gives us an idea! Let’s…

… ask our retired post-career people to work for free! Yeah, that’s the ticket!

I could try to find words for this profession-destroying folly. I could try. You would not want me to try. Even on CSS Naked Day, the words I would find would be too much for a mostly PG-13 weblog. Go read the commenters at Jessamyn’s; they found a few words.

Let’s settle for “unconscionably stupid and counterproductive.” If you want any kind of profession at all in fifteen or twenty years, you need young people, not post-retirement people, doing professional work in libraries. If you want any kind of profession now, you need not to give away professional labor; the decree of capitalism is that an employer not pay for whatever labor he can get for nothing.

But that begs a question. It assumes ALA wants a profession. I don’t know that ALA does, frankly. Its actions, speaking as always louder than words, point toward inexorable deprofessionalization in public and school libraries. Academic libraries are likely to hold out longer, but academic librarians aren’t immune either; we’re starting to be replaced with the Ph.Ds displaced by deprofessionalization in academia. (Funny sometimes, how the threads of my life weave together, innit?)

Sucks for librarians, but hey, library schools stay full (until prospective students find out that the emperor’s nekkid, anyway) and libraries get the same dedicated people half-off their already low, low prices! And it is the American Library Association, let’s not forget; it is explicitly allied with our trainers and our employers, not with us.

Lordy, I do hope UW-SLIS has the sense to tenure Greg Downey. I’m gladder than ever to have taken his Information and Labor course. I wish SLIS would see fit to let him offer it online; I would make all my friends take it, so I would! And hey, all you ALAers, I have an idea too—let’s make the course a prerequisite for running for ALA Council! A profession is more than a set of ethics and ideals, damn it, it is an economic construct, and it’s past time ALA figured that out.

Look, librarians, let’s not be patsies, okay? If you’re a young librarian in ALA, figure out what your complaint options are and use them. If you’re a young librarian outside ALA, tell ALA that this kind of crap is why they don’t get your money. (ALA, this kind of crap is why you don’t get my money; you suck unbelievably at defending the value of professional librarianship, if indeed you believe there is any value to it at all. There, I just did.)

If you’re a retiree, don’t just give away your work, your prestige, and your experience, as though you were some wet-behind-the-ears intern! Demand that ALA vouchsafe you the respect you deserve. Then tell the program officers for this ALA travesty (starting with LITA exec director Mary Taylor, mentioned in the RFP) what ALA should be doing: offering internship opportunities to the next generation. Even better, find a NextGen librarian who needs the experience (trust me, it isn’t hard!) and hold him or her up as an example.

Don’t let ALA put a bullet in librarianship’s back. Please.