The Loon did one of her standard dog-and-pony shows regarding libraries and research-data management to an audience of academic librarians some while ago. One of the responses on the (anonymous) event-feedback form was, “I don’t think librarians should be doing that.”
Why The Library Loon Left Libraries, Exhibit One. The Loon’s students are much more openminded about the profession’s boundaries—eager to expand them, even—which she mightily appreciates.
Now, there’s some chance that zinger was aimed at the (well-known, much-loathed) Loon herself. The Loon would prefer that to most other interpretations; it’s paltry smallminded backstabbing, easily sloughed off. (Well, able to be sloughed off, at least. The Loon does not find dealing with direct insult easy, despite the practice she’s had at it… and that practice would be Exhibit Two in Why The Loon Left Libraries.)
If that’s not it, though—sadly, it probably isn’t the entire story, given how many similar stories the Loon has heard from other trailblazing librarians—the Loon finds herself with a giant Why? on her beak. Is helping to manage research data somehow unethical? Against library principles? The Loon checked the ALA Code of Ethics and found nothing apropos, but perhaps she has misread. Is managing research data irrelevant to the information life of academic-library patrons?
The Loon apologizes; she is being facetious, of course. The why, she thinks, has a great deal to do with narrowmindedness and fear.
Librarians complain, and rightly, of the narrow boundaries assigned to the notion of “library” by non-librarians. At least occasionally, however, we should look to the breadth or lack thereof of our own notions. When that doesn’t happen, we get catalogers complaining that moving away from MARC will destroy their “craft labor” (a Trithemius argument if ever the Loon heard one; cataloging is not and should not be done for the benefit of catalogers) and academic liaisons thinking that librarians have no place in research-data management.
And when we don’t keep an open mind about what we do, the boundaries of the profession do not stay stable—they shrink, gradually or suddenly. Would anyone care to argue, in light of Harvard and the many other academic libraries quietly reducing workforce without attracting as much attention as Harvard, that shrinkage of the profession is not happening? Or not an issue?
As for fear, the Loon understands fear, but she cannot accept paralysis.
Here is where the Loon plants her chequered flag in the muck: Librarianship is the Loon’s profession too, whether she practices it inside or outside libraries. No librarian anywhere has a priori justification for preventing the Loon or any other librarian from expanding librarianship’s borders. No librarian with any sense would want to.
And if academic libraries can’t accept that, the Loon will get her Clayton Christensen on and disrupt them. If that contributes to their shrinkage, even their disappearance, so be it; what succeeds them will last longer than they would have.
On boundaries by Library Loon, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.