The Loon has been watching the mess at the University of Virginia with the same horror and fascination as everyone else in academe. Her sympathies are very much with ousted president Sullivan and her supporters. There’s just one piece of the discourse that she’d like to challenge.
Digital humanists on Twitter and the blogs are triumphantly pointing to the Scholars’ Lab as evidence that Virginia is, too, a digital leader, and we’ve been so all along, so there! The narrative has gone so far as to say (or at least heavily imply) that the Scholars’ Lab is the university’s and its library’s darling, feted and gladly and generously supported.
The Loon has personal knowledge indicating that this narrative is a significant distortion of the facts. Nor, by saying so, does she mean to single out Virginia, and she certainly means no criticism of the Scholars’ Lab, which she greatly admires. The pattern of hypocrisy she’s calling out in this post happens all over the place; the Loon herself has been in the middle of it any number of times, and bitten her tongue as all good Loons must do.
Centers of innovation in libraries and universities aren’t feted and supported by their host organizations. They’re forced to fight like rabid weasels for the least scrap of resources to survive on, badmouthed and white-mutinied against by local traditionalists all the while. Their employees are openly criticized and covertly hobbled, their budgets slashed first in lean times (forcing them onto the grants hamster-wheel), their needs ignored, their accomplishments met with “well, I just don’t know what you do all day!”
There are exceptions. (Again, the Loon happens to know that the Scholars’ Lab isn’t one.) But this is the rule. One of the Loon’s favorite manifestations of the rule is the oft-heard complaint about members of the innovation center traveling and presenting too much. When the Loon’s heard that about herself (and she has), what she was doing was trying to carve out enough attention on the national stage for whatever she was presenting about to make it embarrassing for the Powers That Be to ruin it. Such is the life of an innovator.
Until the innovation police arrive from without, at which point the bad seed in the time-out corner is hastily tidied up, brought out into the sunlight, and paraded for all to see, the innovation shield for the organization. Look, we’re innovative too! Naturally, when the danger is past, the bad seed is marched right back into the corner and told to stay silent.
It’s hypocrisy. It also ignores the blood, sweat, and tears spilt by the brave souls who keep these operations running in spite of all that is arrayed against them. And it burns good people (and Loons) all the way out. The Loon can’t approve of it, nor can she approve of not even acknowledging it. So. There we are.
Being the innovation shield by Library Loon, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.