thewikiman infiltrates the Times Higher

03 Dec
I don't even want to *think* about the copyright implications of this picture...

I don't even want to *think* about the copyright implications of this picture...

So THE debate rages on, with all these people having written on the subject of Kevin Sharpe’s slightly huffy piece in the Times Higher (to read the relevant blog posts, which will open in a new window, just click the names below):

[See also links to a couple of Times Higher letters, which I've linked to in the Comments section below.] I felt this was evidence enough that this was an important issue, and worth trying to respond in the THE itself. In particular, I wanted to address the idea that we library people are not making the decisions we do for good reason – like we’re all starry-eyed in the face of ‘fashionable business’ and want to be more like them, or we’re so obsessed with computer terminals we’re blinded to what’s really important, etc etc. I’m sure there are some libraries in the UK who did get overly caught up in the café revolutionising process (and now with Borders closing down we’ll be the last bastion for the pseudo-intellectual latte drinker!) but the majority are making informed decisions which are actually benefiting their demographic overall.

ANYWAY. I wrote a piece of comparable length to the original Sharpe one, based on a distilled version of my own rant, and submitted to the editor. Lesson 1 – the editor does not deal directly with opinion pieces (and I am a n00b). She passed it on to the person who does, and he told me they had a huge backlog of unsolicited opinion articles, so there was no room in the section for me. However, he said I made some good points and he was keen to publish, so would I resubmit it as a letter? I bet he says that to all the wikimen. So I cut it in half again, and resubmitted it – it’s disappointing that libraries don’t get a similar platform as the original academic to fight back from, but I can understand that putting together a section with far more articles than there are space for must be a nightmare, and I was very late coming to the furore anyway (no Twitter, eh Laura..?) so I’m glad they are printing it at all. Lesson 2 – when they give the chance to change the copy, take that chance! I got an email on Monday saying, here’s what it’s going to look like, let us know by 4pm if that’s alright. They’d edited out my first point (about library jargon etc – that our new names for what we do are necessary because what we do and where we do it have changed massively in the last couple of decades) but left in the linking phrase (“And as for…”) at the start of the next paragraph, making me sound slightly unhinged in the letter.

So anyway, the letter is in today’s edition – to read it click here. Viva la fight back!*

In other news, the Frippery page has been updated with stuff about the how people find this site – you wouldn’t believe what people type into Google considering they end up here.  Rupert Giles has a lot to answer for; I’ve mentioned him once and now lots of unfortunate Buffy fans are heading here, presumably hoping to find, I don’t know, facts about killing vampires (or romancing them, or both, probably in reverse order though) but in fact end up reading a mild rant about how Giles prevents library users from seeing us as we really are. Tough times for Buffy fans.

- thewikiman

*To be honest, as much as I’m viva-ing the fightback, I actually got quite scared when I received an email this morning, from Leeds’ Media Relations person. It lists every story in this week’s Times Higher relevant to this University, with links, including one to my letter - and the mail was sent to pretty much all the important people in the Leeds world, including the VC, the deputy VC, ALL the Pro-VCs etc and the Head Librarian. My immediate reaction was not, yay I’m in the THE, but more, oh my god I hope I didn’t say anything they’ll disapprove of… I’m sure it’s all fine, but I now have an irrational fear that I should have checked with my superiors before embarking upon such a public thing with the name of my employers printed at the end of the letter.

I’m just being paranoid, right..?

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  • woodsiegirl December 3, 2009 at 2:34 PM

    Ooh, well done! Your letter reads really well by the way – and I can’t see that there’s anything in there that your employers would worry about.

  • thewikiman December 3, 2009 at 4:07 PM

    I know it’s fine really… just one of those things (a bit like Library Routes!) that goes very suddenly from idle notion to explicit reality, and takes you a bit by surprise.

    Incidentally, there have been a couple of other letter responses to Sharpe’s original piece, nearer the time: this one and this one. Also, Chris Keene’s comment, the first one after the original article, is worth reading, covering several good points.

  • Emma December 3, 2009 at 5:07 PM

    Oh hi!

    This sounds like it’s been an interesting little adventure for you. Aces on the letter, I agree with Woodsiegirl about the employer stuff too.

    Not only has this whole debate been a lively, interesting and useful one, I enjoyed your observations about dealing with the folk at the THE. I like to hear about the processes of things as well as the eventual outcomes. Viva la fight back indeed, I’m sure there will be plenty of other comments to come.

    Oh and by the way, you should just get on Twitter :-)

  • thewikiman December 3, 2009 at 5:58 PM

    o hai! What’s going on here —–>>>>>


    I give up, I submit to Twitter’s usefulness. This is The End.

    Glad you found the process interesting – I totally agree, processes as well as results are what it’s all about these days.

  • Eric Franklin December 3, 2009 at 8:05 PM

    Congrats on the letter. I thought it was a pragmatic rebuttal to, as you put it, a pretty “huffy” piece.

    One small thing – I wrote the piece on “The Puget News” that you linked to. Would you mind changing the spelling so that it’s correct? Your link points people to “The Pudget News,” which is incorrect.

  • Adrienne Cooper December 3, 2009 at 8:12 PM

    Nicely done! I thought Kevin Sharpe’s article was very huffy, and terribly myopic. I’m glad someone stuck it to him in print!

  • thewikiman December 3, 2009 at 9:35 PM

    Eric – my apologies! The name is now changed – and it gave me the opportunity to put a missing ‘e’ into the word ‘relevant’ elsewhere, so it was a good thing all round…

  • thewikiman December 3, 2009 at 9:41 PM

    Adrienne – this is the most incredible providence… I spent LITERALLY most of yesterday (or certainly lots of minutes of it) trying to contact you via your blog. I absolutely hate Blogger because it often randomly doesn’t let me leave comments – it just sort of pretends that the comments section is a non-clickable blank space which infuriates the hell out of me… what I wanted to comment and say, was, CILIPBang is the greatest blog URL *EVER* in the history of mankind. I applaud you for it.

    On a related note, now I’m considering Chartership and since I already have a BA, I’m looking for a qualification I can do with NG as the letters you get for it (maybe the N from GNVQ and the G from City & Guilds or something?) so I can eventually have something close to CILIPBANG after my name. When the ALA’s chartership was just recorded as ‘ALA’ those with an MA could have ALABAMA after their name, which is pretty cool, but CILIPBANG would just be absolutely mint. :)

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