Monday, December 31, 2007

Young vs. Old

There's been an from ongoing argument at LISNews about young vs. old librarians (or smartass vs. smart, if you will). And much of the fury was targeting this ass-crack: "Library Student Journal believes that in many ways the average LIS student today understands the average user better than does the average LIS professional. " I don't give a crap who is LSJ, but I believe in that statement completely.

When I was a library school student, I believed I knew all the shit. I was constructing huge nested Boolean searches to pinpoint exactly the information I wanted from my Lexis/Nexis searches. I could get in and out of that dial-up, six-buck-a-minute search and hit "print" in less than forty seconds. I kicked ass.

So what happened when I got my first job in a real library? I was given the task of cleaning up thirty years of collected crap in the vertical file. I was sorting old sex ed pamphlets with titles like, "It's called liberation, baby." So my dreams of online searching went away while I learned brick and mortar librarianship; desk scheduling, shifting reference collections, storing bound newspapers, all the daily crap that needs to get done. And it's the same with these library students. They believe they know the shit, but you don't really know until you get in it.

When I was young I was absolutely convinced that I knew every-fucking-thing that was useful to know. But inevitably, as you age and your world view becomes larger (see the glasses image for helpful visual aid), your view of yourself changes (or at least it should).
This is the arrogance of the arrogant (I was going to write "youth," but that's not true). If you say, "I wiki, you don't" and think you're better for it, you suck. And I would never hire you and I would let you rot in unemployment until you are blowing tourists for a sandwich. I feel the same way about those who have antipodal feelings, that you don't wiki and are better for it. You also suck. Your Us vs. Them position is going to get you stomped.

The longer you work in the real world, the more you learn about people and organizations. You learn that it takes lots of different people to make a team function successfully. I don't think anyone wants to work with lots of important people doing innovative research: who's going to staff the desk?
What the fuck is innovation anyway? Isn't it discovering a need and finding a practical solution.

Young vs. Old. You vs. Me. Your glass may be fuller, but mine's bigger. Lots bigger.