Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Geek or Nerd?

Rory Litwin has a thought-provoking piece over at Library Juice.
Perhaps the most pressing issue facing librarianship is one that is unlikely to receive serious scholarly attention. It is, to put it simply, a battle presently being fought between two camps of librarians. Some may cite generational conflict as the primary conflict in librarianship today; baby-boomers representing traditional knowledge of librarianship as well as bibliographic knowledge, and GenXers representing facility with technology. There is some truth to that picture, but it is primarily a distraction from the real conflict. That conflict, I submit, is the battle between geeks and nerds.
It's half tongue-in-cheek, but made me think. I'm not at all convinced this is generational - or, at least the young librarians I know are hardly uncritical about technology, even if they're more up-to-speed with it than some of us (ahem). And there are a number of gray-haired academic library directors who I've speaking at conferences about the latest technology as if its a religioud sacrament.

I also think this may be a dichotomy that's more likely to apply in large and/or academic libraries. It's my impression that public librarians are less interested in technology or bibliographic knowledge than they are in people and their needs. (Am I being a romantic, Charlotte?)


Alec said...

I think it all depends on your colleagues. I am the youngest librarian in my library and do not feel like there are two "camps" or a "war" going on. We teach and learn from each other.

Charlotte said...

Well, Barbara has a point about public librarians being less interested in technology- that's been my experience in many arenas. Some of it is an access problem...University librarians always seem ahead of the technology curve because they have computer students around, tech support, and a real need for things such as distance delivery. Certainly in Alaska, and much of the rural West, only the largest libraries have enough staff for a technical services librarian. Most of the rest of us are self taught to a greater or lesser degree. Personally, I have virtually no interest in technology except as a tool to serve library users (which is different than entertaining them in my book) but my co-worker who is a decade or so older than me loves everything computer, etc. and takes classes, etc. Of course, there are also librarians who are painfully uncomfortable working with teens or children, and I find working with some patrons in the adult library to be incredibly uncomfortable, especially the drunk ones and we have a lot of those in Alaska!

Laura said...

I found an interesting insight to this on Rachel Singer Gordon's blog, "The Liminal Librarian" (which I'm beginning to really like). She says: "Rather than setting up this artificial geek/nerd distinction, which only feeds into the divide Rory perceives, perhaps we can embrace both. Perhaps we can get excited about technology that allows us to serve patrons better. Perhaps we can get excited about having "geeks" on our side rather than being dependent on outside groups who aren't necessarily building on the same knowledge base or principles."

Someone commented on her blog with a link to a site he created with links to various articles, etc, about the possibilities of a link between the worlds of libraries and IT... looks like there may just be some cool stuff there:

Librarians and Techies – A NEXUS

I plan on checking it out a bit more, but thought you all might enjoy it!