Caveat prima: LONG AND RANTY POST AHEAD.
Caveat secunda: I don’t consider myself to belong to a clique. Heck, I haven’t even read the LIS NPN forum post about all this.
As part of my CPD23 stuff, I mentioned the fact that I tend to lurk around blogs rather than commenting on them, a bad habit I’ve once again found myself guilty of. As I mentioned in my reasons for not tending to comment, it’s usually because I’m not interested enough, don’t have anything insightful to say or am Too Darned Angry to say anything sensible.
The reason I haven’t commented on blogs about this so far is definitely within the latter category, but I feel something of a duty to write about it because Rachel’s post on the topic is largely based on things I said, and the term I believe I coined (correct me if I’m wrong), much to my shame – #cliquegate – now seems to be the hashtag du jour. I have too much to say for it to be a comment on her blog – there’s nothing I like less than an essay-length comment – so I hope she’ll forgive me for putting it here instead.
So. Here’s my two-penneth’s worth, for what it’s worth.
Over the last couple of days a few people have written about Rachel’s findings for her New Professionals Conference paper that one respondent to her survey (out of 35 respondents) said they do not “identify with the current clique”.
My first concern here is that the survey was about ‘non-new professionals’ and how they perceive ‘new professionals’. Not about the online librarian community, not about the twitter librarian community, not about the blogging librarian community, not even about the LIS New Professionals Network librarian community. However, it seems to have been automatically assumed that this one respondent meant the entire online community of new professional librarians. I find this in itself bothersome for a couple of reasons:
1) They never mentioned the internet (did they?) so I think worrying about an online community might be worrying our little heads over something that isn’t an issue, not even for one person in the entire profession.
2) (Even if they did specifically mean the online new professional community) There are literally, like, a gazillion new professional librarians on the internet. Seriously. The internet, I don’t know if you’ve heard, is kind of big. And librarians, I don’t know if you know, are down with that kind of thing, so they all kind of have a go on it, all over the shop. They’re everywhere. For my reasoning here I shall now refer to my usual recourse in all matters rhetorical, the Oxford English Dictionary:
1. A small and exclusive party or set, a narrow coterie or circle: a term of reproach or contempt, applied generally to such as are considered to associate for unworthy or selfish ends, or to small and select bodies who arrogate supreme authority in matters of social status, literature, etc.
“Small.” “Narrow coterie or circle.” Not huge great whopping number of people in the same profession who happen to use a wide range of social networking tools to keep in touch with fellow professionals around the world.
My second concern is a small but important one. Cliques are “exclusive”. New professionals aren’t. Except for that bit where someone labelled everyone who’s been in the profession for less than five years as a ‘new professional’. Which I hate. I didn’t make it up. Who did? Shoot them. Anyway, it’s not the fault of some poor LIS graduate that they’ve been termed a new professional and are thereby automatically part of some sort of ‘set’ that they might not even want to belong to or identify with.
My third concern is about the aforementioned identification. What Rachel’s respondent said was that they don’t “identify” with a group. That’s surely ok, right? Not everybody has everything in common with everyone. I’m aware of a lot of groups in my day to day life that I don’t identify with. It doesn’t mean I don’t accept them as valid and valuable groups. It just means that I, personally, don’t see a need and/or don’t have a desire to be involved. It doesn’t mean I want a cuddle and an invitation to become vegan/existentialist/join the LGBTQ community. I demand the right to not identify! Rather than the respondent complaining about a “clique that they cannot infiltrate” as Rachel interpreted this, I’d suggest that maybe they just don’t want to. And even if this person kind of does want to (I don’t know), it’s not to say that everyone who doesn’t consider themselves involved wants to.
Fourth, the term ‘clique’ is one of “reproach or contempt”, i.e. it’s something applied to a group by an external body in order to make out that there’s a degree of disapproval. To that I say: “I don’t need your approval!” I made a flippant comment on twitter about my imagined reaction to being accused of being in a clique. It involved 1) telling the person they’re an idiot 2) flicking them the bird and 3) bitching about my peers so how can I even be in a clique anyway. I guess this paragraph is 1) and 2). This entire blog post appears to be 3). Whoops.
Fifth, I feel one of my arguments has been misrepresented. Rachel said “The argument that there is no room in the profession for someone who lacks confidence and feels unable to get involved has been made”. If it wasn’t just me who said something along these lines, then hurray. If it was, then that wasn’t what I said. What I said was “Mostly I am of the “they need to man up” school of playground politics” (call me a cow, but know this: I certainly wasn’t ever one of the cool kids and it didn’t do me any harm to not belong) and “This profession no longer belongs to the meek and mild”. I stand by that. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but the profession is kind of falling in around our ears in many ways. This ain’t no time for navel-gazing. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dusty. Besides, we’ve got too many LIS graduates and not enough jobs. It’s a dog eat dog world, guys… (ooooh that one’s going to get me into trouble…)
Sixth is something that’s hit a nerve, I guess. This one’s about what the heck this clique/these cliques might be and who’s in them. I covered the fact that it’s spectacularly ridiculous to suggest that all librarians with any kind of internet presence are in a clique by virtue of sheer scale up in my first issue. All those hours ago… But also, Steve, Rachel’s boyfriend (that’s a clique in itself right? I think we should all demand to be invited in ) blogged about the topic too. I happen to know them both personally – I did my graduate traineeship alongside Rachel and did my MA with them both. If you’re screaming “CLIQUE!” right now, I’ve got something in my pocket for you. Aherm. So. Yes, I know Stevelin. He’s a lovely chap. And I was sad to see that he used #UKpling as an example of something that is in its nature “exclusive”. For those not in the know (there is irony dripping from my pores), #UKpling means ‘UK public libraries in need group’. I know, I know, it’s a bit lame. What can I say? It was a late night. I think we were all having a bad day. I suppose Steve’s right – at the beginning, it was exclusive. That was kind of the point – it was set up to discuss a specific topic – but that’s how twitter works. The hashtag grew – and before we’d had a chance to pick something slightly less lame and more obviously meaningful, it was incredibly popular and it was too late to change the account to something like VftL – believe me, we agonised over it. The hashtag grew, and then #savelibraries came along. Everybody pretty much went over there and used that instead, because #UKpling was a small thing for organising stuff between a small group of acquaintances. #savelibraries is the big, public-facing, outreaching hashtag. And although yes, Voices does have a core membership, we need to. We’re a campaigning body and have to have some sort of semblance of organised-ness. We’re not a professional network and involvement is absolutely not something people should be seeking as something to put on their CV to demonstrate that they’re professionally active. I mean, it does mean you are, but lawks, there are less stressful things to do if that’s all you’re after. I guess what I’m saying is that folksonomy doesn’t equal clique. I suppose it has to mean exclusive, because, well, you’re librarians, figure it out.
In conclusion, despite this giant rant, I still don’t think there’s much cause for concern. I think it’s a topic that nice people worry about because nobody wants to be a meanie pie. Librarians, on the whole, are nice people. Which is why the clique thing isn’t an issue. If people want to get involved, it’s ridiculously easy to get involved. If they refuse to engage, it’s their loss. I don’t know what exactly Rachel intends to do as part of her “contribution to library advocacy” – Hair stroking? Hand holding? Personally visiting each and every person in the library profession who expresses some kind of insecurity about their sense of belonging to make them feel better? Forgive my cynicism, I’m just really unconvinced that there’s much to be done.
In conclusion conclusion, what I said in my first tweet-response still holds true. I think it’s BS and I think it’s about how members of the new professional community conduct themselves that is important, and none that I know are exclusive in the slightest. I’m also acutely aware that my very…passionate?…response to this and my belief that it’s a fairly BS-filled topic make it fairly likely that I alienate some people. Probably new professionals. Thereby either 1) exacerbating the problem or more likely 2) excluding myself from any perceived clique that people might perceive me to belong to. Hey guys I exploded the clique! Problem solved! We can talk about something else now!