July 9, 2012

“Annoyed Librarian” is a Coward

I have long been annoyed by the popularity of the Annoyed Librarian blog. It’s not because of her ideas, which I think are often interesting. It is because she has always used her anonymity as a shield for insulting people while avoiding responsibility for what she says.

Many people justify anonymous public speech as a necessary recourse when the truth can’t be spoken without some kind of retailation. Annoyed Librarian might argue that she would be taking a professional risk to speak the truth about librarianship in her own name. But it seems to me that the only thing professionally risky about her blog is her tendency to insult people, not the ideas she expresses, which are hardly beyond the pale.

When Library Journal adopted her as a columnist, anonymity preserved, I lost respect for them as a venue for professional discussion. In a professional context, it is important for people to take responsibility for what they say. To avoid doing this, especially when it serves as a way to insult people without consequences, is cowardly and irresponsible. Library Journal should have the good judgment not to facilitate that kind of behavior in a professional context, and especially not to give it their imprimatur.

Some might note with irony that I am insulting Annoyed Librarian in calling her a coward. In response I would only say that this is a considered opinion and something that I think needs to be said, and something that I stand behind without any shield of anonymity. The library profession should not tolerate her insulting behavior, and definitely shouldn’t reward it.

I will close by recommending some reading on anonymity in the library blogosphere, an editorial by John Buschman, Mark Rosenzweig & Kathleen de la Peña McCook in Progressive Librarian #29, “On Anonymity in Libraryland Blogging.” (Annoyed Librarian has called this group the “Regressive Librarians” whenever she has written about them. It would not be difficult to express disagreements with them without resorting to playground-style insults.)

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20 Comments »

  1. Could you provide an example of especially egregious insulting behavior? I’ll admit that the Annoyed Librarian has taken some unfortunately cheap shots in the pursuit of satire, but I can’t recall anything that rises to the level of chronically insulting behavior. Granted, I’ve only been following AL for a year or so.

    And thank you for the link to the Buschmann article. In the spirit of expressing disagreement without resorting to insult, I sympathize (slightly) with Buschmann’s concerns, but all but one of his arguments are clearly fallacious.

    Comment by Lane Wilkinson — July 9, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

  2. He wrote tedious, trite snark to bully and demean those with ideals.

    Comment by Kathleen de la Peña McCook — July 9, 2012 @ 10:31 pm

  3. I don’t know if Annoyed Librarian is male of female – makes it harder to write about him/her.

    Regarding insulting language, that’s been the pattern of her writing whenever she has written about the SRRT and PLG crowd (whom she has sometimes made up alternative names for, like “Regressive Librarians Guild,” which might make searching her site for this stuff a little harder).

    Comment by Rory Litwin — July 10, 2012 @ 5:58 am

  4. I always thought he was channeling Paul Lynde…tho Lynde had an altruistic side. This bile in LJ is just to attract the mean-spirited. I was surprised it is still ongoing.

    Comment by Kathleen de la Peña McCook — July 10, 2012 @ 7:24 am

  5. Kathleen: You say that AL bullies and demeans “those with ideals”. I’d contend that the AL has “ideals” as well, just more classically liberal ideals than the SRRT/PLG. Perhaps you meant to write that the AL bullies and demeans the ideals of a particular subset of the radical Left?

    Rory: I looked over some of the older posts, and I can begin to see what you’re talking about. But, I don’t see that the AL behaved any worse than some PLG/SRRT members (e.g., the comments to this post). And when the level of discourse from both sides drops to such lows, I choose to ignore the style and focus on the substance of ALs criticisms which, unfortunately, are left largely unanswered.

    Comment by Lane Wilkinson — July 10, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  6. Thanks for your comment, Lane. I looked at the comments that you linked to, and I have to say I have no idea who any of those people are and see no reason to link them to SRRT and PLG. What it looks like to me is basically a reflection on the blog and the posting itself, since it shows what kind of readers it is attracting. If you peruse the comments on this blog you will notice that they are quite different in tone.

    Comment by Rory Litwin — July 10, 2012 @ 9:15 am

  7. Rory, I was referring to John Buschman’s comments; indeed, I think I’m as offended by Buschman’s specious reasoning as you are by ALs tone.

    In any event, insult is deeply personal and as a third party I can’t disagree that you feel insulted. Likewise, as a third party, I have to acknowledge that the AL has legitimate concerns that are largely unanswered. At the end of the day, I’m not particularly fond of any of the parties involved.

    Comment by Lane Wilkinson — July 10, 2012 @ 11:05 am

  8. A quick question: What would the AL going public accomplish? I read through everyone’s comments, and nobody articulated a rationale.

    So the AL is a coward. So what? I guess I’m missing a point other than “we don’t like what AL has to say.”

    Comment by Million — July 10, 2012 @ 11:23 am

  9. Kramer auto Pingback[…] Juice “Annoyed Librarian” is a Coward 1 day […]

    Pingback by The Pumped Librarian: Library mystery as outreach and instruction — July 10, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

  10. I have admittedly read only a few of the Annoyed Librarian’s postings. That said, what I have read did not compel me to revisit. As a newcomer to the library profession (full-time MLS candidate working part-time at an academic library and volunteering at the public library) I am especially interested in reading about LIS issues and the related debates. The little I’ve read of AL has struck me as complaint more than substantial critique. I for one would rather hear a more productive voice.

    Comment by Matthew Ducmanas — July 10, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

  11. For Million… I haven’t actually said that I don’t like what Annoyed Librarian has to say. In fact I often agree with it. I just don’t see any reason why she has to say it anonymously. I don’t find it all that controversial, certainly not more controversial than the things that I have said publicly in my own name over the years (sometimes things that she also said later on).

    What I disagree with is her insulting and rude language. That is what writing under my own name prevents me from engaging in.

    It isn’t exactly that I am calling for her to go public, but pointing out to people, especially her fans, that her anonymity is problematic and has allowed her to engage in some bad behavior online. I don’t like the way someone who is setting such a bad example for the profession has such a following.

    For Lane, I think John’s arguments are debatable. In any case, I don’t see how a bad argument is cause for personal offense in the same way as an insult is.

    As for Annoyed Librarian’s concerns being unanswered, I have sometimes answered them in Library Juice and sometimes agreed with them (and even said so). But not everybody reads everybody’s writing. That said, just because someone has a complaint about some aspect of the state of the profession or some people in it doesn’t automatically entitle them to an answer. I would be much more inclined to engage in a debate with Annoyed Librarian if she were taking responsibility for what she says by using her name. It is a question of responsibility.

    Comment by Rory Litwin — July 11, 2012 @ 7:33 am

  12. Rory, like I said: insult is subjective. I consider myself a somewhat progressive librarian and Buschman’s blatantly fallacious arguments make progressive librarians look bad. I’m expressing collective, rather than individual, offense.

    And I disagree when you write that AL doesn’t take responsibility for what she writes. If AL were truly anonymous, then I might agree with you (and Schopenhauer). But, the AL isn’t anonymous, she’s pseudonymous. That is, she uses a consistent name and is consistent in her demeanor and outlook. We can attribute the perceived insults to a particular person. You might not like what she says, but you can’t say she doesn’t take responsibility.

    On a related note, would you agree with Andrew Sullivan that it was irresponsible for Atrios to blog pseudonymously?

    Comment by Lane Wilkinson — July 11, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

  13. Sorry Lane, I am not going to get into this further with you.

    Comment by Rory Litwin — July 11, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

  14. I don’t mean to defend the AL and I don’t mean to denigrate your feelings about her. I’m sorry if I came across that way. For the record, I’m more in Wayne Bivens-Tatum’s camp: http://blogs.princeton.edu/librarian/2007/09/the_juvenal_of_librarianship/

    Thank you anyway for the discussion. I’ll let you be.

    Comment by Lane Wilkinson — July 11, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

  15. Hi there, Rory.
    I wrote a bit about this anonymity and pseudonymity in professional discourse a while back in an article titled X over at In the Library with the Lead Pipe.

    As an editorial board, we have discouraged and not accepted posts that were sent to us where authors hoped to use a pseudonym or have us publish their work anonymously. I outlined the reasons in that post.

    Much of what you say rings true with my feelings about anonymous and/or pseudonymous publication in professional discourse.

    I reserve that when discussing radical ideas, or even working toward a political revolution that, yes, perhaps anonymity is required.

    But since when has librarianship been so controversial that as professionals we can’t stand behind what we say?

    Comment by Emily — July 11, 2012 @ 3:13 pm

  16. Kramer auto Pingback[…] Juice “Annoyed Librarian” is a Coward 2 days […]

    Pingback by The Pumped Librarian: Library mystery as outreach and instruction — July 11, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

  17. Don’t worry, Lane, you didn’t “denigrate my feelings.” It is not personal.

    Comment by Rory Litwin — July 11, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

  18. I only recently stumbled on to AL’s blog, being someone new to lis. But what infuriated me wasn’t her perspective on, say, library science programs as cash cows, or her call for more rigor and some restraint in recruiting students when there may not be jobs waiting for them. Rather, it was the way she referred to the students themselves. She pretends at concern for their loans and their future unemployment all while stating that in all likelihood they are dull, stupid, lazy, and undereducated, only admitted to the profession because universities want to make money.

    Her self-regard and pretense that librarianship should somehow be reserved for a brilliant few are toxic. And yes, she should say what she thinks under her own name. I hold any number of opinions that aren’t perfect resume items, but I say them in my own voice, and yes, publicly. People who are actually committed to making a difference have the courage to sign their names to it. This isn’t a totalitarian regime and if you don’t believe it enough to accept the consequences of being identified with your opinions,, then you don’t believe it. And no, I am not 22 years old and fresh out of college.

    Comment by Katie — May 31, 2013 @ 10:38 am

  19. I use to read AL but believe she has lost her “sparkle”…I’m not sure why they continue her/him as I believe Al is lost in a rut. I once got into it with AL about her/his rude manner of referring to recent graduates as my daughter had the misfortune of getting an MLS degree and is also now stuck in a “rut” but I guess that is because she is dull and uneducated and totally unsuited to breath the air AL does. I personally believe the profession needs to be honest with graduates about entry level jobs and a low growth rate. But the way AL does it is mean and vicious.

    Comment by Joyce — August 23, 2013 @ 12:52 am

  20. Sometimes I agree with AL’s opinions.

    Other times I … [try to avoid being snarky]…

    Enough said! I don’t mind reading critical opinions unless they are spiced with an excess of sneering.

    Comment by Jay — May 16, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

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