Revenge of the Blog People!

A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web. (Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of “web log.”) Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People. —Michael GormanRevenge of the Blog People! (Library Journal)

Gorman’s op-ed piece isn’t easily accessible online, but I’ve found someone’s cached PDF copy.

Gorman writes, “When it comes to recorded knowledge, a snippet from page 142 must be understood in the light of pages 1 through 141 or the text was not worth writing and publishing in the first place.” He is talking about Google’s plan to digitize the contents of some huge libraries and serve them up to online searchers. The original material that was initially published as books, so from that perspective Gorman is correct. Still, there are queries for information that don’t logically have to lead to a patron’s request to check out a book. And while I, too, find it distressing when my students habitually click the “full text only” option when they are using the library catalog on campus, literally across the street from the library’s stacks of printed journals, today’s students have developed the digital literacy that helps them to multitask much more efficiently than their sequentially-working elders. Thus, it’s hardly productive to sniff at the information-processing skills that students have developed through their entertainment and social uses of the internet.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing that Google will let people idly peek at a fact in a book that they would otherwise never see. At the very least, they’ll have had that peek. And I bet that some of the dusty books that would otherwise have never been found will get more readers than they have now.

I have some sympathy for Gorman’s position… for anyone to claim that Google reveals God’s mind is ridiculous. Still, I’m stunned that the president-elect of the American Library Association and Dean of Library Services at a major university would brag in the year 2004 that he knew barely anything about weblogs.