I have a very lengthy post in pickle that is taking me some time to work through. Forgive me; sometimes that’s what blogging is for, though it’s tough on the posting rate.
In the meantime, a small thought about improving interaction patterns between scientists and librarians, something I still very much think is necessary for both groups.
Cameron Neylon notes in his quick review of the new FriendFeed-based ScienceFeed that the name is not ideal:
Finally there is the problem of the name. I was very careful at the top of this post to be inclusive in the scope of people who I think can benefit from Friendfeed. One of the great strengths of Friendfeed is that it has promoted conversations across boundaries that are traditionally very hard to bridge. The ongoing collision between the library and scientific communities on Friendfeed may rank one day as its most important achievement, at least in the research space. I wonder whether the conversations that have sparked there would have happened at all without the open scope that allowed communities to form without prejudice as to where they came from and then to find each other and mingle. There is nothing in ScienceFeed that precludes anyone from joining as far as I can see, but the name is potentially exclusionary, and I think unfortunate.
I wish I disagreed with this? but I don’t. I myself would feel a bit leery of signing onto something called ScienceFeed; it took me some time before I went to claim myself a ResearcherID, even! (Yes, part of that was general dislike of Thomson Reuters, but what with ORCID waiting in the wings I rather felt I needed to sign up finally.) It’s not that I’m terribly afraid of scientists, because I’m not; I wouldn’t blog here if I were. It’s that I try (though I sometimes fail) to be a moderately polite person, and gatecrashing somebody else’s party isn’t polite.
Something called “ScienceFeed” feels like somebody else’s turf.
Two lessons from that, I think, or perhaps three. One is Cameron’s: to foster cross-campus, inter-institutional, and interdisciplinary connections and collaborations, it helps to find or make neutral turf. Making neutral turf attractive is not necessarily easy, because neutral turf means everybody has to leave a little of their comfort zone behind, and nobody likes to do that. Still, FriendFeed shows it’s at least possible.
(Zotero? Mendeley? Are you listening? I think you are ideal candidates for neutral-turf social/professional encounters.)
Another lesson, predictably, is that we librarians need to get over our fear of gatecrashing research gatherings, from labs to conferences to online venues. Like it or not, we’re on the low end of this particular power continuum; that means we’re the ones who have to move into their spaces to interact with them, because they don’t need to touch ours and therefore won’t.
A third lesson, perhaps slightly subtler, is that it may well be easier to gatecrash online venues?Facebook and LinkedIn groups, FriendFeed, Twitter hashtags?than in-person ones, at least to start. If I’m right, it means that science librarians who don’t play those “silly Web 2.0 games” (yes, that’s a direct quote, and no, I won’t identify its originator) are harming not only themselves but potentially our profession.
I tell you what, though, online gatecrashing surely seems to work as an outreach tactic. I’m not sure Cameron would have been thinking about librarians before FriendFeed. Now he knows Christina and John and me, among others?and he’s telling his peers about us.