Excuses, excuses

*blows off the dust*

It's been quiet around here. Sorry about that. Morphing jobs is chaotic, as is moving offices. I've missed a writing deadline, made another, and have a third coming up. I don't have a proper desk in my new office yet (I will soon), and my current makeshift is making my good old RSI flare up, which disinclines me to type more in the evenings.

I'm also still thinking about things. I'm grateful for the out-of-band comments I've received. Mostly (and my apologies if I traduce anyone) the themes are these:

  • My writings are still useful to people, and
  • I don't seem to be making the same tone and protocol mistakes I made on my previous blog, but
  • what I'm doing here still endangers my job and perhaps career, in the estimation of every single person who emailed me.

It makes me sad. It's demoralizing, the idea that a blog is both a valuable service to the profession and a serious professional liability. No matter how buttoned-down. No matter how careful. Because I am who I am, this doesn't just make me wonder about blogging—it makes me wonder about my profession, and what its practitioners are and aren't willing to hear, or defend the saying of.

Part of the reason I shut down CavLec, honestly, was that I was becoming a whipping-post; people who shared my opinions but weren't as career-suicidal as I apparently am were hiding behind me. This is not fair to me. My correspondents on the topic of shutting down Book of Trogool all hinted pretty strongly that the same thing is happening again.

It's still not fair… and I'm once bitten twice shy. Why should my blogging continue to serve professionals who demonstrably will not defend my blogging practices in any way, shape, or form?

So, you know, I'm still thinking. I'm sad. I'm demoralized. But I'm still thinking. There may be purposes blogging can still serve for me. I'm just not quite sure what they are, or whether they justify the effort.

I welcome additional efforts to help me think, in the comments here or via my gmail.

More like this

I need to lift the iron curtain between this blog and my workplace. I beg your indulgence for one post. As those who read Bora's interview with me know, I discontinued my previous blog Caveat Lector because I was informed that it was causing significant distress to individuals in my workplace. In…
Another reason it's been quiet around here is that comments haven't been appearing. This was my fault (though I am innocent of any ill intent), and I apologize with all my heart. What happened was this: I was getting quite a bit of the particularly obnoxious kind of spam that copies other comments…
You might have guessed this was coming. My blogging frequency has dropped off dramatically this year, particularly this semester. I keep writing "yep, I haven't died yet - I'll tell you all about what I'm doing sometime, really" posts, and not ever following up. Other signs have included.... I…
Of all the Looney Tunes characters, I was never a fan of the Roadrunner. (I liked Wile E. Coyote well enough, and wish him well in his lawsuit against the Acme Company.) However, there was one Roadrunner cartoon where the focus pulls back from the eternal struggle between coyote and prospective…

I wonder how I manage to be so (intentionally) blunt about the failings of our, um, industry, and sometimes (unintentionally) asshole-ish, and still keep from damaging my career, and as far as I can tell only helping it with my online persona.

Is it a gender thing? Am I just lucky? Have I actually harmed my career prospects without realizing it?

From the outside-looking-in, I've always found your posts to be smart, thoughtful and important even. What has me scratching my head reading this is why a) some people would be threatened by what you write, and b) why other people would be scared to publicly support you. That, it seems to me, says more about the library profession than it does about you.

By Bruce D'Arcus (not verified) on 03 Jun 2010 #permalink

I'm sorry you're in such a dilemma - I don't really know much about the trouble the blog has got you into, but I did just want to say how much I've enjoyed reading it. What you have to say is always sensible and thought-provoking and I can't understand why it's causing so much trouble!

I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the privilege of being a safe gadfly is traditionally reserved for, well, the privileged. In academia, that tends to be tenured male professors, male department directors, deans. I don't know how to fight that accept by both being and supporting gadflies that come from less privileged groups.

On the other hand, you have personal choices you need to make. I actually disagree with all of your commenters that your blogging is endangering your career, but I agree that it is probably limiting some of the jobs you will be offered and your advancement in some of those jobs. That is to say, it's making it more difficult for you to advance your career, but not impossible.

When I decided to go public as somebody who is angry about accessibility in the workplace (perforce incidentally going public as a professional with disabilities), I stressed about it for a good long time. I know that my public, professional presence is a somebody who not only has disabilities but is going to be cranky about inadequate efforts to provide accessibility. I know I'll never be made director of anything, and there are jobs I won't be given. But it's a choice I'm making.

I think whichever way you go, it's a legitimate choice. Pick what's more important to you.

While I can't advise you on career strategies, I'd like to thank you for what I have seen your blogging do as a contribution beyond a single profession. You have helped people across various professions understand what's up and what's at stake in concrete terms in a number of areas ranging from repositories to digital preservation to scholarly communication. The straightforward personal voice you have contributed goes a long way to bridging the kinds of cross-professional misunderstandings that can make outsiders uncertain how to choose between blindly trusting that experts in another domain have it all figured out, and blindly mistrusting that everything we don't understand must be founded in charlatanism. When people across professions face uncomfortable open questions that require collaboration in making things up as we go, a grounded voice can be indispensable in navigating unfamiliar terrain.

By Douglas Knox (not verified) on 04 Jun 2010 #permalink

I think it says something that the people who feel this way sent you email, as opposed to commenting here. Perhaps they're just wrong? There are people in science who say that blogging is a waste of time and damaging to a scientists career, and they're wrong. They also, without exception, have neither blogged not regularly read them.

FWIW, I've always found your posts to be enlightening and useful.

I confess to being somewhat baffled. Have your commenters explained HOW this blog might endanger your job or career? Is there any real evidence for that? I understand the timidity and paranoia that many of our colleagues seem to exhibit, but are they really persuasive?

Deborah's comment that your blogging is probably limiting some of the jobs you will be offered might be true -- but it seems to me that you wouldn't want to work for an organization that felt that way anyway. The advice that I always give job seekers going on interviews is that you should be as open and honest about who you are as possible, because if you're not and they think they're hiring somebody other than who you really are, it's going to be a bad fit and you're not going to be happy in the long run.

Certainly you would want to further your career by working in organizations that appreciate and respect thoughtful and considered comment on issues of importance to the profession -- and there are plenty of places like that out there.

Yes, it's important to be professional and responsible and considered with what one says, and I have my own reasons for never discussing the specifics of my workplace on my own job, but if you do too much self-censoring, you're sacrificing parts of your life in the service of some imagined career path and that's a bad bargain.

I'm confused - maybe it's the difference between being in a special library and an academic library? Maybe my management is really that different from other library managers? I just don't get this at all - and no one has ever suggested that my blog could/would be harmful to my career. Granted, I don't write as well as you do so it could be that I keep my audience confused so they don't know what I'm saying ... I guess my topics are different - you and I disagree about a few things... but still. Maybe librarians should have tenure after all?
I wish there was something I could do to help you.

Jonathan, Christina, I don't know and wish I did. I thought for a long time that I was okay -- until I suddenly wasn't. I found the whole episode distressing; of course, to some extent I deserved to!

Bruce, Rachel, Douglas, Mr. Gunn, thank you. I have some sense of what I did that hurt people, and I own it and am sorry for it. The tricky bit is that given my earlier mistakes, I believe I need to watch myself more than do people who haven't tripped up in this fashion. I find that wearisome, to be perfectly honest.

Ed, the new job is still coming into focus, but scholarly communication more broadly (as opposed to just running an IR) is in the cards.

Deborah, I think you are right. I have heretofore erred on the side of trying to goad the profession and the world into advancing, believing that I wasn't doing myself too much damage. I've found myself reconsidering that position over the last year or so. I have duties to MPOW too, and I believe I owe it to MPOW and to myself not to put up roadblocks that hinder locally the very agenda I'm trying to move the larger world toward!

T Scott, I'm honored that you commented here, and I agree with the substance of your comment. What I hope to work toward is the middle ground between causing offense and excessive self-censoring that you occupy very successfully. I'm not finding it easy to get there, as I noted above... but the lesson is, I think, a salutary one for me.