Thursday, November 01, 2007

Annoyed vs. the Webtamer and other tales from the Archives

The mysterious but always outspoken (and often controversial) Annoyed Librarian strikes again, this time dishing out her annoyance at video games as becoming part of the library school curriculum and their usage in libraries. She quotes The Shifted Librarian describing a gaming course offered by Dr. Michael Stephens. Both Stephens and Shifted are proponents of gaming in library school and libraries. The latter, Stephens, whom the Annoyed Librarian affectionately calls the Webtamer (or Dr. Webtamer, since earning his Ph.D), is the prolific blogger/librarian behind the Tame the Web blog, which regularly promotes the use of gaming and social networking technologies in libraries to encourage community involvement.

Taken with a grain of satirical salt, the Annoyed Librarian argues that library school, already in many respects an “intellectual joke,” as she call it, will become more so if it embraces video gaming as the new education model. And the people promoting these activities, those “twopointopians,” should continue doing so on their blogs, even though they are probably too busy playing video games or social networking.

For the record, I like Michael Stephens, aka Dr. Webtamer, at least the parts of his professional life that he blogs and photographs. And in some ways, I envy his stature in the library field. He travels extensively and gives presentations across the United States, talking about stuff he loves. His excitement is tangible; he truly loves his profession. He’s excited about his work and how all those little gadgets and social networking technologies impact his work and life – and how they can do the same for library schools and libraries.

There are other bloggers/librarians whose day jobs, it seems, are filled with nothing but Second Life, iPods, and Guitar Hero. Although their jobs do not reflect reality, my reality at least, I nonetheless cannot fault them for being so joyful.

I hope they realize how very fortunate they are—how very fortunate--for many us in this field toil in obscurity.

Also for the record, I like the Annoyed Librarian as well. I believe she is a collective of annoyed librarians, and someone in the group is the editor. How can one person be so prolific and still have time to do their day job? In any case, the Annoyed Librarian remains one of the few blogs in the blogosphere that, with wit and satire, nails the foibles of library school so succinctly. It has acted as a personal balm on many occasions.

In regards to video games and gaming, I blogged about video games in the corporate world a few blog posts ago. Citing a BBC news article--and with tongue firmly pressed in check--I figured, what the heck: If video games are the collaboration model for many young adults entering the workforce, then the workforce should adopt video games as the means to get its young employees to collaborate and get the work done. I even figured I best dust off my old 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) to prepare myself. Remember that one, folks, the NES?

Then I read a blog post from our Chief Information Officer, which stunned me, quite frankly. (Sorry, folks, his blog is behind a firewall.) Essentially, he argues that we, our institution, should have a presence in the virtual world Second Life. I had to re-read his post twice just in case I misread his comments. But it’s true: He firmly believes in virtual spaces such as Second Life as a viable and business valuable strategy. Cool, but...

On the one hand, I can appreciate the case Stephens, Shifted and our CIO present. The collaborative space, influenced by videogames, is an emerging platform where people come together and, bound by common goals, work together in the virtual space to achieve said common goals. But on the other hand, I wonder if all this virtual/collaborative space is nothing but another layer of unnecessary work and extra steps to attain information, knowledge, or getting the job done. It’s fun, sure, but is it necessary?

Don't get me wrong: I love a good game of Half-Life 2 as much as the next guy. But what does a first-person shooter--or twanging a guitar controller--have in common with information delivery?


Anonymous said...

While criticism and critique certainly have their place, AL clearly has a bias against library schools in general and in this case was looking for a "story" as a springboard.

But AL plays a little too loosely with the facts on this one, because the post I did very clearly noted that this was one class session devoted to learning about video games and libraries (play + discussion). At least with this knowledge, readers can judge for themselves if that justifies AL's diatribe against Michael, the course, or library school in general.

Jenny Levine
The Shifted Librarian

Carrie said...

It is very curious - this new jump to embrace all technologies immediately. I have heard rumblings around my office about starting up a blog and a wiki for internal (maybe even external?) communications. It's also interesting that these rumblings are all happening in the IT department, and no one has thought to consult with the resident archivist (that would be me) with the fancy schmancy MLIS. (I also have vague social contacts with folks "known" in the wiki world, but I am definitely not offering up THAT info...)

Of course, I am also not volunteering myself to assist in these projects as it would increase a workload that I am already overwhelmed by.

I recall with fondness the day I was in the lunchroom and an employee here was talking very loudly about how they have discouraged their daughter from going to library school as "libraries are going nowhere - it's a useless occupation these days".

So there's THAT public perception. Then there is this urge from archives and libraries (and every other business, it seems) to jump on any new technology to prove relevancy.

It's all rather tiring.

I like your theory about the Annoyed Librarian's identity... I've wondered how the hell she can write so extensively and thoroughly and still have a day job -- I find it very difficult to make myself sit down at the computer after work when I have been using it all day.

dkemper said...


The Annoyed Librarian, whoever she is or they are (as I personally believe - she is a collective of librarians), concocts her blog posts to prove her point - not necessarily to relate New York Times worthy facts.

Her blog is a satire. There is, however, some truth hidden between the sarcastic lines. It's hope to us as readers to be objectives and unbiased to see the truth, I guess.

When she interprets and presents her facts, or more likely, stretches reality to fit her views, or casts popular bloggers/librarians like Michael Stephens in an unpopular light, I think she does so to argue her point of view, not to be mean.

Like I said, I like the professional profile of Michael Stephens and others (David Lee King comes to mind) because I often wish my career in library and archives was half as interesting and exciting as theirs.

I agree with the AL's views on library school. Not all of them, of course. But some glaring ones. There needs to be some necessary changes.

A course on video gaming sounds downright cool. But I wonder, honestly, if I add some video gaming elements to my CV, would that help my career prospects?

Talk of Second Life, video games, etc in the library or library school is very, very experimental.

Libraries and library school are in transition. Their soil is ready for new ideas. Video games? What the heck!

dkemper said...


Thanks for the comment. Embracing technology way too quickly for any field is dangerous. It often blows up in one's face.

Starting a blog or a wiki should be done to solve or improve communications and collaboration and community building. And starting any one of these requires thorough research similar in scope to building a website.

I understand your hesitation to volunteer your time to start a blog or wiki, particularly when the managerial culture is in a "convince me" mode rather than a "let's see where this takes us" mode.

Public perception of the library field does not scare me as much. Whatever one does as a profession one should fully and completely (quoting the The Tragically Hip) enjoy and love. When the good times roll in, one relishes them. When the rough times roll in, one accepts them more readily and prepares for the challenge.

The library and archives are in need of people with passion.

Adopting technology as a quick fix or to appear relevant is not the solution.

about the author

I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.

I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.

I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.