Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Annoyed Librarian is Spartacus!

I'm not a well-known librarian blogger (in point of fact, I'm barely a blogger, since this is only my second post), so there's no point in my claiming to be The Annoyed Librarian. The most enthusiastic reception such a revelation could muster would be: "Eh." No shock or awe involved.

That's the most interesting thing about this week's great revelation that Meredith Farkas—no, Karen Schneider—is the Annoyed Librarian. People are wondering who AL is, and wouldn't it be just perfect if she/he turned out to be someone well known in the blogosphere? Someone net-savvy librarians regularly read and admire? Someone who might well wear AL's label of "twopointopian" with pride?

The irony, it burns. Or would burn, presumably, if the identity of Spartacus AL were revealed.

It's interesting because readers want AL to be someone well known. (Wouldn't it be funny if it were Steven Bell?) There are tons of anonymous blogs on the Internet, of course, but AL attracts attention in our little professional corner for saying provocative things, or for saying things provocatively—things that a lot of AL's readers secretly or not-so-secretly agree with. Attaching an identity to those statements, particularly a well-known identity, lends them a certain degree of...well, authority.

Authority is getting to be an interesting concept in and of itself: not just because of the Internet, a haven for anonymous content of all kinds, but because of the collaborative creation of content that has the potential to be authoritative, despite not having gone through the recognized process by which information acquires that qualification. Wikipedia is the most obvious example, but there are plenty of others; and once you pass out of the realm of reviewed scholarship, the qualification itself gets a lot more hazy.

The point being, would AL's statements be any more or less valid if we knew who was making them? Is it AL's very anonymity that gives the blog its bite, or would it be provocative even if we knew who was writing it? If the blogosphere is a forum for professional discourse—and I think it is—what part does AL play in that discourse?

AL asks some of these questions, on the blog:

One of the things I found amusing about the speculations that Meredith Farkas writes the AL (which I like to think of as the Farkas Fracas) is the assumption that when/if the AL is unmasked, it will turn out to be someone you've heard of. Maybe, maybe not. I don't want to spoil it for you. But what if the AL turned out to be just some bored librarian or group of librarians sitting around having a lark? Would that lessen the impact? Or what if the AL turned out to be someone ensconced in ALA headquarters? Does it matter at all who writes the AL? Does the identity of the author(s) somehow change what's written?

You might well ask whether there's much point in considering the authority (or lack thereof) of a blog in the first place. After all, it's a blog. But a blog is just a format. Nothing about that format specifies content. The content could be anything: your lolcats collection, your research article, your enumerated points about how the profession is incompletely clothed. The author could be anyone. The decision about whether to take what's in it seriously resides entirely with its reader.

And that drives some people crazy.


Logothete said...

Of course, the AL quotes Johnny Cash, so I now suspect you.

datamuse said...

If I insist that I'm not the Annoyed Librarian, would that contribute to a rumor that I actually am?

Because that would be funny.