Le sigh. Le groan. I logged into my work email to cull it a bit near the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, and woo-hoo, NEWLIB flamey goodness. A soon-to-be MLS grad posts a question asking how to convert a Word file to PDF. Some make suggestions. Some make fun of that person for not googling the answer. Some flame the fun-makers. The fun-makers flame general idiocy. Delicious holiday goodness, including folks who decide it could be fun to post as different people (but, alas, from the same ISP and identified. D’oh!)
I swear I tried to keep my mouth shut and my typing fingers still. I did. And then people who expected to use the list as a professional resource started leaving the list. This happens occasionally when things get too Romper Room-esque, it’s natural. This prompted yet others to snark at those who couldn’t handle the capricious nature of internet commenting. And then, of course, I jumped into the fray. You knew I would, didn’t you? You were hoping I would. One last hurrah before heading to NC and trying to be all decorous and managerial-like.
And so, the e-mail.
Okay, I’ve tried to keep to myself on this whole thing, and can’t help myself. (Surprise, surprise, I know.)
“If you get spooked by the dust bunnies that get kicked up on this list, I suggest you cancel your ISP too because you can’t handle “teh interwebs”.”
That would be fine if we were talking about a flamewar on Fark, except this list isn’t “teh interwebs.” It is a professional tool and resource that is intended to answer questions for those entering the field and to point out what is inappropriate and what is appropriate as a professional. For instance, while asking what programs are available for free file conversion would seem appropriate, asking a general question of “omg I’ve never done this how do I convert to pdf?” demonstrates that you didn’t even attempt to search the web for an answer before asking a giant list. One question is more appropriate than the other in a professional setting.
Flame wars that result from nasty comments or ignorance aren’t just anonymous hiccups – they’re a great way of culling the herd when it comes to hiring time. And believe me, this list is used for that, and people make note of names and attitudes. NEWLIB being a list for “new” librarians does not exempt those new librarians, experienced librarians, or about-to-be-librarians from being chastised for displays of willful ignorance, impoliteness, and general idiocy when it happens. In fact, we should *expect* to be chastised for such behavior on this list, since it’s supposed to help you know what to do – and what *not* to do – as a professional. And if you make egregious mistakes, you’ll be called out on them.
The library world is small. I may not know your face, but I likely know your online handle, your avatar, or your name and place of employment. And because the job market is a tight one, don’t think that your informal interactions “don’t count” just because you don’t have your suit or heels on when you have them. Those are, in fact, the most *important* interactions, since folks can see just how you function when push comes to shove or when The Boss isn’t around.
Make a note.
Colleen S. Harris
Assistant Professor, Reference & Instruction Librarian
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga