There’s critique and there’s critical

10 Jun

Fascinated by the thoughts that #blogeverydayinjune is getting raised and discussed amongst the lovely group of librarians that are involved.

Today @malbooth wrote a wonderful post on Putting yourself out there, in support of those librarians who have a bit of fun with library terms and stereotypes. There’s been some critics recently of trying too hard to integrate with new media or new trends. Such as real embarrassment that all librarians will be seen as more dorky or awkward by doing dance videos that aren’t professional. [can we be seen as any more dorky?]

I have to say up front that I’m a big fan of anything that introduces less control or inhibition into librarianship. I believe learning is easier when I’m having fun, so let’s try and incorporate that wherever we can. So I supported Mal’s post in the comments section straight away. As a verbal extravert in the library world, it’s not a surprise that I look for this – although honestly, you’ll never get me up on stage or singing unless you’ve drugged me. Partly therefore I think my support is about admiration for bravery, and those that have a healthy disregard for other’s views.

However then I started to think about where is the line? A range of librarians (@malbooth and I are prime examples) at a recent VALA conference developed a Twitter #altcommentary stream to the presentations. Critique of many of the papers was included, alongside microblogs summarising issues raised. I commented on styles of presentation, boredom levels and was decidedly snide about reading powerpoint comments directly from the screen. I know that we Tweeters annoyed some colleagues sitting nearby with the tapping of our fingers, and giggling into our screens [handily mitigated by our tendency to cluster in seats around powerpoints]. Yet I think that’s fine. I don’t see that as dissing colleagues or being overly critical.

So I’m trying to think about the differences I perceive between offering critique and just plain being critical; or why I perceive there is a difference here?

To me, Critique is a form of evaluation that allows you to learn about someone else’s reaction to you; critical is a way of shutting down something we are embarrassed by. I’m not a saint. I do both. [Actually lots of critical I hear my friends say.] However I would like to do less critical, and I think librarianship especially needs more critique, in order to remain meaningful to a wide range of people. There’s plenty of librarians out there doing this brilliantly. Sophie and Sean had a good open discussion on her blog yesterday.

Such critiques keep the profession current, relevant, interesting to new graduates, open to all our potential customers (entire world) and keep our job varied and interesting. Can’t be anything wrong about that!

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9 Responses to “There’s critique and there’s critical”

  1. CW June 10, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    That’s been one of the great things coming out of this blogeverydayofjune thingy – making me (us) think. It’s been great. My main problem is not having enough hours in the day at the moment to write all my thoughts down!

  2. justgirlwithshoes June 10, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    Great post – my thoughts are:

    i) I enjoyed the Lady GaGa vid, as I did NLA’s Thriller: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPhM7JbsgxU. Good luck to those that see the humour in what we do – I embrace the abandonment of seriousness. The Lady GaGa bit has inspired some at MPOW who are now contemplating their own contribution – though am not sure if I too would be up to being a willing participant.

    ii)Being new to tweeting in ’10, it was at the VALA conference that I became addicted. Tt was due largely to the irreverent remarks of yourself, @malbooth and others that I could see a place for me. Thank you – I have enjoyed tweeting ever since.

  3. Hoi June 10, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    I can’t find #altcommentary and I’d love to read everything in the list on the styles of presentation, boredom levels LOL! Gonna present my first paper soon and needed to learn something, quick!

  4. Penny June 10, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    Good post Ruth 🙂 I need to learn how to critique and to take critique.

  5. Mal Booth June 10, 2010 at 5:58 pm #

    Obviously I agree with your post Ruth. The debate Sophie has caused on her blog is great. Me, irreverent? (More like irrelevant!)

  6. bookgrrl June 11, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    There is a fine line between offering a critique and being critical. Often the motivation of the critique is questioned- are you critiquing from an informed, professional perspective, or are you motivated by a more personal issue (ie are you just being a bitch?)?
    My previous place of work relaunched its new website. There’s a lot wrong with it in terms of usability and accessability, but if I open my mouth too much I look bitter and twisted!

    • Ruth Baxter June 11, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

      That’s a frustrating one. Often the best person to comment is someone who worked there, has moved on and can look at the situation with knowledge of both what could be offered, and what it looks like to an outsider.

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