Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dregs and bits

The other day (more days ago than should have been), I posted about evangelism in EBP:

I don't have an answer to that (usually) unvoiced opinion, either. I think I used to have one, but as I find I tend to do over time (must be that maturity thing), I came to a realization that soapbox-standing is not my metier. There is a certain aspect to EBL that is evangelical, so that a certain proportion of research articles and editorials about EBL are about persuasion ('for years editors of leading LIS journals have deplored the quality of practitioner research...') Shouldn't our discourse be about those questions, about our existing practices, about our perceived needs? Otherwise it's selling - not ice in Alaska - but ice someplace where there is no use for it.

Nothing like quoting myself for that certain something-or-other, is there? But I was talking yesterday with Michelle Samplin-Salgado of, pursuant to our planning for World AIDS Day (see and for more on this, and our NLM-funded project), and we got around to generalized discussion about how one goes about convincing skeptics of the value of new widgets and practices, in this case, convincing academics and federal health agencies of the usefulness of Second Life for consumer health / public health promotion. I realized this morning while drinking my 2nd cup that this is not really so different from the persuasive tug-and-push of EBLIP, after all.

It is true that I never seem to append my comments about the value of EBL with jokes about wearing pink pig slippers while riding a flaming bike through the sky, but in so many other ways, conveying the value of change seems to entail a certain measure of rah-rah, or, relating it to the recent election, hype and promises of benefits that will - yes! - transform the profession and public perception of it, according us all, finally, with the recognition we so desire. For EBLIP, that's (more) unassailable decisions and less uncertain status within the institutional structure; for Second Life (well, maybe for EBL, as well) room to explore new ways of being.

We have the perception of quality deficits by some, while others feel the old widgets continue to work just fine (seat-of-the-pants practitioners, or authority/expertise based, just as with medicine). We have the kaleidoscopic shift of culture, technology, economy, need, each with its own urgency toward change or stasis; in libraries, these pressures can be threatening to the viability of budgets. Detractors kick back at change for many reasons, and this may be one of them: the rational, self-preserving voice of experience from a library director who knows that no matter what happens in the academy, the hospital administration does not support research, that there is no time or space for risk-taking, that collection decisions are very often more the result of special interest groups (like the neurosurgeons, who insist on those $3,000 subscriptions, or residents' groups, who insist on UpToDate). I'm veering off topic here, but I'm doing it because while writing this, I am thinking it through, and remembering exactly the kind of pressures described, above, in a teaching hospital library in Central Illinois, not all that long ago. I had previously mentioned Pat Thibodeau's half-joke that librarians are anarchists because they focus so intently on serving local populations, and I do think that the pressures described are very real barriers to EBLIP. How, I ponder while drinking all but the dregs of now-cooled coffee, can we help? Is this on the same level as, say, the hushed conversations about pricing deals with publishers?

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