Library Smackdown: Geeks vs. Nerds?

Rory over at Library Juice recently posted "Geeks and Nerds Battle for the Soul of Librarianship." Now, after reading the post, I've got to agree with Rachel the Liminal Librarian's take on it, "The Revenge of the Geeks vs. the Nerds."

Essentially, Rory argues that librarianship is currently divided into two camps. He roughly classifies the geeks as techie, sci-fi/fantasy/comics fanboys, pop culture afficiandos, and bloggers. Ther nerds are identified as serious readers and intellectuals. Rory mentions that librarianship seems in peril of being taken over by the geeks, who by and large do not possess the "store of bibliographic knowledge combined with knowledge of the principles of librarianship."

Rachel argues that many librarians fit into both categories too well to be marginalized--she asks with humor, "Do I really read too much science fiction to be a good librarian?" I concur.

To add my own $.02, I don't see much current danger of geeks taking over in the library job market. Granted, I've seen two positions in Texas listed as "metadata librarian" and one library position posted specifically as a web developer--but in every case, an MLS was absolutely required.

Who gets an MLS? The readers--call them nerds or geeks, serious readers or sci-fi escapists, the heart of them would be classified as "nerds" because they have consciously chosen the library science route. They are educated in those "principles of librarianship" first, no matter how many "Metadata 101" or "Blogging for Academic Libraries" courses they take. I've known one or two students at SLIS that came there from the computer science route--the rest of us are former English majors and "professional students."

So while I get Rory's point that pure geeks alone might not create the most helpful library staff, librarians need to--and are--increasingly embrace technology to keep up with our patrons, particularly in environments like the academic one in which I work. Point out to a student that you can email a full-text article and ask for help in a reference chat room, and they're suddenly aware that you're not only not an old foggie, but that it might actually be fun to talk to you.

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