‘Metablogging’ Archive

23 Iunii 2009

Hanging up the keyboard

So happy birthday to me; I’m 37 today. Gonna be a scorcher, apparently, though my age seems to have outstripped even today’s Celsius thermostat, which is frownworthy. I had vague thoughts of theatregoing, but in this heat even Shakespeare loses a certain amount of appeal.

Another gift for myself, then… I could do with a new carry-on, the one I trashpicked five years or so ago getting a bit long in the tooth. (Squeaky in the wheel, actually; I know what the problem is, but unfortunately it’s not one that a bit of oil will solve. I’ve hauled that thing on so many city streets and through so many airports that one axle has gone twisty and eaten away some of the rubberoid wheel-well, against which the wheel now squeaks piercingly when it’s a mind to.)

No, I woke up early this morning—rather painfully early, in fact—and knew what I wanted to give myself: this post, in which I hang up the keyboard on old CavLec for good. Not a spangly gift, or an easy one to wrap, but what price peace of mind?

This blog started because I needed a public space to inhabit, a space clearly and unequivocally mine. I expected it to be a small space—it was a big ol’ Internet even then—and for a long time it was, and I was fine with that. I never expected, wanted, or consciously worked for one of the big spaces. Too many strings, and far too much to be afraid of. Big spaces do not set free; they confine.

What the last year or so has taught me, and more shame to me for not realizing it sooner, is that CavLec has outgrown itself and me. It’s just too big, a second-grader pretending that her favorite play outfit isn’t skin-tight and out-at-elbows. I could, if I were a more graceful person, find it something new to wear… but grace is not and has never been a hallmark of mine. As it is, writing here has come to feel like getting my photograph taken, and we all know how I hate that.

(And that very dislike draws some people to get their cameras out when I’m around, you know what I’m saying?)

CavLec is, in various eyes: a bellwether, a pawn, the voice of the otherwise silent, a liability, a town crier, a bogeyman, a headache, a nine-days’-wonder, fodder for gossip and fodder for anger and fodder for fear. It wasn’t supposed to be any of that. (Well, maybe a voice.) It was supposed to be a blog. But I have to get my Stanley Fish on every once in a while and remind myself that I am not the only maker of the text here; that’s how text works, and sometimes there’s not much an author-function can do but steal a few moments in the critics’ throne to survey the landscape.

I’m not happy about this decision. I’m not unhappy about it. It is a gift to myself, much though I’ll miss the magic textbox.

It’s a good time to take off the rat-hat, too. For quite some time, I’ve been just about the only specimen of Rattus repositor to poke much more than a nose out of the wainscoting. Funny thing is, I shall shortly be a rat without a repository; in a decision I wholly endorse and in fact helped instigate (in my small way), the repository I run is going to be folded into the digital library on top of a new technology platform and a rethought service suite.

I’ve bemoaned the lack of a proper rat community for a while, and taken a few futile stabs at creating one. What I’ve had to confront is that perhaps CavLec and I are part of the problem. If you’re a rat in a threatened position, cats everywhere about, and there’s one damfool rat holding forth in plain sight on top of a coffee table, what are you going to do? Hunker down in the wainscoting, of course! Let that rat get et by cat.

Well, you know, I think CavLec and I have done our bit by you lot, you repository-rats, and I’ve got plenty of scars to prove it. So CavLec is going dark, and I am moving on from ratdom one way or another, and you? If ever there were a time for repository-rats to stop lurking behind the baseboards, this is it. Don’t wait on me; this here rat has finally come to its senses and is scarpering. Bell the cats yourselves. It’s time.

Traditionally this is the place where the author-function graciously thanks all the readers who have made the whole endeavor worthwhile. I think I’m ungraciously bucking tradition. If I love you, and there are a lot of people I’ve met through CavLec that I love, I hope I’ve told you other ways. If I’m grateful, I hope I’ve said so already. Here is the wrong place, and now is the wrong time. Too many cats and cameras.

What’s next? I don’t know. Some things are right out; I’m not going to go pseudonymous and pop up in another corner, for example, because I just don’t roll that way, never mind that my writing style and subject matter are distinctive enough that I’d be outed in no time flat. I’m not taking all my Internet toys and going home—as childish as I can be, I’m not that childish. I might start another blog, or even more than one, but if I do, it’ll be for a different reason than old CavLec, and have much narrower parameters.

Mostly, I think, what I’ll be doing is looking for a space that’s the right size, that I can inhabit comfortably. With luck, by 38 I’ll find it.

7 Maii 2008

On “repository rat”

I’d like to welcome my good colleague Shane Beers to the biblioblogosphere. Shane took over my duties at George Mason, and has done a lot better with them than I ever did. I’m happy to see other repository managers blogging, and thrice happy to see Shane.

He brings up something that I’ve heard from other people as well: annoyance at my insistence on the phrase “repository-rat” to refer to librarians who manage institutional repositories. Some of that is me, and some of it is deliberate and calculated rhetorical strategy. It seems worth picking apart.

The “me” part, I confess, is of a piece with my steadfast refusal to take myself and what I do too seriously. Back in the day, I called myself a conversion peasant. Now I’m a repository-rat. I’m stubborn about this, and I don’t anticipate changing it… but I also recognize that it leaks into how I refer to other repository managers, as well as the specialty as a whole, and I see how that can feel like disdain.

It isn’t. It takes quite a bit of dedication to stick with IRs, and an impressive array of skills to manage one well. (I’m not saying I do, mind. Not for me to say. But I’m steeped in this field, I know whom I respect, and I know what they are capable of.) Moreover, these dedicated, skilled people have to persevere in the face of widespread ignorance, apathy, and even opprobrium directed at them, never mind lousy software and badly-stacked odds.

Which leads me to the rhetorical-strategy bit. I feel like a rat in the wainscoting, ignored and despised and isolated. Why shouldn’t I? Why should I be any prouder of what I do than my employer (which has partially defunded my service), my profession (which barely acknowledges I exist and makes no effort to support me), or the open-access movement (which openly insults me when it doesn’t ignore me)? Why should I pretend to support and respect I don’t actually have?

And why is it uniquely my responsibility to redress these issues? If the institution I work for, the profession I have joined, or the open-access movement I am part of would like me to stop referring to myself as a rodent, howsabout they toss me a bone so I can move up the animal taxonomy a bit?

Like the immortal archy, I see things from the under side. There’s use in that, I maintain, just as there’s use in colleagues such as Shane asserting themselves to raise the profile of our work and the esteem in which it is held. I’m on their side, I truly am—I just approach the work from a different angle.

insects are not always
going to be bullied
by humanity
some day they will revolt
i am already organizing
a revolutionary society to be
known as the worms turnverein

—Don Marquis