Fifteen years ago, which is many generations in technology time, many of us were agog about the fact that the internet seemed to be making it possible for anyone to be a publisher. Underneath the delight of those who thought it was great news was a thinly masked and sometimes justified hostility toward the publishing industry. If it was on its way out--along with those pesky people who made judgments about what is valuable and what is trash--then good riddance.
It's not that critics, including librarians, have ever been very important in determining what will appeal to the reading, music-loving, and movie-going masses, but they used to hold a great deal more sway over where libraries put their resources. Increasingly, however, technology has perpetuated the idea that everybody can and should publish whatever they write, including their personal diaries, and woe to those who conclude that it is not worth reading.
It's funny how this phenomenon seems to have affected journalists and librarians most. Or maybe it's because I'm both that I noticed. The issues of authority, quality, and accuracy have taken a back seat to quantity and speed.
But while we are busily making sure that everybody in America has not only the right to read but the right to be read, are we neglecting the value of being able to judge what it is they are reading and writing? Even in the rural farm community in which I grew up--where we learned self-effacement, not self-esteem--librarians and teachers would never let us get away with that.
It's all on the internet
Right now we all seem to be agog about blogs. Their fans would like us to believe that they are where the action is, but is keeping up with them worth the required hours of reading? The increasing number of reading opportunities vying for our time is frustrating, especially when it's junk e-mail or blog blather that's eating up your day. …