Thoughts on list-servs as professional discourse

So I wrote this draft response to the “content restrictions, available to members only” thread on nz-libs at 11pm last night. As you do.  I often draft things now and sit on them for a while, sometimes quite a while in that they never get sent or published.  I’ve decided I won’t post this to nz-libs as you can’t delete things from there. You do own what you say though, and I will own what I say here too, however I will be able to delete it if I no longer want it’s memory around.  Somehow it probably still will be, however I just want this out.

This is what I drafted intended for the nz-libs audience:

I believe the LIANZA website is only ever going to be as good as its member participants make it.

There is a small number of dedicated members who are utilising its functions and doing so with persistence and determination because they believe in sharing information with their profession via their professional association.

The website and its participatory functions haven’t been around a while, just a couple of years. It takes time to grow a community. Nzlibs has been around a fair bit longer. Email is another communication mode that many have mastered as clearly shown by the number of people responding to this thread.

Everyone: Have you ever posted something yourself to a group forum? Have you ever commented on something on the website? If not, why not?

There is a different audience on nzlibs, likewise within LIANZA. Every avenue has a different audience and there was a good reason LIANZA communicated directly to its members using the medium they did. As a bonus, its a medium they are familiar with. However when an email is sent to you privately via a blind carbon copy from a member association, it is not expected you post it to a public forum – not its intended audience. Doing so, calls into question information ethics.

A great community is not made overnight, nor within 2 years. It is grown, developed, fed and nurtured with care.

If our professional association has one fault, it may be that it’s too careful or conservative. That’s not a bad thing.

I’m not wading into the content restrictions debate, nor our associations response.  However I would like to know what you think of list-servs. What is their purpose again?  Should people be unhinged on there or collegial, professional and polite? (manager or future employer may be watching)  Perhaps unhinged is the wrong word to compare with the others. Should people be themselves on there?

Would be interesting to know what you think about list-servs as I have my opinions, but in a hypocritical way, I think I’m going to keep them hinged.

Your thoughts?

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on list-servs as professional discourse”

  1. NZ-libs provides a useful channel for consultation with the NZ library profession, however, it is not the only channel. Nor should its members assume that everyone in the NZ library community are members of NZ-libs, and have time to follow all topic threads as they occur.

    NZ-libs is NOT, however, an appropriate channel for decision-making for LIANZA. That is strictly the business of members only. Non-members of an organization do not have the right to participate in decision-making.
    A non-member’s opinion on membership benefits is valuable in that it may provide insight into what would convert a non-member to a member. But the expectation that LIANZA business must be conducted publicly on an external listserv is just wrong.

    While it is good if an organization can respond to public discussion, it is not always possible – councillors have jobs and personal commitments; their LIANZA roles are voluntary, not paid.

    And, if LIANZA members are really unhappy with their Council’s decisions, an email or phone call to their regional councillor is a more appropriate and I bet far more effective method of communication than ranting on NZ-Libs! This could be followed or accompanied by a polite post to NZ-Libs soliciting opinions on the matter of concern to provide evidence in support of their case for a policy change.

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    1. Teena Vye

      thank you very much for your thorough response, always nice to get a considered response in an online environment isn’t it?

      I agree with you wholeheartedly on the points you make here especially regarding where LIANZA communicates it’s messages to it’s members, and the response time as LIANZA is a volunteer driven organisation.

      Looks like we need to be promoting the Regional Councillors more in each region I think.

      I wonder where politeness went in the online environment. It’s weird how it’s totally missed sometimes.

      Thank you Vye.

      Warm regards and respect,

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  2. Thank you for giving people a chance to talk about this.

    Conventions for how we communicate differ across channels. Anyone with an eye on their career knows what is acceptable on FaceBook isn’t good enough for an email to the CEO. Putting aside FaceBook, which is rather like the Wild West of the 1800s, I feel communications which go to a range of people and are at least semi-public, and semi-permanent, require a more formal approach.

    As professionals I hope we want people to hear our arguments, not our argument. Librarians are educated and articulate; if we can’t communicate without descending into personal attacks, then society has a problem.

    I am not saying there should be no passion. If no one felt passionately about the issues facing librarianship we’d all be in serious trouble. You are right, the world is watching what we say, including future employers, and by our own actions we are slowly resetting the standards by which our profession operates.

    My last issue is around respect for others. I am sure we all cringe when yet another child dies needlessly in this country and look on in horror as Israel and Palestine edge closer to all-out war. Far away and not related to librarians fighting on a listserv? Yes, and no. It’s about respect for ourselves and others, for differing opinions and religions and all those things that make us unique. I don’t think there is anything wrong with showing respect for the person, while debating the issues.

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    1. Kia ora Cath! and no worries!

      I will happily provide a place here to talk, where it’s relatively safe to do so.

      I agree with what you’re saying here, in a very articulate and considered manner I might add. That’s not to say that general conversation and communication on list-servs the world over has denegrated over time, it’s just that the medium that people use to communicate on list-servs – e-mail – is a driver for the quick flow and fast response. Maybe people need a couple more click-throughs before publishing perhaps. Think how long it takes to get published in a journal. Now there’s food for thought. Content value and time taken to publish said content. mmm another post?

      Where did formal convention go for the written word I wonder?

      Thank you very much for your writings Cath.

      Warm regards and respect,

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  3. You make a great point, Hana. NZ-libs is not an entity of LIANZA and as such issues that affect LIANZA members only probably shouldn’t appear on such a list-serv. I also have been disheartened at the strong words, that carry a tail of accusation and lack of respect, that have appeared on some of the NZ-Libs posts.

    The big reason why people like NZ-libs is that it pops up in your inbox. You don’t have to go and find a blog, intentionally log-in or do anything else special. It’s just there. This is what LIANZA needs to create, IMHO – a way where new LIANZA blog posts, discussions etc. appear automatically in our inbox. (If this is already available and I don’t know about it, please educate me!).

    I also think that Vye is spot on that we should be contacting our regional councillors directly, rather than putting a rant onto a public list-serv. Doing this engenders more thought, conciliation and “hearing of both sides” than a public post. However, taking on Vye’s comment that the regional councillors are busy people, we need to be sure that the councillors are prepared and willing to receive these emails/phone calls.

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