On Annoyed Librarian and anonymous posting
I rarely read Annoyed Librarian. When I do it’s usually because Word Press tells me that she’s linked to a Library Juice posting, and I go and see what she wrote. I’m usually shocked by how rude and vitriolic this anonymous person is. I went to her site today looking to see if I could find more evidence that “Yachira Gonzalez” is actually Jack Stephens, and I was pretty surprised to find that on her entire front page of 25 or so postings I agreed with about 70% of what she said. (Or should I say that she agrees with me, since I’ve been writing about the same issues for nine years and have expressed consistent views throughout that time.) This surprised me because I am both part of the group she satirically calls the “regressive librarians” and a supporter of ALA, both of which she attacks in a manner that makes me think she wants to be some kind of Ann Coulter of librarianship.
What does her anonymity accomplish? It allows her to express herself with a rudeness that a person in our profession could never get away with and expect to be hired (e.g. Chuck “Chuck0” Munson, whose online tantrums have kept him out of work for about a decade). Does our profession really need that? One thing it’s done is to create a very polarizing image about her, which makes it oddly surprising to me to find that I agree with her on many things. Is it good to create such a misleading image? Another thing her anonymity does is allow her to smear people, not anonymous themselves, who deserve at least to know who is attacking them, for accountability’s sake.
Accountability is the key. Because I post under my real name, I am personally and professionally accountable for the things that I write.
It seems to me that just about everything that Annoyed Librarian says in her blog could be said in a more respectful way. Most of her opinions in themselves are not beyond the pale. What is beyond the pale, and what she couldn’t express without anonymity, is all the anger and hatred toward the people in the profession with whom she strongly disagrees (and doesn’t respect).
Being within a web of people of varying perspectives and backgrounds, and, to be sure, varying relationships with the world, is part of being a human being. It is not something that you can just label “politics,” say you hate, and wash your hands of by adopting a pseudonym. People’s intolerance of views they don’t like (which varies among groups and time periods) is a bad thing, and can provide a general justification for anonymity. But if I think about what I read on Annoying Librarian’s blog today, I didn’t find any opinion there that would make her intolerable to the library world if 1) she said who she was and 2) treated her colleagues with due respect. Not that I could expect her to out her real self at this point, given her Ann Coulter approach to things so far.
I realize that it can be uncomfortable to be written about on a blog in a critical way. In light of that I’ll say that Annoyed Librarian shouldn’t take it personally. In fact, she doesn’t have much of a right to, since she is only known to us as a mask. If we knew who she was in the first place, the situation itself would not be the same.