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February 14, 2004

How Blogs Work: A Tutorial for Mr. Acosta

The director of the National Library of Cuba has been e-mailing me fairly regularly (the messages are forwarded through an American librarian). I have been preparing responses to his messages, but have not rushed to publish because I wanted to get my citations correct (and frankly, because I have been busy with managing my running-dog life).

However, Mr. Acosta and, apparently, many of his librarian supporters in this country need a quick tutorial in how to search and browse a blog. I say this based on the following accusation, now making the rounds of lists such as PLG-L:

"(2) When is Ms. Karen G. Schneider, the self-proclaimed champion of freedom and rights, who has placed her website at the service of the cause of Mr. Robert Kent [not really--I called him shrill], which [website] is lacking in objective balance and has tendentiously slanted contents, going to have the decency and good taste to put back on Free Range Librarian the English text of the press release issued by the professional organizations that represent more than 12 thousand Cuban librarians, which was erased in the past few days, thus committing a grave violation of professional ethics?"

Disregarding Acosta's misunderstanding about the nature of this blog--its tagline is "one librarian's daily meditations about librarianship," which hardly commits me to anything other than thinking out loud--I understand how Acosta rushed to conclude that the press release was "missing." He's a director of a very large library, and in just about any country, most high-ranking library administrators are technically-challenged. I am patient with these folks (anyone over 20 has been there, and that includes me), and have found myself explaining to fairly high-ranking librarians, without cracking a smile, how to press the "Enter" key, how to insert a CD-ROM right side up, and even, for the truly daring, how to right-click.

Therefore, I have a lot of sympathy with Mr. Acosta's inability to locate the press release I had earlier published on this blog. Mr. Acosta: type the word acosta in the search box and then click the Search button. The press release will pop right up. You can also browse for this entry using the monthly archives, although my archives aren't as fine-tuned as I'd like--so I recommend searching. (Mr. Acosta, if you invite me to your library in Cuba, I'll conduct Internet search classes for your staff and the public. You do let the public search the Internet, right?)

What I don't have much sympathy for are my colleagues in librarianship with such limited research skills that they would take Acosta's words at face value without looking for themselves. Such is the pathetic state of library reference in this day and age that librarians would mindlessly forward, forward, forward without checking facts. If our collective abilities don't have a sharp uptick very soon, we will be a dead profession in fifty years.

Posted by kgs at February 14, 2004 01:14 PM

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I would like to comment on several items in your “tutorial”. First, the most shocking was the condescending, rude, and smug tone you took with Mr. Acosta, a director of a national library. I can’t imagine that you would communicate publicly to Dr. James Billington, director of the Library of Congress, with such a contemptuous and snide tone.

Second, I consider myself a fairly good Internet searcher, having been initially trained by your predecessor to the Librarians’ Index to the Internet, Carole Leita and, as you know, a long-time contributor to the Librarians’ Index to the Internet. Now I too even give classes on Internet searching. I got curious about Cuba’s infamous missing press release so I decided to look for it myself. I followed your advice and typed in Acosta. I did find some things with his name, but not what I was looking for. I then followed the advice of the comment from Bob Turner who suggested clicking on the “TrackBack”. I did that too. No luck. I typed in press release, Cuban, Cuba, information professionals, and ASCUBI. I went through the “Human Rights in Cuba” section. I looked at everything that mentioned Cuba. I went to the archives. Finally I just gave up. Maybe I am not the researcher whiz I though I was. I am sorry you don’t have much sympathy for me and other librarians with such limited skills, but I would appreciate it if you could give me and any other interested “research challenged” librarians detailed step-by-step instructions for finding the press release submitted by Mr. Eliades Acosta.

Third, you told Mr. Acosta that if you were invited to his library… If I remember correctly in what I just read on your blog, he did invite you twice in two separate letters. Perhaps you should take him up on it, because yes Karen, they do have the Internet. I remember that even four years ago they had it when I used the University of Havana’s computers to demonstrate the Librarians’ Index to the Internet to a group of interested librarians. You just might be amazed at how civilized and current that country really is.

Posted by: Dana Lubow at February 21, 2004 09:00 AM

But Dana, why don't you tell us what you really think?

Posted by: K.G. Schneider at February 21, 2004 01:40 PM

It seems that Mr. Acosta believes that it is his right to have his press releases defending repression in Cuba posted in perpetuity on other people's web pages. Otherwise they are violating his intellectual freedom. In fact there are millions of web pages, including that of the National Library of Cuba, which Mr. Acosta directs. Unfortunately, not many people in Cuba have free access to the web, and those who try to go outside official channels of information can spend the remainder of their lives in prison.

Posted by: Steve Denney at March 12, 2004 11:21 AM

Dana says:

"First, the most shocking was the condescending, rude, and smug tone you took with Mr. Acosta, a director of a national library. I can’t imagine that you would communicate publicly to Dr. James Billington, director of the Library of Congress, with such a contemptuous and snide tone."

I have read many posts by Eliades Acosta, and it is rare to see him *not* adopting a condescending, rude and smug tone when dealing with people who don't share his political point of view. My general attitude is to treat others as they treat me. If Mr. Acosta wants to be treated with respect, then he needs to be respectful of others himself. Claiming he deserves special treatment because of his job title is simply elitism.

Secondly, since when has James Billington, the head of our Library of Congress, been treated respectfully by ALA activists on the left?

Posted by: Steve Denney at March 12, 2004 02:33 PM