Library people, what do you want from a library organisation / body twitter account? Generally speaking? Would really like your views.— Ned Potter (@ned_potter) February 4, 2015
It started as on Twitter. @nedpotter asked a question. What, did we think, a library organisation Twitter account should be like? I weighed in, to say,as did many others, that I thought it need to combine professionalism leavened with humanity. The next day, as an afterthought, I also said that I disliked the infantile lists, or listicles as they are sometimes known, which are tweeted from our professional association.
Examples, should you need them, include, ‘Five books that took decades to get published, What we learned in 12 months, 4 Ways Copyright Law Actually [why that redundant actually?-TR] Controls Your Whole Digital Life, Top 10 Science Fiction Books & Movies, The top library and information stories from Jan 2015.
Of course the @CILIPInfo twitter account is not the only offender. The internet is littered with the damned things and my Twitter feed and my e-mail inbox are crammed with messages from people convinced I am so stupid I can only grasp information in a numbered list.
The conventional wisdom is that lists are attractive and work. Ned himself notes that his posts constructed as lists being significantly more visitors to his site. I believe that lists are written by lazy writers for lazy readers. I blame many things, not least among them PowerPoint, which has made bulleted list impossible to avoid, and lent them spurious authority.
I first noticed this some twenty-five years ago, when working for an organisation whose aim was to promote British culture. I wrote something for a newsletter we published. My manager, who had to give it her imprimatur, before the presses could roll, said it was fine, but it needed a bulleted list. I held my tongue, being on a temporary contract, but I knew perfectly well there was nothing in my writing that required to be presented to the reader as a bulleted list. Her wish for a bulleted list came, I believe, from a belief that lists were, in themselves, good, and that every piece of literature that came out from her department had to have one, in order to show the world our modernity.
Lists treat both reader and writer as infants, incapable of sustained thought. Marx, Darwin, Freud, Proust, Wittgenstein, any writer worth reading needs something more than a list. A professional association that represents those who organise, preserve and disseminate knowledge needs to reflect that in the ways it communicates with both its members and the world.
Now I’m off to read 44 Medieval Beasts That Cannot Even Handle It Right Now, as recommended by Ned.