hail and farewell

FriendFeed, my primary social network, is going away in a few short days — not because of an argument or a lack of interest or a complete meltdown, but simply because Facebook, which owns FriendFeed, has decided not to keep it going. I’ve gotten to know many fine people through FriendFeed, and while I’ll find them elsewhere, it won’t be the same. And the Library Society of the World, though it will doubtless also find another place to meet, won’t be the same either. Joe asked us what we’d learned, and since that thread will vanish in a few days, too, I’m going to repost my answer here:

Before I became a librarian or ever thought of it, I was an activist. I organized and demonstrated and got arrested and generally worked my tail off to try to change the world and make people’s lives better — sometimes those of my colleagues; sometimes those of people I’d never met. When I started working in libraries, I felt I lost a lot of that. I still believed in the work, but, like most of us, I was caught up by and stymied in the bureaucracy and politics that are the reality of most institutions, especially large, slow moving ships of state like libraries. The LSW gave me back what I’d been missing — purpose, immediacy, common cause with people who were smart and scrappy and passionate — people who did stuff. FriendFeed, as a social network, was just like the LSW — small, often overlooked, sometimes prone to crashing, and yet fast and collaborative. Suddenly we had the people and the place, and we were on fire — raising money for the Louisville Free Public Library after it flooded, taking down Clinical Reader, planning unconferences with people we’d never met, fighting for the good and making lifelong friends. That’s what this place and you people have given me — or given back to me. I’m eternally grateful.

And then, because I’m always looking for this quotation when discussing the LSW, or any movement I’ve been a part of that I’ve loved, I’ll add this, from Michael Rossman’s The Wedding Within the War:

We conducted a long struggle, assuming responsibilities we should not have been made to assume, heartbreakingly alone until the end, taking time out from our studies and our lives to do a job that should not have needed to be done. And we comported ourselves with dignity and grace, on the whole unexpectedly so, and with good hearts and trust and kindness for each other.

Confronting an institution apparently and frustratingly designed to depersonalize and block communication, neither humane nor graceful nor responsive, we found flowering in ourselves the presence whose absence we were at heart protesting.