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PCCLIST Home

PCCLIST Home

PCCLIST  May 2006

PCCLIST May 2006

Subject:

LC series decision: Dealing with conflict

From:

Paul Weiss <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Program for Cooperative Cataloging <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 24 May 2006 12:13:48 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (131 lines)

LC series decision: Dealing with conflict

In some sense, I suppose this is the most important issue of all to me. In
brief, our profession is too meek. Disagreement is discouraged,
particularly in public fora. Conflicts are avoided. Strong sentiments are
often met with condescension. We often mutter to ourselves or complain to
colleagues about some other person or organization, but often won’t
constructively engage the other. Some members of our community value
niceness over new ideas, risk-taking, or challenging each other. This has
got to stop. This is not going to move us forward as a profession. I
actually think there is a good chance that cataloging/metadata
librarianship, even librarianship as a whole, has a good chance of not
being around in 100 years, in part because we won’t have garnered enough
new, crazy-sounding ideas, some of which could have proved wildly
successful. Many other professions have a lot of internal conflict, and
see to progress just fine. In academia, for example, researchers disagree
with each other all the time, in public, at conference sessions, in
journals. Despite or even because of that, their disciplines advance
rapidly.

At the same time we all have to be willing not just to tell others what we
think, but equally important is that we need to listen to other’s
thoughts. Truly listen. Not necessarily agree, but listen, and understand.
Find the common ground, and work on that together. Figure out where the
disagreements really are, and explore what leads to them, what is at the
core of them.

Even if I totally agreed with LC’s decision, I would still very much
appreciate the efforts of Elaine Sanchez, the Africana Librarians Council,
the ALA Executive Board and others to raise awareness on the issue, and to
work toward changing the decision. I do not agree with every word they’ve
written, but at least they did something that they felt would make our
library world a better place. As a profession we need to be more proactive
to shape our future.

Here are some examples about dealing with conflict, using communications
from Mark Watson (PCC Chair). I’m not trying to pick on Mark; this kind of
thing happens throughout our profession. (I was removed from a management
position here at UCSD because of different philosophies between me and my
management on how to deal with disagreement and conflict.) During the
joint BIBCO/CONSER Operations Committee meeting discussion on LC’s series
decision, Mark Watson was overtly hostile to me in the meeting. He said
that I was hijacking the meeting, and that I was out of order. To the
contrary, the item was on the agenda, and I was very much in order in
suggesting the PCC Policy Committee (PoCo) communicate concerns with LC;
the motion passed unanimously. I had several people come up to me at break
telling me they thought Mark was out of line. Mark later wrote: “a vote
that I felt was out of order and unnecessarily antagonistic (Paul Weiss
and I have agreed to disagree on this point).” I this it is unfortunate
that Mark feels that a formal expressions of concern is antagonistic. If I
wanted to antagonistic, I would have suggested that PCC kick out LC. I
think it is important information for LC to know how we feel about
important issues such as this one.

Mark also wrote: “I want to encourage the PCC community to take a deep
breath.  Some of the rhetoric surrounding the series announcement strikes
me as a bit "hot" and even somewhat paranoid.” I agree with Mark that many
responses are “hot”. I don’t think that is a bad thing. On controversial
topics humans often need to get their feelings out there and heard before
moving on to objective discussions. Again, I think it is important to know
how strongly people feel about topics like this; it helps us prioritize of
activities and can help point to larger issues that need to be discussed.
Given LC’s recent actions, I think it rational for people to be concerned
about whether more changes from LC are coming down the line that may or
may not be in our best interests, and may or may not be consultative, and
may or may not be announced far in advance. If that kind of “paranoia”
leads PCC through some important discussions on its relationship with LC,
and in particular leads to more independence from LC, I think that’s a
good thing. From the same email message: “This [lack of consultation]
might sound bad and we could read all kinds of dire implications into
this, but I encourage everyone not to do this.” To me, that borders on
condescension. If the implications do not appear dire to Mark, great, then
he doesn’t need to be concerned. I believe that lack of consultation on
major issues for the second time in a year is indeed dire. I don’t think
Mark is wrong for not believing the same thing I do, but it is not
constructive to tell others “there, there, don’t worry your silly little
head”.

Mark later wrote: “I hope that the PCC can take a more moderate stand than
the one represented by this [the LC Professional Guild’s] resolution. 
This is too adversarial.  It's not the PCC against LC ... we are all the
PCC.” I agree with Mark that in some parts the PCPG’s resolution and many
of the emails on the issue were adversarial; I happen to think that is not
inherently a bad thing. And it is both all being PCC _and_ PCC vs. LC. I
think it not only okay, but actually healthy for there to be dissent
within PCC as to what LC is doing.

We also need to be more aware of when we are being objective and when we
being subjective, and to acknowledge when we are being subjective. A
feeling does not justify a fact, or vice versa. Both of those modes are
important, but they are different, and useful in different ways.

We need to stop personal attacks, or at least move past them. Both sides
in this issue have fallen into this trap.

We also need to stop looking at so many of our issues and people only in
black and white. Our issues and community members are much more complex
than that. We can be a creative bunch, and we need to look at all our
options. This series issue is not simply LC vs. the rest of the world, or
standards vs. chaos, or ignoramuses vs. ostriches, etc. It is about
knowing that we can’t do everything we would like to do on our limited
resources, that we need to evaluate and prioritize what we do, that
communication and collaboration are more important than ever, that we are
in a time of big change, that we face “competition” from new players
(Google, Amazon, etc.), etc. As one example, as important as I think
standards are, I also believe they should be changed when appropriate. I
have actually not made up my mind on whether I personally think giving up
series authority control is a good thing or bad thing. I am what some may
label “conservative” in that I support controlled vocabularies, while at
the same time “radical” in some eyes because of my strong critiques at the
lack of foresight in the development of RDA.

Despite my significant frustrations with Mark and Beacher, for example, I
do like and respect them both, and have enjoyed working with them. I still
appreciate their efforts, and think they have made and will continue to
make very valuable contributions to the field. Even when we strongly
disagree with someone on one issue, we need to keep our minds open. On the
very next issue that comes along we might agree 100%, and we have to be
ready to jump right into working together on that issue.

As those of you who know me are aware, I am no more a paragon of
excellence on the above human issues than others. I acknowledge that. :-)
None of us are perfect. Throughout history, many of the most momentous and
positive changes have arisen from major public disagreements. The more we
can take advantage of our diversity of perspective, ideas, tones, and
styles, the better off we all are.

Paul J. Weiss
Chair, PCC Standing Committee on Standards
UCSD

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