Bad-Arsery: A Required Leadership Skill. A Moral Imperative.


A stereotypical Librarian is quiet, apolitical, passive. Certainly not a rabblerouser.
Dave Lankes (in The Atlas of New Librarianship) identifies the need for a change in the persona of a librarian. I agree. I further propose that no one, librarian included, can be a leader, change agent, radical, listener, or model of community activism and empowerment without being badass.

A side note on language.

In defense of this ‘scandalous’ word: I argue that this blog remains a scholarly piece of writing in spite of because of the inclusion of “badass.” Badass is not a scholarly word. But it is a well-known concept and oft-used word in English.

Have we questioned why we cannot use such words in academia?

No, no, you silly girl. Don’t you realize the folly of your suggestion? Students would be dropping the “f-bomb” in every paper. The entire institution of academic writing would crumble if not for high standards of regulated speech. It is only appropriate that serious scholarship use serious rhetoric. Let’s maintain propriety.
Most philosophy conferences will not read paper submissions that are not in 12-point font with traditional spacing, style, and margins. For the most part in my experience, the intellectual community frowns on obscenity, snorts at dirty words, and dismisses papers that contain indecorous language.

Yet: If the aim and essence of scholarly work is investigate (or for the hard constructivists create) truth, and the goal of intellectual endeavor is to make a more complete picture of the world, then truth and all parts of human experience should be taken into account.
I swear. My friends swear. Some of my professors do as well.
I challenge you to find me the person that does not think about or deal with the concept ‘badass.’
Language is used to represent, or arguably build, our experience. If we are interested in truth, we should not condemn nor balk at words that express true experience.

The scientific method leans heavily on this principle. In fact, the scientific method is “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses” (Oxford Dictionary). Consistency and coherence across diverse experiences is the litmus test for a good law.

The Higgs Boson particle is a big deal. This flash-in-the-pan particle could explain how other particles gain mass.
It’s kind of a big deal, apparantly, because it would reconcile glaring inconsistencies in explaining physics at the micro and macro levels. I am no expert here, but i am a librarian, so here’s (roughly) whats up: Quantum mechanics (the study of physics at the subatomic level) and macrophysics (for example, the movement of the planets) have conflicting explanations. Regular and predictable versus chaotic entropy.

The Higgs Boson would be a unifying “theory of everything” because it would explain all the data we have so far.

So, a holistic description of the world, constitute good scholarship. It stands to reason, then, that profanity, as part of our experience, should be granted an esteemed position.

Granted, if an essay is carelessly crafted an includes profanity then it is, of course, appropriate to frown, snort, and dismiss.

But much ‘scholarly’ writing condemns profanity, colloquialisms, and dismisses the ideas because their packaging is deemed “inapropos.” If it is not in a tuxedo, it is no-good.
I will not object to a yokel in dirty coveralls telling me the Hubbl-particle is proven. I will listen to Attila the Hun if he has a useful piece of information that will get me out of a sticky situation.

As librarians we say: “Do not judge a book by its cover.”

*tongue in cheek*

Scholarship aims for truth. But a concept represented by the word ‘badass’ is not considered scholarly.
A flawed concept of scholarship is one that excludes true experience, including language norms.

Forward: Onto Bad-Arsery.

A Stick to your guns. Command respect. Take risks. Act on Crazy ideas. A formal definition calls a BA “Distinctively tough or powerful.” The status quo finds her difficult to quell or appease.

Librarians need to be badass. Forget about librarians for a moment. Redefining a librarian includes the job description leader, catalyst of radical change, rebel, staunch Emersonian.

Proposal: Be a Librarian Viking. Be loud, active, thoughtful, and steeled.

Challenge: Be a hacker.

Conclusion: Melville Dewey’s attempt to create a universal language was off the mark—but his words testify the truth that leadership (librarianship) requires the utmost loyalty to your chosen vision and unshakable perseverance in the face of relentless opposition.

“The librarian must be the librarian militant before he can be the librarian triumphant”

Jack Johnson said: “Where’d all the good people go? i been changing channels I don’t see them on the T.V. shows.”

Can librarians be the good people? Can we be the badass people?
We can and must have conviction; unconditional allegiance to what we think is right for the people around us.

We must say, like American Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison:

I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; – but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present.

I am in earnest – I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch – AND I WILL BE HEARD.


3 thoughts on “Bad-Arsery: A Required Leadership Skill. A Moral Imperative.

    • We should hold a showdown, maybe some Night in the Museum battling perhaps!
      If I were to approach an ancient warrior at the reference desk in Bird Library I would prefer the warrior to be a hybrid of William Wallace and Zena Warrior Princess.
      Dave Lankes is Braveheart when he talks new librarianship, so I do not see why this is impossible. As for Zena, she gots style, and I think she would be able to develop some teen programs for us.

      • Xena and William Wallace’s combined might doth pale in comparison of the Mongol Horde’s sheer brutality and fire and retreat tactics. The Mongols built (or rather beat into submission) the largest empire in the world. I want an empire of Libraries, not some sissy teen programs!

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