things that frustrate me: listservs

27Aug08

It’s day two of my very first ever totally online semester. Even just reading that sentence- nay, merely knowing that I’ve just written it- is fodder for instantaneous and debilitating panic attacks. The thought of the weight that is now carried solely by my grammatical prowess immediately sends shivers down my spine, since my only communication from here on out will involve artfully crafted, yet terse formations of terms like “reference services,” “metadata,” “collection development,” and “I’m sorry sir, but we require library patrons to wear pants.”

Where was I going with all of this? Oh yes: it’s not really all that bad at all. I’m checking and double-checking and quintuple-checking to make sure that I don’t overlook anything, but that’s easily the worst part. I go so far as to want to listen to the lectures that my professors post. It was this activity in which I was immersed moments ago, dutifully taking notes and enjoying the rhythm of my heart doing tiny little backflips with the excitement at their alignment with my text. Suddenly, appearing after the very last bullet on the slide about helpful resources for reference librarians, it reared its abominable self: a listserv for reference librarians.

For those of you who haven’t experienced the emotional complex that accompanies listservs, they are automated e-mailing list managers that allow you to join and send messages to like-minded individuals (in this particular case, reference librarians). It certainly sounds like an innovative concept, and I’ve even thought about how much easier it would be for my family to communicate if we had our own. The only problem is that every single class strongly suggests at least one listserv for you to join. Then there’s the Information Studies list for SU students. Oh, and the School Media listserv. And, lest we forget, the SM and Network Connections listserv…

Some of these, like the university’s program lists, are quite helpful to me as a distance learning student. However, the vast majority of listservs are a consortium of people nationwide who mail and respond in between classes and during their prep time, which results in no fewer than eight hundred thousand e-mails in my inbox every day. Many listservs offer this handy little “digest” option that presents the messages to you in one inclusive e-mail. With one particular listserv, I still get about a dozen “digest” messages a day. Perish the thought of receiving every single contribution to this list separately.

The idea of a listserv is great. Really. I think it’s innovative and helpful for a small, focused group of people, like the one strictly for Information Studies students at SU. For these much broader groups, however, the thought of joining a listserv causes nothing short of astronomical trepidation, often resulting in a temporary fit of vertigo, disorientation, and incalculable desolation. It seems as though these types of groups would be much better served with a message board or an RSS feed- something that can be easily checked in on at my every whim, rather than bombarding my inbox with indomitable frequency. Maybe I’m wrong, but I find it repugnant that a School Media Librarian in Mesa, Arizona, can e-mail me and a thousand others like me, just to find out when the new Stephenie Meyer novel comes out in paperback. The irony of that example aside, listservs have done nothing short of harshing my mellow. For shame, listservs, for shame.

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