Over at SLJ’s Blogsphere, Betsy Bird (Fuse#8 Production) documented the pending demise of Child_lit Listserv, hosted at the Rutgers Email server and has been “owned” and run by Rutgers Rare Books librarian Michael Joseph for more than 20 years.
I was among the earliest subscribers to child_lit (mid-1990s) and served as its occasional archivist in those days, publishing (with permission) discussion threads on various Children’s Lit topics from “Love You Forever: Funny or Repulsive?” to “Tikki Tikki Tembo and Cultural Accuracy in Folktales” — those were the “good old days” when fewer people found their way to online discussion boards and no pervasive social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter or even many personal websites/blogs.
Children’s Literature lovers, authors, publishing folks, and scholars found each other and we built a communal Home on child_lit. Michael Joseph took on the responsibility of hosting and running the listserv and as Child_lit neared its end, many many subscribers expressed their gratitude to him in having maintained such a wonderful place for all of us through these many years. I am among the grateful list members! Michael and I have known each other through Child_lit (as many others, like Monica Edinger, Cheryl Klein, Patrice Kindl, Jane Yolen, Philip Pullman, Linnea Hendrickson, and Pooja Makhijani, and so on…) for more than two decades and I have so much respect for him as a scholar and friend. However, as Michael pointed out in his “decision paper” on August 21st to the list members, with conversations about children’s and YA books being all over the internet and Child_lit (in his view) has lost its scholarly/academic luster, Michael decided that it’s time to shutter the windows and lock the doors.
This decision greatly saddened me. Child_lit is not a collection of lifeless pixels housed on cold and heartless email servers. It is a community and a place of connection of people who are interested in exploring the world through children’s literature — even if perhaps the style of the discussion has evolved and changed. I did not want this place to disappear. So I took action.
In the past week, I contacted various folks at Rutgers, posted a Survey on child_lit to gauge members’ interest (which is high) in maintaining this virtual Home. Finally, I found a professor at Rutgers who graciously agreed to help maintain the listserv for a while until we can find a new Owner of the listserv. However, when I brought this solution to Michael, I discovered that Michael’s mind was firmly made up and he will not allow for the transferring of the “virtual deed” (which could be easily accomplished.)
I wrote this on Child_lit today and would continue pondering on “who owns what we collectively build” in the online/virtual world.
Farewell Child_lit – You’re No One’s Baby
A list member said to me that she has no problem with Michael terminating Child_lit because, after all, it is His Baby, and he has every right to do whatever he wishes with it.
Although I am in no way angry at Michael for not wanting to continue “owning” child_lit because it no longer matches his original vision of the discourse, I found this notion of child_lit, which belongs, in my view, to the entire child_lit community and even to the entire children’s literature community because we often take what we learn from here to our daily children’s lit. practices.
The analogy of “the baby” makes me wonder about how we view intellectual products in the age of online engagement and how we treat “virtual real estate” and “virtual ownership.” It also makes me chuckle: I have a real life human daughter who is younger than Child_lit (18) and by now, I no longer think of her as My Baby, and can no longer dictate how she manages and conducts her life. I’m giving advice, yes. I’m helping her out when she needs, yes. But, I will never tell her that I’m pulling every support away from her because she has irked me or not being a replica of myself. (She just started college and is making course choices that surprise me!) So the idea that because we, collectively, have disappointed Michael and he has tired of the ownership of the list, we, collectively, will lose our virtual community (home/real estate) still does not sit squarely with me.
That said, if this is indeed the FINAL DAY OF CHILD_LIT — farewell, friends old and new. We shall meet and find each other somewhere else :)