Once upon a time, I figured I’d be retired by now. And then The Great Recession scotched that idea. These days there are lots of us still in libraries at a time we thought we’d be on a beach somewhere. Didn’t happen. The flip side of that is that a lot of folks entered library school with the understanding that there was a looming scarcity of librarians, meaning an abundance of jobs. Well, that didn’t happen, either. The combination of those two realities can create frustration and friction among us.
But I believe we’re all in this together. Rather than adopting an “us” versus “them” mindset, I hope we can embrace the idea that we can complement and support each other and help each other learn, wherever we are on the library-career continuum.
So I pitched this column to my editors at LJ, as a resource that would target those of us still out here, “Not Dead Yet”—still working, creating, thinking, solving, collaborating, serving, teaching, learning, and doing—and open to change.
The point at which I stop learning is the point at which I need to retire. Until then, I plan to go on learning and trying new things. So far I think I’ve reinvented myself nine or ten times in my career, and frankly, I enjoy that. It’s one of the things that attracted me to librarianship in the first place: variety. So many subjects, so many questions, so much different research, and I need to learn enough and know enough to be able to point folks in the right direction to find answers to their questions. I loved that about being a reference librarian the first time I served on a reference desk, and I love it still. And I have many colleagues here at Harvard who are just the same. One dear colleague who retired this past June spent the previous year learning swathes of new online resources and software programs, and digging deeply into issues in a new field of librarianship. She’s spending the beginning of her retirement digging even more deeply into these issues, and developing web resources to further scholarship in the field. She’s as intellectually curious and fired from within as ever, and I know we’ll all hear much more from her in the profession.
I’m writing this new column with newer librarians in mind, too. If I can provide anything that will help you get a job, understand a work situation, or advance in your career, that will mean the column is accomplishing my goal: to turn “us versus them” into just “us.” I remember that when I graduated from SUNY Albany School of Library and Information Science (as it was called then), there were no jobs to be had. None. Well, just a few, anyway. And I had to piece together a living from part-time work. It was disappointing, frustrating, and disheartening. I remember how it felt, and I keep that memory uppermost in my mind when I’m talking with folks who are in library school now, or who are looking for their first job. You are our future! I want to help you get the job, succeed, and have a long career in libraries that you love. And I want to have you as my colleagues, helping me continue to learn (and maybe listening to a few of my stories along the way, because I do believe I have some things to offer to new kids on the block).
I’ve been doing my E-Views blog for quite a while now, and, although new electronic products continue to come out, they’re not burgeoning at such a rate that I can really maintain a timely and informative blog on them. (And frankly, having been using and reviewing library e-products since 1985, it’s my belief that a lot of library technology reached its effectiveness zenith around the year 2000, and some of it has gone downhill since). Instead, I’ll tackle the generation gap every two weeks here at http://lj.libraryjournal.com/category/opinion/not-dead-yet/. I hope you’ll join me.
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