Summer wanes, and it’s back to school for LIS students, their professors, and the folks who support them in so many ways. At graduation ceremonies, we always acknowledge the family members and significant others who help LIS students along the path toward their degrees. Let’s shine a light on the importance of current librarians, administrators, and those who work alongside soon-to-be librarians. Their impact might be just as strong as the support of family and friends.
Column from Michael Stephens (firstname.lastname@example.org), Assistant Professor at the School of Library and Information Science, San Jose State University, CA
“It starts with us.” I use that phrase on a slide in my talks and course lectures and whenever I get the chance to talk about librarians, libraries, and our continual adaptation to societal and technological change. It’s also closely related to my thoughts on professional development and learning in the workplace. This isn’t sweeping organizational change; this time it’s personal.
Have you read about the “Full-Stack Employee?” In a think piece published in Medium, author Chris Messina—the creator of the hashtag, no less—offers this definition: “the full-stack employee has a powerful combination of skills that make them incredibly valuable. They are adept at navigating the rapidly evolving and shifting technological landscape. They make intuitive decisions amidst information-abundance, where sparse facts mingle loosely with data-drenched opinions.” It’s a tech-heavy take, but bear with me, as Messina broadens the definition: “Full-stack employees have an insatiable appetite for new ideas, best practices, and ways to be more productive and happy. They’re curious about the world, what makes it work, and how to make their mark on it.”
Let’s take some advice from sex columnist Dan Savage to improve connections between research and practice. Savage’s Lovecast podcast features a segment called “What You Got?” highlighting recent studies from sex and relationship researchers. Savage gives scholars a few minutes of airtime to report on how their findings might relate to listeners. What a brilliant way to get the word out about research! Maybe a similar segment could find its way to Steve Thomas’s “Circulating Ideas” podcast, a show I always enjoy.
A FEW YEARS AGO at the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual conference in Anaheim, CA, I had dinner with librarians from three large universities. The conversation turned to something they had in common: they were all moving print book collections at their respective institutions off-site to make room for student spaces. Back then, this was a big deal, and these administrators met with opposition and angst from their constituents.
Speaking here and there, I’ve logged a few airline miles over the years and visited some pretty cool places. A short while ago, I was coming back from the New York Library Association conference, flying from Albany to Chicago, and I was seated next to a friendly young man who asked me what I did for a living.
“I Don’t Have The Time.” Have you said this in a meeting or a discussion with a colleague? Has this rolled off the tongue when confronted with an unexpected change, a new technology, or another initiative? Many of us are stretched to our limits. I applaud the folks I meet who have absorbed more and more duties as staffing patterns have changed. However, I bristle when I hear the “no time” response, because sometimes I think it’s an excuse.
Some of the most creative and flexible librarians I know have been working for more than a few years in libraries. Some of the most inspiring and influential professionals in our field have had distinguished careers and still continue to make a mark on our governance and future. I was lucky to learn about collection development, reference service, and weeding during my public library days from professionals who had worked in the system for multiple decades. These are the same folks who did not shy away from the Internet and its affordances in the mid 1990s.