Just how much should you care about your library job? Many, if not most, of the librarians I have known during my (pretty long) career have been passionate about their work. But seldom is any issue in a library so straightforwardly obvious to all that there is universal agreement. So what do you do when decisions are made with which you don’t agree, or when services and policies are put in place that you don’t like, or when they’re not put in place when you fervently believe in them? I remember the options described in my library school administration course: you can disagree in private, but you need to agree in public. If you find that you cannot agree in public, then you need to move on. And those choices make good professional sense—but I’m wondering how many of us are able to do that.
I count myself incredibly lucky for the library school I attended: what was then the SUNY Albany School of Library and Information Science and is now the SUNY Albany College of Computing & Information. This is mainly because of the faculty with whom I was able to study, including my advisor and mentor, Bill Katz, who, among other things, taught real-world librarianship as he had experienced it. He taught us reference work pretty much as if we were reporters working on a red-hot story as well as detectives digging up the salient facts for that story. But the most crucial thing Bill taught me was that, as a reference librarian, my most important working resource would be people.
As I write this, ALA Midwinter is about to take place in Philadelphia. I’ve been hearing from friends and colleagues wanting to know if I’ll be attending the meeting, which I won’t. I haven’t been to an ALA conference in a while, and now I’m thinking about what it will take to get me to an ALA, whether annual or midwinter.
“Busman’s Holiday” seems like a more seemly title for this column than what I originally planned to use to describe how I’ve been spending my winter vacation: “an orgy of reading.” But that’s really what I’ve been indulging in, and am at present very happily drunk on words. Having earned a BS in literature years ago, I tend not to read serious stuff any longer (the second class in which we had to study Sartre’s Nausea cured me of so-called serious literature) and now I mostly read mysteries for fun… but that changed a bit last year because of a library conference.
I’ve been offline for several weeks, having gone out of state to be with my eldest sister, Patty, who died last week from a degenerative nerve disease. My other sister, Michele (who has been a saint in taking care of Patty’s needs) and I were extremely saddened by her passing, but it was a great release for her as she was very uncomfortable and she—and we—wanted her suffering to be over. Our family is thankful that it is, at the same time that we mourn her loss.
I’m especially thankful for one very particular aspect of this Thanksgiving: not having to cook a blessed thing. I went with a cousin to Plimoth Plantation for Thanksgiving dinner, where, in addition to a traditional feast, “Pilgrim role players and Native interpreters [were] on hand to greet [us] and [we would] learn about the 1621 feast that continues to inspire our modern celebration of Thanksgiving.” Having lived in the Boston area for nearly 20 years (yipes!) I figures this was a good time to go there.
Here’s an issue about which I’ve been hearing from colleagues quite a lot lately—that of libraries undertaking and carrying out assessment methods and then ignoring or “trumping” the findings by doing what they wanted to do in the first place, but putting a “check mark” next to assessment in their mental (or literal) to do lists, indicating, “yep, did that!” My thought in such cases is: well, no, you didn’t do that!
Despite the increase in remote services libraries offer, I think “the library as place” is gaining in importance in the real world of library life. It may be that I think that because I am lucky enough to work in a magnificent library that recently underwent a top-notch renovation, making it an even more beautiful, comfortable, and useful place to do research. But I don’t think that’s the only reason, because much of what I’m reading in the library literature describes how libraries now being built or renovated are changing their spaces to suit actual user needs, as well as the needs of the library to do its work. And in my opinion that’s a good thing.
Last spring I did a research consultation with a student who was preparing to work on her senior thesis. She was smart, focused, motivated, and self-directed, and in addition to discussing the research process and research resources, we talked about what it is like to work in libraries. The young lady got back in touch […]