Library Philosophy

Turning the Corner?

I have always tried to keep this blog relatively positive. I’ve not always been successful, but that’s been my goal. I’ve tried to keep most negativity away from here because I don’t think anyone wants to read me whine about whatever perceived injustice my colleagues and I are enduring at the moment. That helps no one. While this is all true, I haven’t been ambitious enough or energetic enough to improve myself or find my voice in librarianship. I have sat back and waited for someone to look at my work experience and say, “Hey, that’s just the kind of traditional library experience we need!”. Even though I have spoken openly about the death of Marian the Librarian, and the insufficient I-love-books-and-want-to-share-that-love mentality of librarianship I have done nothing in my professional life to distinguish myself. In fact, I’ve recently come to think that I am an academic library version of Marian. I’ve not been able to live up to my own standards.

Add to this that I have never, ever, been a good student. For most of my life I never had to be. Throughout elementary school I regularly scored A’s across the board. In secondary school my grades slipped, but mostly due to a depression-based disinterest, and still I’d regularly make the honor roll. By the time(s) I went to college and found I had to study for exams, or just to keep up, I found the whole process exceedingly difficult. In the five years it took me to get my bachelor’s degree I don’t know if I ever spent more than 20 minutes looking at the material before a test. The night before, I figured that either knew it, or I didn’t, and no amount of cramming was going to fix that. Fast-forward to grad school and I had to work even less hard, relying on my intelligence and long years of library experience to get me through, and it did. I’m thirty-eight years old, now, and I’ve never developed good study habits. I’ve never been a good student, regardless of what my GPA has been.

To top it off, I never had a good attitude about grad school, and my poor wife has had to put up with endless whining and complaining from me. I was immediately disappointed with the depth of course material and generally low standards to which we were being held. In four years of graduate school I was never once asked to write a paper more than 10 pages, and rarely even that. Only two professors (one now retired), I felt, actually held their students to standards that I expected to be held to as a graduate student.

Discussions with other librarians who went to other universities have born out that this is a common problem in library education.

But now, circumstance have forced me back into school. I’ve swallowed the bitter pill of my pride and subjugated myself to the rigors and frustrations of the same graduate school that I graduated from two years ago. For the first six weeks, or so, I was the same whiny disgruntled student that I was previously. But after a recent late night confessional with my wife and suffering yet another indignity at work, I feel differently than I have before.

For the first time, I think I’m ready to take responsibility for my own career and stop waiting to for my greatness to be noticed. In spite of myself, I find that I’m actually starting to get interested in my Digital Humanities coursework, and after a rocky start I think I am building a good working relationship with my professor. The last 48 hours have felt like a switch has gone off in my head. A switch that I’ve been looking for for six years. I feel like now I’m in a mental place where I can finally buckle down and do the work to not only get the grades, but also build a personal knowledge base to make me a useful and desirable librarian for 2020’s…and beyond!

This may all fizzle out. In a few days I may go back to choosing watching television or playing on my tablet to doing homework or other professional reading. I sincerely hope not, but I have to admit that. My challenge now is to not lose this feeling. That’s a big part of why I’m writing, today. This blog was supposed to be a vehicle for me to stay engaged in the profession. Give me a place to place my ideas about the profession and where I fit in it. Well, right now I don’t fit in it and am on the outside, regardless of the fact that I work in a library. I’m not a professional librarian not because no one has made me one, but because I have not made myself one. It’s time for me to stop whining and start working.

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