Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Whatever I fear the most

Michelle Millet and Jessica Olin, two librarians I admire and friends of the Unified Library Scene, wrote an article for In the Library with a Lead Pipe a couple of weeks ago about gendered expectations for library leaders. It is a really interesting article and you should read it.

Michelle and Jessica hosted a #libleadgender chat yesterday on Twitter. It was really interesting and you can read the Storify of the chat to get a sense of the questions that were asked and the issues that were raised.

One of the questions that was raised was a 'what would you do?' question about a specific scenario: How do you deal with an older generation of women who actively block your work because you are younger and female?

Like Rachel, I think it's fair to say that I've leveled up to being a Mid-Career Librarian. It's always shocking to me to realize that I've had my degree for over ten years because I always feel like I have so much more to learn, and I often defer to people who I believe have more experience than me. More often than not, I feel like a kid at the grownups' table, especially since I've moved into middle management and gotten involved in leadership in ALCTS and in participation in the Program for Cooperative Cataloging.

And also like Rachel, recognizing that I have moved into the middle part of my career comes with certain responsibilities. Most important of those is that I think it's my responsibility to support my Early-Career colleagues and clear a path for them to succeed. 

I have chosen to develop my personal learning network on Twitter, and doing so has introduced me to a wide variety of library professionals, many of whom are new to libraryland. I have had the pleasure of meeting Early-Career Librarians who are smart, forward thinking, and creative. And, assuming that we don't drive them out of librarianship, these Early-Career Librarians are going to transform our collections and services in ways we can't yet imagine.

Here's the thing: it's sometimes really challenging for me to stand supportive and not get in the way of my Early-Career colleagues. Their ideas challenge me and make me feel uncomfortable. In my worst moments, I worry that I'll be made obsolete and that my opinions don't matter anymore.  But just because I encounter resistant places within myself, doesn't give me a free pass to stand in the way of progress.

I wrote this tweet during yesterday's #libleadgender chat:
I do not think it's hyperbole to suggest that librarianship is losing some of our most talented Early-Career colleagues to other industries. We don't support our future leaders as well as we should, which leads to them finding an industry that will.

I think, if we're honest with ourselves, it's because we let our fears get the best of us. We let our fears about being made obsolete drive the conversations about what librarianship should be. We let our fears about our voices not mattering lead to us shutting down good ideas, blocking good projects, and standing in the way of good initiatives. We cling to how we've always done it, because that's good enough.

Mid-Career colleagues, it is our responsibility to work through those fears. Rachel wrote in April about how the future is out there and we have to go whether we like it or not. Our guides to this future are our Early-Career colleagues. So let's work harder to give them the space and support to try new things.

Stay positive,
Erin


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