Tuesday, December 1, 2015

If you're too school for cool

Hiring Librarians posted an interview where the respondent stated that librarianship is, in fact, a dying profession. The respondent went on to justify their answer with about three paragraphs of text which included this line:

I have no belief that Librarianship as a profession will be able to hold on. regardless of what all the tattooed spunky hipster librarians think.
So, here's the thing about that.

Being young in a profession that is relatively grey is really hard. It's difficult to express yourself fully, if who you want to be is someone who experiments with fashion or gets tattoos. It's hard to like music, art, and literature that your colleagues don't understand. It's hard to feel like your colleagues take you seriously when they use words like "spunky" to describe you.

Being enthusiastic in a profession that is relatively cynical is really hard. It's difficult to learn to trust your voice when your colleagues don't appreciate your ideas. It's difficult to think of innovative services and tools for outreach when your colleagues tell you about that time ten years ago when they tried the same thing and it didn't work. It's hard to find the courage to engage in your field's professional association when the more established people in that association speak about how tiresome it is to deal with people like you.

It isn't wrong to be enthusiastic--whether than enthusiasm is for outreach or tattoos or tacos or indie rock. It isn't wrong to have tattoos or to experiment with fashion. It isn't wrong to like a certain kind of music or a certain kind of art.  It isn't wrong to want to create a version of librarianship that is user-center, forward-thinking, and hopeful. It isn't wrong to have ideas and to fail at executing them as much as you succeed. It isn't wrong to take chances and to dream big.

The people who make you feel like you're wrong are the people who are wrong.

It's easy for me to say this from my mid-career perch, but I really hope the next generation of library leaders learns to trust their voice and their vision. I hope they'll push back against the ideas that need to be pushed back against. I hope they will move forward the initiatives that will make their libraries better places for their users. I hope the next generation of library leaders will lead with their whole hearts.

And, yes, I hope the next generation of library leaders is spunky. I realize that the respondent used the word spunky as a pejorative term. But when I looked up what spunk means, I felt like it described the person I want to be: spirit, courage, and determination.

In the last two months, I've written two blog posts where I've said that I feel like we're driving out our next generation of library leaders out of librarianship because we don't support them in the ways that we should. I'm sorry to have to write a third blog post in a third month on the same topic. But I promise that I will keep writing about it until we start to do things differently.

Stay positive,

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