Long in the Tooth, Short on the Patience

This started as a comment on the Facebook “ALA ThinkTank” page.  The ‘discussion’ started out with one of those “Jobs that are no longer relevant” articles that, of course, included librarians.  One commentator made some assertions about there being a ‘generational concern’ (that the 20-30 year olds aren’t seeing the relevance of libraries), which is a valid point,  however he made it in a way that kinda sorta bashed us ‘older’ folks, which of course overshadowed the point he was making.  It became a back and forth, as they always do, with some good points becoming lost in the increasing tensions with each successive post.  I kinda went medieval on the whole thing.  Hence, the ‘short on patience’ part.

I am one of those “old guard” librarians. I have been working in libraries since 1980, and in 1989, at the ripe old age of 25, I received my MLIS.  My mother, a public library business manager, almost disowned me.  She had spent years dealing with and cleaning up after librarians with no head for business. I was determined, because I LOVED information, libraries, and finding answers for people.  A short 7 years later I ‘retired’ because I thought librarians as a whole were horrible old mules who refused to change. I was tired of banging my head against the proverbial brick wall. I got back into the profession in 2000 because our bookstore closed and I had to fall back on something. I was a solo librarian for a pharmaceutical company, then a cataloger in a public library. The latter was very frustrating because after 6 years in the private sector I began to really see what my mother was talking about.  Librarians had NO idea how to run a business, sell their product, or even good customer service!  Trying to please 100% of the people 100% of the time and focusing on the ‘problem patron’ is NOT good customer service. (Ah, but that is another rant for another time.)  I also still thought libraries were institutions for the socially maladjusted. Lots of people whining “why don’t they take us seriously as professionals” without even looking at themselves as the answer. Finally, in 2006 I left libraries for good.

Or so I thought (old people change their minds a lot).  

After getting certified as a Life Coach I realized that profession was just as badly represented in the media, maybe even worse and had a hard time defining what was professional. I also watched my husband, the scientist, constantly being portrayed as the villain or cause of worldwide destruction because of putting science over humanity. I realized every profession has this issue.   For as many great portrayals of librarians, scientists, military, and cops, there are at least twice as many shallow stereotyped caricatures on the media.  With the advent of ‘reality’ television, we find real life more often portrayed in these extremes.  Every girl from Jersey is a drunk trying to get laid and every guy is a stud only concerned with his body and bagging women.  Maybe not true, but the more young people who see this, the more they imitate, and often are convinced, that this is real life.  There really can’t be that many Bridezilla’s out there, can there?

I digress (it happens when you get old).

Anyway, I became an “Independent Librarian” in 2007 and never looked back. I realized I had always been passionate about one thing—information. I decided that I could help change the profession one library, librarian, and paralibrarian at a time. Get off the whiney train and quit trying to be all things to all people! Being a predominately female profession like teaching, we never have been paid well, feel like we must always sacrifice to keep people happy, and that our job is making sure that everyone finds everything they want or we have failed. Puh-lease.

So, instead of bickering about who should be doing what, where, and how, just get off your ass and get out there and do it! Quit looking for approval. Quit feeling like you have to justify what you do. Quit feeling like everyone else has to do it the same way. Just follow your damned passion and DO IT! If you do it because it’s what you truly believe in it will work. If you do it out of anger, spite, or to prove something forget it. You have already failed.  Most of all, quit waiting for someone else to plan it.

So, with this New Year we all have an opportunity to get out of the echo chamber, stop judging each other, and start showing the public we aren’t a bunch of little nancies that just sit around picking at each other over who is the better librarian for the public to see.  If each of us start really showing our passion in our daily work and dealings with the public this image distortion will begin to change.  Believe me, it works.  I do it every day and have seen many minds changed, even within our own profession.  Which reminds me–paralibrarians are professionals and many have WAY more passion than a lot of ‘degreed’ librarians. Also, one really passionate teenage shelver can change a lot of his peer’s minds.  hmmm, interesting idea there.

As Nike says, JUST DO IT!

BTW: You can be an old fuddy duddy at any age. Just because we look long in the tooth doesn’t mean we don’t have passion, know about technology, or are past our prime. Remember that the next time one of us interviews you for a job. We may be looking for someone to mentor and replace us.