Monday, June 15, 2015

Noblesse oblige

I was talking to a younger colleague of mine, one who only recently moved over from medical to academic libraries, about academic library research. She went to library school fresh out of college, and hated reading the "theory", and even now has a less-than-gracious view of the librarians who spend their time just talking about librarianship instead of *doing* librarianship. For the record: I agree with her. I feel that there are far too many academic librarians who publish studies and write articles and talk about things at conferences but never actually contribute their hands and voices to the act of librarianship.

However, that being said, I also think that academic librarians are in the unique place of having enough time to publish (unlike, say, most public librarians or school librarians) and therefore academic librarians probably have a sort of noblesse oblige to do studies and enact change and then write about it. And by the way, I am not endorsing the idea that academic librarians sit at the top of some sort of library food chain: academic librarians just tend to have faculty status that grants them time to work on research.

The reason this came up is because we've decided to do a survey of local libraries and library schools, to get a feel for how diversity in librarianship is being encouraged (or discouraged) in our area. And we could just stop there, and publish those findings, and then everyone would read it and nod sagely and say "yes, of course, diversity is a huge issue. Someone should do something." Instead, we're going to use the survey to put together an unconference of some sort that reviews our findings with the people who took the survey, and then help people get some concrete actions that they can take NOW that will hopefully help towards resolving the huge racial disparity in librarianship. And we might even publish! But publishing is not the goal. The work is the goal, as it should always be in a service profession.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Perpetual Future, or a Feeling of Despair

The other day, while scrolling through Twitter feelings about the annual AHA meeting, I saw that someone said " too much of digital work is stuck in a perpetual future tense."

The perpetual future.

My husband once said, when he was an Economics major and was also working at a window factory at night, that he finally understood Marxist rhetoric, because no matter how hard he worked, there is always another window.

If an archivist were inclined, they could easily fall under the spell of Marx--trudging endlessly, day after day, after the "future" where all the things are accessible, is a dream which is of course impossible. And eventually leads all archivists to a sense of despair and rebellion.

This sense then leads people like me to get pretty annoyed when some historian tosses off a comment about how much we archivists are NOT doing (whether or not his comment was directed at archivists is entirely beside the point, since archivists all carry an inordinate amount of guilt around with us about how much we cannot save).

The perpetual future, indeed.
"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.