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.

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