Final Thoughts

Last weekend I overheard two library employees chatting.  One confided in the other that a difficult patron treated her “like an angry black woman” for not putting up with the patron’s attempts to goad her.  Before I proceed, I have no idea what took place between the employee and the patron.  I only caught a snippet of the conversation and I was so surprised to hear it that I perhaps rudely and unthinkingly entered the conversation by asking who made her feel that way.  I guess the impulse was that of one woman relating to another and/or future information professional seeking to learn from a current information professional.  Her demeanor changed and she told me not to worry about it and that everything was okay.  I felt embarrassed that I may have made her more uncomfortable and I will never know exactly what transpired.  What I do know is that library employees are subjected to a lot.  I’m not even sure how to further qualify “a lot,” but I get the general sense that for all the hope, idealism, professionalism, and kindness we attribute to library staff, they are also tired and frustrated.  Some of them wear it.  Heck, I don’t even work at a library and I’m tired, frustrated, and it occasionally shows.  Gill Corkindale writes of the importance of kindness at work.  Regardless of whether we are in a public facing role, we will likely interact with a great number of people and underneath our professional veneer, we will struggle with snap decisions and how to interpret certain requests.  I’m sure it happens to patrons too.  I’m a patron and it’s still hard for me to ask for help.  Corkingdale implores us to treat our jobs and colleagues with empathy.  We can’t know the unknown, but we can certainly appreciate the vastness of human experience.  We as information professionals, students, and patrons, will experience all manner of triumph and failure.  I think two of the best lessons we can take away from our time in this course and the program are those of temperance and innovation.

I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom.  I’m truly excited by the possibilities.  The fact that there is a job title called “knowledge manager” is enough to keep me striving forward.  There’s a hell of a lot of knowledge to manage! But here’s a reality that hovers in the back of my mind.  I have friends who attended library school who did not obtain their dream jobs in public libraries or elsewhere.  That’s not a failure.  Just a different outcome, perhaps temporary.  Nearly all of them are on amazing paths, regardless.  Another big caveat.  This is my personal reflection based on personal experiences, particularly approaching the profession as a second career.  Maybe it’s stifling to advise others to temper their expectations.  However, many of the readings in this course focus on doing a lot with a little.  We rightly celebrate the implementation of new technologies, the expansion of buildings, the changing of attitudes.  But we can also celebrate the small things too–the successful compromises, the new hand dryer in the washroom, the introverted teen patron who asked for help.  Lastly, we can acknowledge that stuff happens. Hope for the best, expect (or at least don’t be surprised by) the worst.  Which brings me to innovation.

Stock photos of librarians can tell us a lot about the public’s perception of the profession.  Bespectacled.  Varying degrees of shooshing.  Women.

https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/librarian-quiet-2061046.jpg

Image by Lisa F. Young via Dreamstime.com

https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/midage-librarian-26268953.jpg

Image by Dmitry Shironosov via Dreamstime.com

https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/pretty-librarian-1488022.jpg

Image by Stephen Coburn via Dreamstime.com

The point I’m trying to make is that there’s a very entrenched perception of the profession.  We know better though.  We know that information professionals are MacGyvers, teachers, plumbers, experts, puppeteers, parking validators, or just about anything else their patrons need them to be.  We are everything or can be what we need to be in a pinch because we’ve learned to do a lot with a little and to rejigger as needed.  I felt like the whole of INFO 204 was an exercise in “what to do when your strategic plan ≠ reality.”  Also, no disrespect to INFO 204.  That’s a hugely important lesson.  As for INFO 287-10, it’s tougher to sum things up but I think Michael leaves us with some sage advice in his article and its title, “Always Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”

It’s been an absolute pleasure taking this course and getting to know all of you.  Best of luck in summer or fall or whatever’s next!  If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, drop me a line if you’re interested in taking my tour of Central Library.

References

Corkindale, G. (2011). The importance of kindness at work. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2011/04/the-importance-of-kindness-at

Stephens, M. (2014). Always doesn’t live here anymore. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/2014/10/opinion/michael-stephens/always-doesnt-live-here-anymore-office-hours/#_

6 Comments

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6 Responses to Final Thoughts

  1. Lori Broger-Mackey

    Good points. Sometimes it’s hard to remember.

  2. Profile photo of Erin Lybrand-Wenz

    That Corkindale article has stuck with me for a couple of days–really a philosophy of life that I wish we could all keep at the forefront of our minds. If only everyone could remember kindness, remember empathy and that we’re all living our own struggles, and remember how good it feels when someone else extends a kindness towards you and you can do the same for others.

    Really enjoyed the ridiculous stock photos–thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Profile photo of Katy Go

      Very very true. Even with that in mind, it’s hard to always practice what we preach. Maybe it’s a selfish way of going about it but at the very least, if we could only pause and think “how would I respond if someone did this to me?” It’s the golden rule because it works!

  3. Profile photo of Rowan Hussein

    You wrote an intriguing reflection and hit on a lot of valid points. You’re right about about the fixed view many people hold about both librarians and libraries but I guess we do this with other professions as well. Makes you really think!
    Many best wishes to you!

    • Profile photo of Katy Go

      But we know better! Hyperlib 287 is this diverse, dynamic group of current and future information professionals, all of whom seem willing and excited to push boundaries and preconceptions.

      Best wishes to you as well! Enjoy your time off 🙂

  4. Profile photo of Kristoffer Moberg

    @katygo, your post remined me of an essential quality of a good librarian — patience! As for being tired and frustrated, those are qualities that make us human, an that we should strive to accept, in both ourselves and others.

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