Sarah Kennedy asks What does it mean to be a librarian?
You know what? Not sure what it says about me that after 5 years in this profession and writing hundreds of blog posts, I have not once come around close to even this topic.
Many of you who are regular readers of my blog probably know or can tell that it seems I love my job and I have even fallen into the trap of describing myself with the "P word". But now that I think about it, I am not sure if this is even accurate.
I enjoy the fact that I am always learning and trying new things, playing with ideas, and currently I am in a position where I have sufficient autonomy to push for change. Also having spent more hours than I want to think of, studying, researching and experimenting on librarianship, I have gone past "The Plain of Suckitude” for many aspects of what I do daily, so I enjoy a feeling of competence exercising my professional skill.
Still, none of this is specific to being a librarian. One of the most important aspects of been passionate is the belief you are doing something worthwhile, whether be it to change the world, or even just a single's person life.
I read inspiring stores from my colleagues (if I may call them that) in the public libraries all around the world, about how they helped the less fortunate people of our society with job hunting, the less IT literate connect with their children using technology etc and I feel somehow I have fallen short because I have few such stories to tell.
How about the fact that as a librarian, I am in one of the oldest and noblest professions and in the line of the "guardians of human knowledge"? Does that give me purpose?
Actually, such descriptions always make me giggle, making me think one has watched too much "The Librarian" (also another time someone asked about "Indiana Jones" type adventures librarians tend to get!).
Seriously, it is not everyday, someone gets to save the Timbuktu’s priceless manuscripts. Even day to day, due to my job scope and current position which has nothing to do with preservation and digitization, I never felt as if I am one of the "guardians of human knowledge" whose role is to "Safeguard and preserve human knowledge so it can be safely passed down to the generations to come".
Though at times, when I page though old books, or see recording/writings by past librarians, I do get a sense of history ..... and hope that I am not messing things up too badly the works of my predecessors, particularly since my institution is the oldest academic library in Singapore with a 100 year history.
I guess it would be only a slight stretch it to say I have been trying to build services since I began my career , but sometimes I wonder, given the limited resources each library has, whether I am diverting resources and more importantly attention from collections for a short term gain. Would the future generations care whether our library had a chat service, had built a good community around social media, or even had a discovery service that was used for 5 years before it was replaced by yet another round of "superior" technology etc?
How about the role of librarians has activists to help make society better by making information available for all? Currently, if you ask me, in our profession, there is one big cause that has the potential to make the world a better place - Open Access.