Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Librarianship as Asymptote

I don't really have a lot to say about this topic, but it's been on my mind a lot lately and I thought I'd share. So...

If you're unfamiliar, an asymptote is a curve that approaches a straight line, gets closer and closer, but never crosses or even touches the line. I learned about this mathematical concept last year when I read Drive. The author, Daniel Pink, uses this concept to talk about motivation and skill mastery and about how, if you're really passionate about something, developing your practice never stops.

Wow, did that idea resonate with me. I realized that librarianship, and more specifically the marketing/outreach and strategic planning parts of my job, were my personal asymptote. Here are some of the signs:
  1. I'm always looking for a new challenge in librarianship. A new program? A new partnership? Yes, please.
  2. I am voracious, although selective, in the way I seek professional development opportunities. Will this help me get better at my job and/or prepare me for a job I want in the future? Bring it on, then.
  3. I'm never quite satisfied with the work I do. I'm constantly striving to improve and to learn from my past successes and failures.
I'm wondering how many other people feel this way about librarianship. Do any of you? How so?


  1. We had to read Drive as part of my library school 'capstone'. The class itself was ill conceived (they discontinued that requirement after my class) but I enjoyed the book. Several people in my class had the same thought I did after reading it. It's nice to have people read this, but I think it would be much better severed given to students upon entering library school as opposed to on the way out.

    1. I wonder about these books, requiring them of students. I think Drive embedded itself in my psyche because it was a choice for me.

  2. I feel the same way...and I am in the twilight of my career. I learn something new every day to make things better. It can drive co-workers batty but 36 years hasn't been enough time to discover all the wonder that goes into working effectively and proactively in librarianship. Just sayin'.

  3. Daniel Pink was the keynote speaker at the Medical Library Association Conference in 2010. He mostly talked about his other book, A Whole New Mind, which we were all encouraged to read before the meeting. It's about how creative, right-brained thinking will be the only way to survive in the new US economy, because all of those left-brained jobs are being outsourced. It's awesome to be working in an environment where creativity is encouraged even if it flops sometimes. It's harder to be creative under duress, scrambling to figure out what you can do differently to remain relevant and keep your job. That's a whole other kind of motivation. It's good to know ahead of time which type of organization will be employing you!