Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why I Decided to Start a Blog

I want to break down the barriers between library schools & students and professional librarians and I want your help.

I had a realization recently: I have reached the end of the beginning of my career. After eight years as a professional librarian, it’s both comforting and intimidating to realize that I frequently (although not always) know what I’m talking about. The same events that helped me recognize this are also inspiring this blog. You see, I’ve been spending a lot of time talking with new and student librarians recently. Some of it has been in person. I work at a college near a university that has a library school, so I’ve been lucky enough to supervise a couple of students in their culminating experiences. Most of my interactions have been online, though, an experience that has been just as satisfying and frustrating as working one-on-one with graduate students.

Having people ask me to explain how I do certain parts of my job, or how I found my first professional position, or even how I decide what to wear to work on a daily basis, has helped me clarify so much of what I love (and hate) about librarianship. I know that it is basic pedagogy – teaching something you know helps solidify that knowledge better than almost any other method – but my reaction still startled me a bit. I found myself thinking about a book I read last year: Letters to a Young Poet (yes, the title of this blog comes from that book). I was standing in Rainer Maria Rilke’s shoes, and I think I understand what he may have felt: that a mentor gets as much out of the relationship as a mentee. I hope that what I’ve shared has helped others navigate their career path, but I know that being able to talk about my experiences and my philosophy has been invaluable to me. I have a clearer understanding of where I want to go next with my career, of what is really important to me. This blog is going to be a big part of that.

I want this blog to be about more than an experienced librarian dispensing advice to the new kids, however. In my conversations with individuals and groups who are joining my profession, it seems that there is a gap between what library programs are teaching and what new professionals will need to know in order to be successful.

This situation isn’t new, but a few events that happened recently, and in quick succession, have made me want to do something about it. First, I learned about some horribly outdated skills that are part of the required curriculum at one library school. Then I heard from a group of library students who think that Twitter (which I love, by the way) is all they need and that listservs aren’t worth their attention. Finally, a senior colleague of mine laughingly told me about how long it took one library school to get Librarian Penmanship out of their curriculum.

Just because the education of librarians has always been behind doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. This blog is my first effort towards fixing the problem. Want to help me change things? Then let me know in the comments. If you have specific questions/topics you’d like me to address, please ask. I’m also looking for people to write guest posts related to the theme of my blog – breaking down the barriers between library schools & student and practicing librarians.   

My next entry, which I’ll post next Wednesday, will be about my collection development philosophy and how I developed it. I have some ideas for what I’ll write in future entries beyond that, but really want to hear from you.


  1. It's great that you've identified a problem within your profession and want to fix it, Jessica. Hopefully by compiling your knowledge here, you'll be able to help future librarians and students. I'm really intrigued to see what will come of this. Best of luck with your blog!

  2. This looks great, Jessica! I look forward to reading more. I'm sure I could come up with some ideas to help you out!

  3. As one of those library students on twitter, I'm psyched to start following this blog!

  4. I'm not a library student (yet) but I just started as a new circulation clerk in academia.

    I will probably have more questions than this in the future, but one thing I'm wondering about is: what DO I wear to work? I have a lot of artsy stuff for the summer (Blue Fish tunic/dresses, longish dresses) and more formal stuff for the winter (jackets and separates; I used to work in an office).

    One of the other clerks described the library as "business casual" but during the recent unseasonable heat wave, I saw everything from flip flops to sneakers to T-shirts and jeans. My boss is a man and he's not going to be helpful here.

    I've heard "dress for the job you want" but I'm kind of lost here. And I'm used to expressing myself through clothing and jewelry. At the same time, I don't want to look freakish (despite tales of tattooed and pierced librarians, I have never met one).

    I'm open to suggestions. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

    1. I sometimes wear trouser cut, dark-washed jeans when I'm dressing "business casual." For the most part, though, I'd say no t-shirts with graphics, no light-washed jeans, no sneakers, no flip flops. Here are some things I wear in the summer when I'm going for "business casual": sandals, long peasant skirts, 3/4 sleeve plain t-shirts, polo shirts. If all else fails, check in with your supervisor - ask for specifics. (Most important, though: Do NOT wear a t-shirt or sweatshirt from a competing institution.)

      Good luck with your new circ job, regardless.