Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What Was I Saying?, or Finding My Writing Agenda

It’s taken me a while to figure out what it is I really want to say about libraries – almost 8 years. I’ve been thinking about why that is, especially now that I have a direction. I think it’s mostly due to the kind of career I’ve built for myself. You see, I’ve always been some kind of public services librarian at small, liberal arts colleges. That means I’m a professional generalist. This isn’t a complaint. It’s actually one of my favorite things about what I do for a living, but this kind of career doesn’t translate well to a research & writing agenda. Sure, I had interests from day one. Website usability; applying traditional pedagogical research in the information literacy classroom; building relationships with faculty, students, & staff; integrating graphic novels and genre fiction into an academic library’s collection… all of these areas fascinated me then (& still do now), but I couldn’t decide which I wanted to pursue.

Since then, I’ve heard and read a lot about librarians writing for publication. I’ve been told, repeatedly, that even the greenest members of our profession have something to contribute. I don’t disagree with that sentiment, not in general. If I’d been forced to write, perhaps in a tenure track situation, I would have figured it out. On the other hand, with the way my interests have changed, I probably would have ended up with a schizophrenic publishing history. Perhaps I would have come to the same place of comfort that I’m in now, found the same passions, if I’d been writing from the beginning, but I doubt it. Because I had time to explore and become comfortable, I know that most of my early interests were related to being a better librarian. For instance, my never-ending quest to be a better teacher means I’ve read a lot about pedagogy, andragogy, and epistemology. I love teaching, and I like knowing that my information literacy instruction practice is grounded in theory. However, as much as I love doing and reading about teaching, I have no desire to write about it. Further, the ideas that make me want to add my voice to our professional literature didn’t even occur to me until a couple of years ago, and didn’t solidify until very recently. It might have taken me 8 years to get here, but I’m so glad I waited because now I can feel confident that this is really what I want to say and how I want to say it.

Do even brand new librarians have something important to contribute? Absolutely. If you are burning to add your voice to library literature, please do. On the other hand, if you want to hold back, want to immerse yourself for a while before speaking up, that works, too. The most important piece of advice I could give to anybody new to my beloved profession is this: it’s your career path, not anyone else’s, so you’ve got to make it your own.

Your turn: If you are published or planning to publish, how did you pick a topic? And how long did it take you to get there? If not, why aren’t you writing?

Speaking of writing agendas, next week’s post will be about mine.

Also, come back on Friday. I’ll be publishing the first in what I hope will be a long string of posts from guest authors. My first guest is going to be Cari Dubiel. Cari is the Assistant Manager, Adult Public Services, at Twinsburg Public Library in Twinsburg, Ohio. She has two blogs of her own: a personal blog, Walking Identity Crisis, and an official Twinsburg Public Library one, The ABC Book Reviews: A Beth and Cari Production.

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