Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A crisis of professional confidence

How many times have you found yourself questioning this whole library malarky? Do you have moments (minutes, days, weeks, months) where you ask yourself whether this profession is really where you're meant to be, whether it's really where you want to be? I do.

In my recent disrupted employment situation, one of the questions that kept coming up for me was whether it was actually possible for me to find what I want in library land. There are things about this profession that drive me absolutely insane - it's generally conservative (with regard to change and progress), there is still an obsession with rules and gatekeeping, and it's small - so small. Often it's way too inbred - I feel sometimes that the only way I'll get a particular job is if I can demonstrate that I've already done that exact same job in an organisation that is almost exactly the same. These practices do not lead to progress, and certainly not to excitement.

I recently applied for a job outside of library land. I'd be using many of my library skills - quite a bit of research, for example - but it wasn't a library job and I couldn't kid myself that it was. And I was offered an interview. I had a good long think about whether I was ready to make that kind of a leap. I was attracted to the job itself, as it looked like an interesting job, but I found myself getting quite sentimental - I felt that while that job might be interesting, that would be it - I would only be doing that job. There would be no community surrounding it, and I also felt as though I would be disconnecting with the community that I am a part of.

I love being part of a professional community - I love feeling as though my work doesn't stop at the front door of my library, and I love the feeling that there are hundreds, thousands of librarians out there that I can turn to for help, ideas and encouragement. From time to time I can meet large groups of them at conferences and other events, and, well, some of them are even reading these rather personal musings of mine. I love feeling as though there might be others out there interested in what I do - that I don't work in a vacuum. And I really, really want to present the paper I'm working on with some friends at ALA next year - how could I do that if I wasn't in library land anymore (yes, I know I could do it, but it would feel dishonest)? How can I champion libraries if I've given up on them?

And so I withdrew my application. I figured I'd have plenty of opportunities to leave library land, but fewer to stay. Friends, I'm here for a while yet. And thanks for giving me a reason to stay.

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