Sunday, October 16, 2005

Questions about becoming a librarian (Part 7)

[Continued from: Part 6]

Question: Why do people remain as a Librarians?
Related question: Would you remain as one?

Some people choose to remain in their jobs (library-related or not) because they see that have no alternatives. Some choose to because they don't want to change. Some have simply -- to paraphrase Steve Jobs -- "Found what they love".

In his speech to Stanford University, Jobs shared three personal stories and called them: "Connecting the Dots", "Love and Loss", and "Death".
In Connecting the Dots, he said he took up Calligraphy without "even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me."

In Love and Loss, he advised that "Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did... As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

In Death, he said: "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Read the full-text to appreciate the context. I've posted a copy of the text here.

Connecting the Dots: To me, becoming a librarian is something like a leap of faith. You don't really know what you'll achieve until you look back and trace the dots that you've connected.

Love and Loss: Some days I'd feel rather useless and ineffective. There are days when I'd ask if what I do is worth anything at all. Luckily most days, I get a sense of satisfaction from knowing I've made a positive difference either to the readers and customers, or to the organisation.

Death: So what about Death? I think death is that little voice that nags and creates doubt, which prevents us from "seizing the day". Mostly, this doubt is from ourselves -- either self-doubt or self-delusion. Simply-put, Self-doubt is where you think you cannot. Self-delusion is where you think you have when you have not done so.

For instance, am I deluding myself in thinking I've done a good job when I've not? I check for this through informal 360 degree feedback sessions with some of my staff who are willing to be frank with me, plus my direct boss as well.

I think the worse kind of death is self-doubt. Hence we owe it to ourselves to minimise the losses and celebrate more of our loves. If not, who will?

But a question remains -- would I remain as a librarian?

Honestly, I don't know.

I do love what I do at this point in time, but I can't say whether I'd be in this profession five or ten years from now. Things change, especially in this modern society. Perhaps I might still want to be a librarian but won't be able to get a job as one -- no jobs are permanent nowadays.

But I honestly say that I'd treat the job like how I'd stay in a marriage. There will be ups and downs, but the parties have got to make it work, most of all the librarian I think.

In this case, there are three partners to the marriage -- the customers, the organisation, and the employee -- the librarian (I shall ramble on this relationship perhaps another day).

Looking ahead, I'll just bear Jobs' quote in mind:
... you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.

This is the last of the Questions about becoming a Librarian series. Thank you for the questions, and thanks for reading. I also appreciate the comments you've posted and emails received from librarians and non-librarians alike. Please feel free to continue the conversation in this blog.

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  1. Thank you for writing this series! An interesting thing you could do is document a day in your life as a librarian or a librarian manager?

    One thing that excites me about public libraries is that it functions as a volume of knowledge that is (or should be) freely accessible to all in the country. The contents of the public library in my view certainly reflects the intellectual and cultural identity of the country as well. It is not so specialised as an academic library but could (or should?) reflect the public demands more accurately.

    And the librarian helps shape that identity and also helps make the contents of the library accessible to the public!

    It's been an interesting read. I look forward to reading more on this blog.

  2. Hi! I'd just like to say that I'm really glad your blog exists and I'm enjoying looking in from time to time. It's very encouraging. I'm a recent grad from library school and have been encountering all the "huh? librarian?" comments, so definitely appreciate your musings on "why librarian" and "what librarians do".

  3. I'm probably echoing the sentiments of other commentators in your series but I'm really really glad to see your blog. I want to be librarian some day! I should get my BA first and then go on to get professional qualifications.

  4. Thanks everyone, for the commments.
    To Ashke: Another path to consider is to volunteer at your library while your're aiming towards a library degree.


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