In the library world, enthusiasm is not in short supply. I’d even go so far as to say that being excited about things is quickly becoming part of the new librarian stereotype, along with being 25, tattooed, pink-haired, and on a skateboard. Think about it—an abundance of library websites, blogs, and Twitter feeds focus on being clever, sharing new book finds, and poking fun at our profession. And while all this is great (and hilarious), I often wonder, where’s everybody’s indignation? Doesn’t something (other than rude patrons) make you mad?
I’ll go ahead and admit that I sometimes wonder why I’m in the library business at all. But then I meet people who remind me, like the 75-year-old woman who could hardly walk without breathing heavily who needed help applying for a job at Burger King. Unpack that one—digital illiteracy, elder care, unemployment, disability. That makes me mad. And when I get mad, I do what librarians do best—I start learning.
Of the five tracks my MLIS program offers (youth services, cataloging, management, reference, and technology), I originally chose to focus on technology because, honestly, I thought it would look amazing on my resume. But once I started working at a public library, everything I learned in my technology classes started to come into focus. Digital illiteracy became real to me, and I realized that my classes were preparing me to think about the big picture concerning the impact of new technologies on libraries, their patrons, and the world.
These classes and experiences prepared me to think critically about a topic that I hadn’t even realized mattered to me. They gave my studies a sense of purpose, and they reinforced the lessons I’d learned in core classes. And yes, as I predicted, they’re starting to make my resume look a lot better, too.
It is my advice, then, when designing your course of study, to specialize in something that makes you mad, something that will equip you with the skills to right the wrongs you see. I know that letting what makes you mad drive your decisions is usually a bad idea, but in this case, it makes sense. Enthusiasm wanes (Twilight, anyone?), but man, can people hold a grudge. And sometimes, that’s a good thing.
You don’t have to sink your teeth into an issue and never let go, but it’s not a bad idea to at least keep the issue where you can see it. Don’t ignore what you like—try tearing me away from display making, why don’t you—but don’t ignore what makes you mad, either. You may find something new to love.
What do you think fellow hackers? Is there enough indignation among library people? Is there anything that makes you mad?