What can a lens of newness afford us?

Today we welcome a post by Jennifer Jarson as part of our collaboration with ACRLog (the blog of the Association of College and Research Libraries). Jennifer Jarson is the Head Librarian at Penn State Lehigh Valley. Her research interests include information literacy pedagogy and student learning assessment, as well as issues regarding communication and collaboration.

I’ve been a librarian for 12+ years now. I recently took a new job and am almost two months into it. While it’s been a long time since anyone could reasonably call me a “new librarian,” I’m definitely new to this position, this library, and this institution.

All this newness can be exhausting. When so many things are new, it can feel like an uphill battle to simultaneously learn responsibilities and identify priorities, to understand how things fit together, to make connections and develop collaborations. There’s so much to learn, so much to do. It’s understandable to long for the days ahead in which we feel a little more settled, a little more knowledgeable. It can be hard to remember that, for all its challenges, being new is also an opportunity and a strength.

What can newness afford us? It can feel like a license to ask questions, rather than rely on past experience, assumptions, and preconceived notions. The shine and enthusiasm of newness can energize us. It can spark conversations and partnerships. Newness can offer us fresh eyes on long-standing challenges.

But newness wears off. We get a little more settled, a little more knowledgeable. And thank goodness. (Did I mention the part about exhausting?) Yet remembering what it’s like to be new, long after we no longer are, offers valuable perspective. It’s useful to recall what it feels like to be an outsider; it helps us see our resources, systems, procedures, and spaces from our users’ viewpoints. Maintaining, even cultivating, a lens of newness helps us relate to, translate for, and connect with our users and stakeholders across divides. This lens offers us a vantage point we can’t afford to lose.

What does being new help you to see? How do you cultivate a lens of newness once the shine has worn off? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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