I am a researcher and an over-preparer, and I am generally pretty quick on my intellectual feet. But a question at an interview this week (for my dream job, eek!) really threw me for a loop.
That question (a good one to remember for my fellow job seekers), was definitely not on any of the preparation lists I had cobbled together from friends, colleagues, supervisors, and library school professors. The committee asked: “After preparing for this interview and touring the library, what about the services or facility would you change?”
And reader, I stumbled. That one question both threw me for a loop in the interview scenario and has inspired some serious self-reflection.
Quite honestly, I want to change it all. I want to be a part of broader social/library progress that re-prioritizes indigenous ways of knowing, embodied knowledge, and the intellectual work of skilled trades and other knowledge pathways…. But I also really want this tenure-track faculty librarian job! I am passionate about the work, the students, and even the institution itself. But to me, dissent is the highest form of patriotism, and I can promise I will never stop questioning and pushing to do better, be better. Threading the needle of conveying my passion for the work with the strong opinions of a critically oriented, feminist, constructivist wannabe librarian has been a challenge. I often wonder what is scholarly information, but an extremely privileged form of communication? And why do we prioritize it over all other knowledge pathways in our “information literacy” instruction? I may have cultivated a specific skill in searching for certain types of information, but I know my students will have more to teach me than I will ever be able to share with them.
The interview question prompted me to reflect on the broader questions and conversations in our profession. How do I square my bell hooks inspired critical perspective with the very real vigor I have for the work? For all my questions (I come by them naturally) and concerns about some of the foundations and undercurrents in librarianship and academia, I truly love this work. I feel grateful every day that I have found the right kind of labor for me. All I really want out of a good day’s work is to be intellectually challenged and to feel like I helped someone. Librarianship affords me the opportunity to do that, and more, every day.
My actual answer definitely played it safe. I spoke about encouraging students to use spaces that I had been specifically told were underutilized when I was given a tour of the building. (I also have no idea how critically reflexive they are in their work and would never presume that others are not wrestling with the very same issues.) Ultimately though, it is not a question I will soon forget.
Even in writing this post I’m a bit terrified that the search committee may read this before making their decision, but I certainly would not publish if I thought I needed to bury my perspective. I am who I am as a person, and as a librarian. And, I will work my butt off to get tenure so it might be better for any committee to know what they’re in for before being stuck with me for the long haul.
Librarianship is, for me, “work that is real.”