It’s crazy to think that I’m finally writing my farewell post. It’s even crazier to think that I’ve written over two dozen posts for Hack Library School because I applied to be a contributing writer at the end of my first of three years at the University of Washington. As thankful as I am for being offered this opportunity, I’m also happy to be done with just another part of library school.
Throughout these years, I’ve learned so much from my classmates, coworkers, and other contributing writers. Here are my parting thoughts in libraries based on what I’ve learned so far:
-How are we going to learn from this pandemic to prepare for the next one? While many libraries remain closed or partially open, my library reopened in May 2020. Now, we’re essentially back to “normal” operations. Yet, a majority of continuing education webinars remain focused on altering services while the physical building is closed. Should we not be already evaluating what worked and what belly flopped as we tried to find a temporary normal?
-Advocacy is exhausting. I’m sure many of you readers have been forced to defend your profession or library degree. Once we’re graduates, we’ll have to continue defending our choice and explaining why libraries are still relevant. Work on your elevator speeches now with added information on how libraries have continued to support their patrons and students during a pandemic. These rehearsed but honest speeches make for easy ways to answer the question and then exit the situation before expending more of your energy. Even at the national level, advocacy efforts continue to struggle. President Biden’s infrastructure plan does not include funding for libraries, yet libraries are doing more and more to support the growth of our communities. Take some time to contact your elected officials about the Build America’s Libraries Act!
-The all-virtual school environment allowed me to take my very first synchronous course during my last quarter. The course itself is extremely interesting, but I wasn’t prepared for the added Zoom fatigue, increased stress from having to leave work to log in to class on time, and the short time to digest the information for immediate discussion with the rest of the class. As you look at future courses to take, make sure you prepare for the difference between synchronous and asynchronous courses.
-From EDI resource lists to talking about structural racism and microaggressions in LIS, as well as a five-part series aimed at BIPOC students, Hack Library School shows that its current and past contributing writers are dedicated to EDI and social justice principles. Yet, consistent posts on library social media and safe spaces for BIPOC show that those principles don’t make it into every institution. Having working on the Wyoming Library Association’s EDI committee to create its first EDI statement, I learned that not everyone agrees with EDI and social justice goals. At what point does the gas run out of our emotional labor tank? As a Person of Color, I tend to take it upon myself to work on these issues in my own library and in the Wyoming library community. Unfortunately, my gas tank is almost running on fumes. Graduates, we need to support each other as we work on correcting past injustices that spill into the lives of our communities.
-As the world gets back to “normal,” will library services follow suit? Searching through posts in the Programming Librarian Interest Group, I noticed that many libraries are keeping “take and make” kits and hybrid programming even as life returns to normal. While loved by patrons, balancing these new additions with adding back regular services may be a heavy burden on staff. Advocacy here means knowing your limits and realizing that you can’t do it all. Likewise, will physical material checkouts get back to pre-pandemic levels? Collection budgets may have been able to handle increased digital use when that was the option, but as patrons return to the building and resume physical checkouts, budgets may not keep up with the demand of both.
Thank you, readers, for these amazing two years. Hopefully these parting thoughts gave you some perspective or made you think about your own future and the future of library services. For those graduating this year, I wish you well on your future endeavors! As for me, I still have a few weeks left in this quarter. Eventually, we’ll all be able to say we walked across that graduation stage, virtual or otherwise.
Conrrado is an online MLIS student at the University of Washington iSchool and an Adult Services Specialist at the Natrona County Library.