Monday, June 13, 2011

Open to the unknown

 (Cross posted to Quit Taking It Personally. Sorry if anyone is offended by the duplication.)

Today's #Trust30 prompt by Jonathan Fields asks: “What alternative opportunities, interpretations and paths am I not seeing?” In a field facing potentially drastic changes, librarianship, this is extremely relevant for me. So rather than defining myself as a librarian or information specialist, person, whatever it is, I have to ask, what do I like to do, what am I good at, what new abilities might I want to acquire? Maybe I don't know the answers to any of these questions right now.

Take computing. I had great difficulty using a computer when I was younger, had to rely on help from my father to pass a math course, or from more skilled peers just to type a college essay into a word processor. I knew nothing of commands or programming, could barely play games even, and for me a computer was little more than a sophisticated typewriter.

This all changed with the world wide web, software developed to browse it and information placed on remote servers for me to find using these tools to help me in my library work and answer questions for the people I served as well as for my own personal interest. And all this was completely unknown to me several years before, I could not have conceived of it, even as others were working hard to turn it into reality. And what followed has been a long fascination with information discovery on the internet. Finding. I think of the Latin word invenio, I find, I come upon, from which comes our word "invent."

So the path for me in the future may or may not involve a library building. It may involve skills used in finding and organizing and presenting information, connecting people with people and information, or it may be something I haven't even thought or heard of. My colleague Bill Mayer is known to say that the distinction between the library and IT in organizations or the distinction between the library and the network is dissolving. In a place, be it a business, educational institution or municipality, where these things are conundrums, this can present an opportunity for someone interested in information and knowledge, making things accessible for people and putting them to use. And I once worked with a scientist who told me it was my job to make myself obsolete, and if I did, and did it well, there would potentially be other opportunities and rewarding work for me. I believe he is right.

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