As someone who finds it quite cathartic to come clean about their past misdemeanours, I will admit that I have, in the past, purposely missed events and conferences because I either a) Couldn’t be mithered getting up early on a Saturday morning, b) Was too much of a scaredy cat to go and walk into a room of unknowns, or c) Actually didn’t care that much about improving my professional practice.
Thankfully, I have changed a lot since those days of, almost career level standard, indifference and fear. Now I am reasonably happy to go along to whatever is about, and I am all the better for it, because sometimes what can seem like a completely innocuous comment can completely alter my perception of a situation or a problem. I can think of something myself and 99% believe in it, but when someone else says what you’ve been thinking all along then, for me, it solidifies. Or, perhaps, someone will approach an idea from a completely different angle and you think to yourself, ‘Well, I’d never quite thought of it that way before’. That is what I find one of the best things about speaking to other professionals.
What did I learn from this event? Well, it led me to make some decisions. When I am work I am pretty decisive and I think people can waste an extraordinary amount of time umming and ahhing about what they should do about this or that. Not me, I like to keep meetings as short as possible. Away from that, particularly when in regards to making career decisions, I am constantly changing my mind. I am a natural over thinker – every single situation and scenario is run round my head over and over, including awful, terrible scenarios I probably best not mention. However, after Ned Potter’s highly engaging talk about Life, Librarianship and Everything, I felt a lot clearer in my mind about a few things (after taking some time to think, obviously).
I also enjoyed the honesty of Ned, and some of the other speakers, in terms of being open about ‘taboo’ things. I, like Ned, don’t actually find libraries all that interesting really in terms of the physical space. If I visit a beautiful library like Chetham’s or John Rylands I am obviously impressed, but I feel no more or less impressed about it because it is a library, only that it is a stunning building. My exception to this would be hyper-modern libraries because I think what they offer in terms of flexibility of space and improved facilities can, if done well, enhance the learning experience. Alan Gilbert Learning Commons is a good example of that. For me, I like the endeavour of librarians over the physical stock. I love books, I love the smell of books, I love the look and texture of books but I don’t feel the need to ‘protect’ books from the rise of the digital format. I’m interested in learning and I’m interested in information and, fundamentally, people having access to information as freely and easily as possible.
Ned made another confession that he didn’t think that librarians can change the world. Well, that is so right. I used to joke about with people that, because I was a librarian I literally knew everything and if I didn’t then I’d know how to find it. That’s bollocks, isn’t it? If I truly believed that we, as a profession, could answer all of life’s questions then I think I would become that off grid spoon whittler from the advert. Okay, I am being extreme here, but I do think we spend a lot of time (speaking generally here) bigging ourselves up as a profession and getting cross when people accuse us of ‘just stamping books all day’. Fine, that isn’t true, but we all generalise about careers in some way. People do not understand our profession. But neither do we really understand any other until we are inside it and learning about it. We need to waste less time venting off to each other that ‘boo hoo, people don’t appreciate me, I’m not being used to my full ability, they want to replace me with a volunteer/RFID machine/robot’. I did that, I’ve had a word with myself, and I’m doing something about it. Use the tools we have available and start doing something different to show your worth. I’m starting small – I’m finding my way in the profession and seeing where I fit. Then, after that, I’m going to save the world. Joke.
Ned asked that we do something different after the session, something that I wasn’t going to do anyway, and that is that I am not going to be frightened to change my path a little bit and upset the status quo to potentially achieve a better result. I think when you’re on a career path you’ve got to enjoy the journey, but I don’t think you should be content to have it all in comfort. I think it was quite telling when, after speaking to three groups about the realities of school librarianship, I asked if the other speakers they’d heard from had been positive about their sectors. They had, And I wasn’t. This is no criticism of my employer (who I have enjoyed hugely working with the last few years), or of other school librarians who do sterling work but a realisation that it’s not quite right for me at this time. I spoke in my last entry about how I’d thought of chucking it all in or being tempted to train as a teacher because I was trying to fit myself in a puzzle I don’t fit. Now I’ve realised that I can begin to move on.
Well, that was all very epic. I know I’ve spoken mainly about Ned and his talk but I’d like to thank all the other speakers for also giving me plenty of food for thought. Open Access is something I seem to find more and more interesting the more I learn about it, but I will save that for another day! Thank you to the ladies at NLPN for putting together another wonderful event, If you are local to the North West I would HIGHLY recommend attending one of their events. They’re free, they’re fabulous and they’re funky.
Until my next epiphany…