inevitable?

I often ask whomever is around me–usually fellow librarians–whether or not, as I age, becoming a bitter, stick-in-the-mud, clueless librarian is inevitable.

I worry about this. I worry about this every time I turn in a lackluster story-time performance, every time I get another idea shot down, every time I sit through another boring, same old same old presentation or workshop. In thirty years, will I be railing against the dad gummed toucher screeners, bemoaning the loss of my keyboard and mouse? Will I be passing off any tech or pop culture related questions to my savvier coworkers? Will I be constantly afraid of anything new and different?

I don’t want this to happen to me. I feel like I do a pretty good job of keeping up with new trends and tools. Yeah, it took me a while to figure out twitter, but eventually I made it work for me, and even though this blog isn’t that old, I’ve been reading library blogs since 2006. With the wealth of professional journals, books and blogs that exist for librarians it is pretty hard to remain ignorant of changes in technology, media and practices these days.

A colleague of mine, who is a generation apart from myself, read this article in School Library Journal and promptly (well…after awhile) began talking about creating her own personal learning network:

[…] How many of your colleagues graduated from library school more than 20 years ago? Remember what the landscape looked like in 1989? How do we stay one step ahead of our staff and students in information accessing, evaluation, use, and communication in order to be seen as experts and collaborators? […]  Librarians must be able to retool and stay ahead of teachers and students. We believe that librarians cannot adequately retool if they do not develop PLNs (personal or professional learning networks).

Suddenly she was asking me about gmail and google and twitter and all sorts of those gooey 2.0 resources. Our department had recently started using g-cal to schedule programs and meetings, so becoming more familiar with the googleplex of google products was definitely a savvy and timely professional move

I was filled with renewed hope that in twenty years, I could be more like her and less like…well…we’ve all seen them, those long-time professionals who have lost touch. I worked with a librarian once whose computer starting ritual involved banging the mouse against the desk with the force of someone banging a Victorian door knocker.

If you’re reading this, most likely you’re not the one with currency issues. Rather, you’re working with a librarian who passes off the hard questions and never seems to know what is going on. What can you do about it? Not much, really. As Dorothy Parker wrote, “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” You can offer to help out of touch coworkers, but if they don’t want to learn something, you can’t make them. You can do what you can to make sure that your supervisor is aware that this person isn’t fulfilling some of their essential job functions, but you have to be careful–if you do it in the wrong way, you’ll come off as a bitter complainer even if the issues you bring up are valid.

Do you ever feel like you’re out of touch? What do you do to keep up with the changes in the profession? Do you know any librarians who have given up? How do you deal with them?

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4 thoughts on “inevitable?

  1. The main thing is how you respond when you hear about something new. Some people roll their eyes/throw up their hands/drop head to desk and say plaintively, “I just can’t keep up with all this newfangled stuff!” Others say, “I’ve never heard of that. Tell me about it,” or look it up and try it out. They are open to the new stuff and how it might be cool or useful. I’m going to try to always be the latter. Now that I’m in my 30s (was in my 20s when I started as a librarian, 23 when I started teaching middle school), I’m much more aware that I’m getting older.

  2. As long as you are asking that question you are unlikely to be irrelevant. This that can’t keep up probably never did. They had one thing they liked about their job and just wanted to do that. It’s a different attitude, instead of a dedication to service, it’s a dedication to selfish. Great blog by the way.

  3. If you commit yourself to learning something new everyday – from co-workers (at all levels and all ages; patrons; colleagues in the community, region and country; blogs, tweets; friendfeed; journals; listservs – you never grow stale and there is always another corner to turn; hill to be climbed; child to be reached and parent to be convinced. I’ve been doing it for 34 years and I’m no where near done!

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