Coming Full Circle?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time reading, thinking, and writing about the state of libraries and librarianship. This isn’t by accident. After all, I decided to return to school to pursue my MLS because I had a real sense that I was stagnating in my professional life, and I had a general sense of frustration with what I was accomplishing. Many things had become quite routine. I thought going to school would help motivate me to grow and to expand my horizons. I was right that returning to school would do this. I have made an incredible effort to learn more about libraries and about those external forces that affect libraries, to be more aware of current trends and to understand where technology fits in. This has undoubtedly been worth the effort. I sometimes feel quite overwhelmed with it all, but believe that I will be better off for the effort.

However, there has been an interesting consequence to my attempt to broaden my horizons by returning to school. As part of the process of becoming a student again, I have naturally assumed a more subordinate role – a role in which I have expected to learn more from others as opposed to a role in which I educate others. At first glance, this seems to be a normal part of the educational process, especially the formal educational process. But, it seems that I have in many ways taken on the role beyond school. I have been questioning too much, spending too much time researching ideas and concepts and subjugating my own experiential knowledge. I have allowed conversations in the world of library blogs and listservs to make me question myself and what I have accomplished in my professional life. As I think back, this is definitely something that happened after going back to school. Before this point, I was fairly confident in my own abilities and my own knowledge. I was more secure in my place as the technology advocate and expert at my place of work.

My awareness of my recent tendency to subjugate my thoughts and opinions to those of others began when I read the August issue of Cites and Insights by Walt Crawford. Although Walt was not writing about this issue, I was quite struck by the following quote from the On Ethics and Transparency article: “I have faith in my own ethical standards.” A bit later on, I read a blog post entitled Self-Reliance by Laura Cohen on Library 2.0: An Academic’s Perspective. In the post, Laura is arguing that people can’t entirely rely upon others to teach them what they need to know. After reading both pieces, it dawned on me that although I haven’t lost faith in my own skills, I have stopped relying upon that faith in myself. I have allowed the debates surrounding library 2.0, next-generation catalogs, and the like to make me question whether I am being effective or not. This is particularly scary because most of these debates are not grounded in day to day library business. I’m not trying to say that they aren’t important just that they should be taken with several grains of salt. I actually need to unsubscribe from several listservs where these types of debates rage in order to preserve my own sanity.

While I do believe it is important to be able to question one’s thoughts and beliefs and to be open to new ideas, it is possibly more important to be able to have confidence in one’s own position. I do have faith in my own skills, my own ability to judge what is appropriate for my library and my ability to learn from others. I guess that I forgot that for a little while – and maybe this is why I tend to feel so ambivalent about the 2006-2007 academic year (school and work-wise). I may be a library student, but I am also a library professional with a good deal of experience in my field. I guess I allowed the student persona to take over. However, both Walt Crawford and Laura Cohen reminded me about faith in oneself and self reliance. Thanks, I needed that!

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4 Responses to Coming Full Circle?

  1. You’re welcome.

    I’ve seen enough of your thinking and writing to say that you have no excuse for *not* having faith in your own skills and judgment. Questioning is important (and I’ve been doing a lot of it lately), but a core of self-confidence is vital. Without it, how would we learn from you (and we do, we do, at least speaking for myself)?

  2. Jennifer says:

    Thanks again! I agree about the core of self-reliance. I pretty much need to stop allowing my student persona to overshadow my other personas!

  3. Laura Cohen says:

    Jennifer, I’m glad that my post on Self-Reliance was a help to you. I, too, went to library school as an adult (this is not my first career), and I can identify with the feelings you describe.

    Even without the factor of school, I think it’s a neat trick to be grounded confidently in one’s job while also grappling with the uncertain ground of change. I spent the past week on a big project with EZproxy, and also blogged on a futuristic topic. It can be dizzying!

    I think one can measure “effectiveness” in a variety of ways. Staying intellectually engaged in professional issues is really important and in fact can lead to a type of confidence that’s empowering. I second Walt’s sentiment that you have every reason to have faith in yourself.

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