One of the library profession’s major attractions is the community. Since beginning to pursue this career, I’ve been surprised by the strong community of librarians and information professionals: the unique shared experiences and the unusual passion of such people creates between them a far stronger social bond than I’ve witnessed in any other area.
The nature of library work immediately brings a cornucopia of experiences shared with anyone else in the profession. Information work is filled with strange rituals, interesting characters, and a range of in-jokes: the customers who have only vague details about the book they want (“It has a red cover.”), the patrons who know more than you do about opening times and library procedures, the old men who return paperback Westerns by the shelf-full before returning with piles to check out, the sacrosanct yet completely arbitrary Dewey Classification. As well as this ‘nurture’ aspect, librarians often (but not always) share a ‘nature’: a desire to organise, classify, straighten, and above all read.
Perhaps because of this, librarians and information professionals maintain a vibrant and inclusive blogosphere. http://uklibraryblogs.pbworks.com/ organises and categorises hundreds and library and librarian blogs. A good example of the library bloggers’ community spirit is The Library Routes Project. Little over a week ago, WoodsieGirl blogged about her beginnings as a librarian and in a series of comments, the wikiman developed the idea of collecting people’s library origins. In a matter of days, the wikiman launched The Library Routes Project inviting everyone across the library blog landscape to share their stories. Since launching a few days ago the wiki has collected over 20 people’s experiences.
In my previous life as a philosopher, I experienced the philosophy community – one that is aptly summed by Burke’s Unending Conversation Metaphor. The philosophy community is fun with interesting in-jokes and a penchant for novelty T-shirts but philosophy is essentially a lone pursuit and so the community is essentially an analytic aggregate of individuals rather than a synthetic whole. Prior to discovering librarianship, I dipped into the law community and discovered an ubër-capitalist, quasi-libertarian, ‘every-man-for-himself’ mentality such as that possessed by the contestants on The Apprentice. It left me cold and so I moved from the detached selfishness of lawyerly people to the warm friendliness of library people, a community like none of known before.