Sunday, 4 October 2009

"The Information Fraternity."

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.

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