Friday, 3 September 2010

Taking the blinkers off


Writing a dissertation is like trying to land a plane hurtling towards the earth. You desperately wrestle with the controls, try to rein it in to do what you want it do, and eventually you just want to get it on the ground even if it’s not in one piece when it gets there. Right now, I feel like I’m emerging from the semi-smouldering remains of an imperfect but landed dissertation.
My Masters dissertation is more or less complete and I suddenly see how much I’ve neglected over the past few months. I devoted myself to the project because, through incredible good fortune and the support of my supervisor, I was allowed to pursue a topic I’m heavily invested in. My dissertation is about consilience: the subject of my undergraduate dissertation and, in my opinion, the most important idea no-one has ever heard of. Basically I outline a digital library system that would aim to aid academic collaboration and help to achieve consilience. FYI, the research suggests – spoiler alert! – that the system is technically possible within 10-20 years: if anyone’s interested, I can send you a copy when it’s 100%-ed.
Some people are able to take on multiple tasks: Ian who works, dissertates, is a father, and does amazing amounts of library advocacy; Lauren who finished her dissertation while saving Doncaster’s public libraries. I have enormous respect for anyone who can do that much. I tend to be more single-minded, doggedly pursuing a task to the finish and wearing blinkers while doing it.
Last night, I read this piece about young librarians claiming the profession and directing it towards the future. And I realise that all these months writing my dissertation, I’ve been working on my own: trying to improve the library and information sector in a small way.
But there are threats towards libraries that we can’t face on our own: threats that are going to face today’s new professionals. We need to work together to shape the library and information profession’s future and keep what we love intact. Only together can we fight the onslaught on public sector cuts and Cameron’s hordes of volunteers. Only together can we work to keep information free and keep access to digital resources open. Only together can we shape libraries into what we want them to be. To do that, the community of new professionals need to get involved, to participate in the conversation, and to meet up.
So now that the blinkers of my dissertation have been removed, I intend to work on my professional development. I want to teach myself to work with people rather than on my own. And I can’t think of a better bunch of people to work with than the library community. 


Edit: Well, this is excellent. Two enterprising new professionals have organised LISNPN meet-ups in Manchester and London on the 23rd of September.

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