Two years ago today, I decided to become a librarian. This milestone seems to invite a self-reflective post about what I’ve done, what I’ve learned, and where I’m going in Year Three. And so, WARNING: this post offers no useful insights into anything except myself. It’s an onanistic exercise that I don’t expect will offer anything to anyone. Normal service will be resumed shortly.
|Borges' Library of Babel. My favourite short story.|
- Finished my dissertation and thereby gained my Masters degree
- Got a Distinction in aforementioned Masters degree
- Moved into my own flat and lived on my own for the first time
- Survived a year in my first professional post
- (Survived a week living on an Army base as part of my training!)
- Took over as Acting Manager (managing a whole friggin’ library)
- Had two articles published on The Guardian’s Comment is Free
- Had an article published in CILIP Update
- Became a member of Voices for the Library
- Campaigned for North Yorkshire’s libraries (met MPs, talked at community meetings, helped out local campaign groups)
- Did several interviews for BBC Radio
- Presented at the CILIP Library and Information History Group Conference
- Helped to run a stall at the Hay Festival
- Co-presented a workshop at the New Professionals Conference
- Met dozens of awesome library folk and other tweeters
It feels great to have accomplished so much but it’s also overwhelming. If someone had told me one year ago that I was going to do all the things listed above, I would never have believed them. In a self-congratulatory, egocentric way, I’m amazed that I’ve been able to do all those things. In particular, the campaigning, the activism, and the interacting with people (so many people!) are things that I never would have believed I could do.
Part of this is to do with self-definition and self-identity. It’s only since I decided to become a librarian two years ago that I’ve really put my skills to use. But my identity – the Simon I see in my head – was forged in the wilderness years of 16-22 when I came to define myself as a gawky, socially-inept, eternally-confused philosophy student who had vague dreams of making a living by writing but who otherwise had no place in a world of materialism and banality. This was a childish expression of individuality and egoism: the youthful belief that one is unique and that no-one else could possibly feel the same way about reality. Nevertheless, that is the identity that was created and that I still project onto myself today. And so, the point I’m trying laboriously to make, is that the Simon in my head – Simon the geek, Simon the philosopher, Simon the (dare I say) loser – doesn’t match the Simon who is the progenitor of the accomplishments listed above – Simon the librarian, Simon the activist, Simon the (dare I say) success.
So along with the sense of pride at the accomplishments of Year Two, there’s a strange cognitive dissonance whereby, on a logical level, I have evidence of what I’m capable of but on an emotional level, I don’t feel capable to have done those things. Mingled with all this, there’s the odd recurring fear that in my transition from Simon-the-loser to Simon-the-success something valuable has been lost: some indefinable quality – perhaps innocence, perhaps potential – that has been lost as I have ‘regenerated’.
The big eye-opener lesson of last year therefore is that I am more capable than I ever thought. What now? Where am I going and what am I doing? This kind of self-reflection is also kind of terrifying. It feels like the bar has now been set for what I can achieve and there’s a certain amount of egocentric internal pressure to either match or surpass the accomplishments of Year Two.
As my writing about digital libraries suggests, I’d like to find a job working with digital libraries, repositories, or electronic collection management, ideally in an academic library where my work can help academic research. I want to continue writing: about library-related stuff and it would also be nice to pick up my fiction writing which has somewhat fallen by the wayside. I want to continue my library activism: I was nervous when I first joined Voices for the Library but it’s become one of the most rewarding aspects of my career.
Broadly speaking, I want to continue doing what I’m doing. I love librarianship and I’m happy working at it. Immediately after that graduate trainee interview two years ago today, I knew that this was what I wanted to do and I readjusted the course of my life to do it but I never expected it to be so rewarding and so fulfilling. A profession that lets me help people, that allows me to meet inspiring people, that gives me access to amazing books and amazing technology, that gives me the opportunity to write and have people read what I write, that lets me be logical, organised, and pedantic. Who could ask for more than that?
On to Year Three...