Tag Archives: professional growth and development

Librarians in Cars Driving Places

29 Mar

Have you ever watched the web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee? It’s a funny show created by the very funny comedian, Jerry Seinfeld. Much like his classic television show, it’s kind of about nothing – just Jerry and some talented and funny comedians riding around in vintage cars, having coffee, and talking about whatever. I like it.

I also like The Late Late Show’s host, James Corden’s, carpool karaoke bits where he picks up famous folks and they ride around singing to songs on the radio. (My all-time favorite is the one with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Honestly … LAUGH OUT LOUD funny! I had to watch it again while writing this. Excuse the snickers.) 

And then there’s the sportswriter, Tony Kornheiser’s daily podcast, This Show Stinks. I started listening to it early this year during my afternoon walks. For many years, Kornheiser wrote a column in the Washington Post. Whenever it was about the Washington Redskins, my grandmother clipped it out and sent it to me. I’ve been a fan ever since. I love the podcast because it centers on discussions around sports, politics, culture, odd news stories. A regular, rotating crew of columnists, politicos, sports people, movie critics, and more join in for what’s always an entertaining hour or so. 

I think the common thread of interest for me is that each of these venues allows me to be something of a voyeur, a fly on the wall of the room (or car) with people I wouldn’t mind hanging out with. They’re always smart and funny and they create these shows that allow me to feel like I’m part of the group. Even when I’m clearly not. Not in that league. Not by a long shot.

ozarkland

Fish hat. Ozarkland. Yes!!

I was thinking about Comedians in Cars this morning while walking my dog. I got to thinking about a few times when I’ve been riding in cars with other librarians and how those drives turned out to be as interesting and fun as any of these shows or podcasts. I remembered the time that Kristi Holmes, Director of the Galter Health Sciences Library at Northwestern University, and I rode all the way across Missouri together. At the time, Kristi was working at the Becker Medical Library at Washington University in St. Louis. We were both attending a conference in Kansas City, so I flew into St. Louis, Kristi picked me up at the airport, and we drove across the state together. On the way to Kansas City, we stopped off at the fantastically awesome, Ozarkland, and laughed ourselves silly at all of the kitchy souvenirs. On the way back, we stopped off at a for-real western wear store where I bought my very first pair of boots. Kristi grew up on a ranch. She was the perfect guide for this shopping adventure. And in between, we talked and talked. And we became friends.

Another time, early in my stint at the Lamar Soutter Library, I was invited to give a talk at  Cape Cod Community College. Donna Berryman, Senior Associate Director at the Edward G. Miner Library, University of Rochester, was the Outreach Coordinator for the New England Regional Medical Library (NN/LM, NER) at the time, thus we were co-workers. Donna also had to attend this event at CCCC, so we rode along together. We talked about libraries, librarianship, books, movies, our lives, our families, where we were from, how we grew up… in other words, in those hours in her car, we also became friends. Life-long friends.

I guess that I was thinking about these experiences this morning because I recently engaged in an online discussion about the importance of professional organizations. They’re dwindling, in case you were unaware. Membership is down at every level – national organizations, regional organizations, state and local organizations – and for a variety of reasons. If you, like me, have long been involved in a professional organization, particularly in leadership roles, you’ve likely felt the pressure that comes with trying to maintain an organization with fewer and fewer resources, as well as struggling with the emotional feeling of “we’re failing.” 

But we’re not failing. We’re changing, but not failing. The trick is to get in front of (or ride) the change in such a way as to prevent failure, i.e. change in ways to remain relevant, important, worth the investment of people’s scarce time and money. That’s the challenge.

My adventures riding in cars with librarians strikes at the heart of what professional networks and professional organizations are all about – relationships. Though I don’t work in a medical or health sciences library anymore, I maintain the professional relationships that I developed through car rides, meetings, shared office space, virtual spaces, and social media because they are invaluable. They provide every opportunity for support, professional growth, sounding boards, collegial spirit, and yes … friendship.

I think it’s really difficult to translate to anyone new to a profession (or even one who’s been at it awhile and sees the retirement door ahead) the value of the relationships that come from sharing a profession – from sharing rides in cars, both literally and figuratively. But I believe maybe it’s something that those of us invested in organizations need to work on, if we want to hang around awhile longer. Going it alone is hard and it’s also not the best thing for the overall health of a profession. People together makes a profession.

Old Dogs and New Licks

1 Oct

freemandolinvideos.com

[A quick reflection.]

I went to mandolin camp this past weekend; a 3-day festival of jamming and lessons and ensemble practice. I came home with sore fingers, tired hands, and a renewed passion for sitting down every single day to practice. We’ll see how long that last one lasts. I’ve been to camp 5 years now, each time amazed at the collection of folks who sign up for the fun with me. It’s a rotating crowd. There are always a few familiar faces, but the majority of campers are first-timers. The majority are also … older.

This keeps happening to me. More and more, I go to concerts and say to my spouse, “Why are all of these old people here?” I go to mando camp and say to myself, “I’ve got to be the youngest person here.” BUT then I am reminded by Lynn OR I remember myself, I’m not 25 years old any more, either. If I stop and really pay attention, the people at the concerts are indeed older because I am older, too. Mandolin camp actually was populated by a good number of folks with a couple of decades or more on me, but as I thought about it longer, I stopped wondering what they were doing there and more, started being inspired by their being there. I can only hope that 25 years from now, I’m still heading off to camp, mandolin in tow, looking forward to late-night picking parties. What could be better in life?

For a good number of years now, we’ve been hearing the cries from our professional leadership about the aging librarian workforce and the dearth of young professionals to fill the gaps. (Note: I don’t personally buy the “dearth” argument.) At the same time, we hear the calls for existing professionals, middle-aged and/or on the downward slope to retirement, to change, evolve, become willing to accept new roles and learn new skills, regardless of one’s point in his/her career (see Julie McGowan’s piece in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of the Medical Library Association, for one of the newer reviews on the topic).

Those thoughts in mind, what I saw at  mandolin camp applies to academic and health sciences librarians today. If you have ever tried to play a musical instrument you know at least two things:

  1. It is never easy.
  2. You never master it.

There were adults of all ages 50 and up at camp, and all with different skill levels. Some folks have been playing for years. Some picked up the mandolin last week. Some know lots about music (reading it, writing it, arranging it). Others know only how to pick out a tune by ear. Some know every place on the fret board to find every single configuration of a G chord possible. Others can lay down two fingers on the E and A strings, and make do. In other words, everybody at camp had something to learn. Everybody at camp had room to grow as a player.

The same holds true for librarians. Age is a mindset, to a good degree. As is the willingness to grow and change. Maybe we need to love our work as much as campers love the mandolin, to keep coming back to it again and again and again, with a willingness to keep learning and keep changing. The good news is that most librarians that I know DO love their profession. I’m hard-pressed to think of a single colleague that I may have ever heard say, “I can’t stand being a librarian.” It’s a career that people are drawn to for many reasons, but almost all of them are rooted in some passion or love for the work. That passion, coupled with the willingness to accept that it’s not easy to change and we’ll never master our profession, will take us far.