black and white photograph of two archways at the end of a long hall

“Life begins at forty”

at least, according to Walter B. Pitkin, 1932

At some point in the past few years, I crossed a professional threshold. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but as I look at the field I see myself as from a former era. I’ve been transferred out of the new guard. I am not concerned. Not ashamed. Not anxious about it. I simply notice it. The foundations of my graduate work, my professional experience (especially in the early years), and the ethical lens through which I view my work is distinctly different from what I’m seeing in folks coming out of MLIS programs and who are driving the most impactful work in libraries today.

Don’t misunderstand me: I am here for it. The ability to frequently move between subjects and learn new things was the most attractive aspect of pursuing a career in academic librarianship. It still is to some extent. But the assumption that my colleagues will share like, or at least translatable, perspectives on our work is no longer a given. Not by a long shot. It feels different than it did when I was traveling more in professional conference circles circa the early 2010s. No, I don’t suggest I’m unique in this regard: I acknowledge that anyone in any field of study will reach this place at some point. I only observe that I am reaching it now. 

This realization has me thinking about thresholds. I’ve crossed many in the past decade: parenthood, management, and home ownership. The loss of a pet. Having to leave a job you love. The first (but not the last) major health crisis. I’ve just completed my first full decade as a capital-L librarian making the span of my career, for the first time, more librarian than not. Which prompts the question: what’s next? 

What I’m reading

Maggie Hicks on private colleges and free speech: “Some private colleges are limiting how and where students can protest, put up posters, or hold events on controversial topics. Unlike public universities, private colleges have more leeway when it comes to actions that might limit free speech. This is dangerous, said one faculty member interviewed: ‘Without alternative places to hold events, he said, students lose the opportunity to encounter views outside of their own. People need spaces where they can express their views passionately, through events like demonstrations and in controlled environments like a panel or classroom, he said.'”

Ezra Klein on ditching email: And taking a more intentional approach to email. Personally, I still use gmail but I no longer save any email there. My inbox (and my archive) are completely empty. If I receive information that needs to be saved, I move it to a better storage location (e.g., my calendar, files, reminders, etc.). 

Anne Helen Peterson on Moms for Liberty: “And what [the Moms for Liberty are] doing is undercutting the professionalism of librarians and teachers and people who work with children every single day. And not just your child, but lots of different children.” Moms for Liberty are a scourge. It’s not just their ignorance about how education works, but the hubris that makes them assume they know more about what’s best for children than the people who are actually trained, educated, and have years of experience understanding not just their kids, but all our kids’ needs. 

Ted Gioia on attention and technology: “These addictive and compulsive behaviors are troubling. But even more disturbing is how the largest corporations in the world are investing billions in promoting and accelerating this compulsive use of their tech tools.”

And finally: Further proof that tardigrades are the most metal of all creatures.

Garden update

white daisies in foreground with pink yarrow in background

While my daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths have all since flowered and are working their way towards another 9 months of dormancy, the flowers I planted and cut back last winter are in the fullest bloom. Snapdragons, daisies, corn cockles, yarrow, and pincushion flowers are at their most stunning this month. In starter pots, I have ageratum, cosmos, and white marigolds from seed sprouting. 

Links to the past

  • 2 years ago: While my literature review project never took off, I still maintain that “institutional isomorphic forces” drive most of academic libraries’ use of social media. 
  • 5 years ago: I was with colleagues sharing the results of our survey on librarian-parent stereotypes, and apparently freezing my ass off.
  • 10 years ago: Our worries about discovery tools were so quaint back then. Also, we’re still dealing with it.

Overheard online

Hey if you want to see more composite organisms made of algae and fungi in a symbiotic relationship, know what you have to do? Lichen subscribe. 😎

woodsiegirl on Mastodon

header image credit: Nationaal Archief on flickr

Obviously, academics read professional literature at work. It isn’t so obvious for academic librarians. Even less so for academic librarians without a tenure track.

At MPOW, librarians are eligible for promotion under a process that mimics tenure in everything but name and includes “conducting research [and] developing creative projects”. So it seems only reasonable to spend some at-work time reviewing the professional literature, conference proceedings, recent webinars, etc. Nonetheless, I have trouble sitting in my office (or anywhere else) to read. Too many other things battle for my attention (like students!).

Academic librarians: how do you overcome this feeling?