Thursday 26 December 2013

On control and ownership...

So, somebody recently asked me "So, you're going to be the head of a library, eh? How much power will you really have?" Which I thought was an interesting question - so often, the stereotype of the librarian is that of one who is meticulous about maintaining control and order over their collection, and restricting access to the unwashed masses, lest they corrupt the nature of a perfectly-arranged collection.

And I think there is certainly some element of truth to this - when we study our masters in information management, there's definitely some focus on having a well managed collection that uses a functional system whereby the collection is easily searchable and resources are findable. After all, a library where you can't find what you're looking (regardless of whether it's there or not) is pretty much useless. Like a website that isn't indexed on Google, it may as well not exist!

However, just today, somebody did ask me what I was looking forward to most about moving back to Melbourne in January, and I honestly said, "A new job, where I can take ownership of my work, and have creative control."

Library management isn't an exact science, because you're always working with a unique community. No two libraries will ever be the same for this exact reason. So, managing a collection is a combination of information science and creative thinking. You've always got an audience in mind, just in the same way as if you are creating a piece of art or writing a song, and there is a certain craft involved in developing a collection that will engage and keep a target audience. It's like curating a gallery where the artwork on display is teenage literature and education resources and technology.

So, yes, call me a egotistic control freak - but it won't be for my sake! One thing that I've really enjoyed in my work overseas is finding creative solutions outside the square, and to have a collection and space that I can customise over a long period of time - and ultimately take ownership of - is definitely my idea of a dream job.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Back to the biblioblogosphere...

So. It begins again.

After several years of sojourning about the Asia-Pacific region and slowly attempting to wean myself away from the library industry, I am returning. Permanently. Full-time.

I will also be returning to study, and knocking off my Masters in Information Studies by the end of 2014.

I feel a little like the Prodigal Son. After repeatedly swearing that I would never return, embellished with various obscenities, here I come - a changed person.

The last year has certainly been a challenging and learning experience, with several months doing my show at various festivals, and the rest of my time working as an international development volunteer in Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. It's all been an exercise in creativity, flexibility, resilience, networking, and generally being open to whatever gets thrown at me.

Then this opportunity came my way. In a library. Permanent. Full-time.

And I thought, "Yes. I want to do that." As simple as that.

I think a lot of librarians get caught up in worrying about "what it means to be a librarian". How are librarians perceived in the wider community / industries? What is one's professional obligation as a librarian, and what skills are expected? As a librarian, what things will or won't one do? And then there's all the whole "As a librarian, I want to do X, Y and Z, but my boss won't let me!"

I used to worry about all of that a lot. Call it status anxiety. Call it professional navel-gazing. Call it self-indulgent pontificating. It doesn't matter.

But what I realised is that saying "I'm a librarian" (or an ex-librarian) doesn't actually mean anything, and certainly doesn't achieve anything. I am not defined by my profession qualification, and whilst it qualifies me to do certain things, I'm certainly not entitled to anything.

I am, however, defined by the things that I do. I'm a creator, a reader, an educator, a designer, an information seeker-and-deliverer. I'm a problem solver, a capacity builder, a community developer. I engage with young people. I share the joys of culture and heritage.

This is what matters, whether it be in a theatre, a classroom, a museum, a park, a heritage site...

Or a library.