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.

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