Tuesday 6 June 2023

I want to be where the people are...

It was at a job interview early last year, where one of the panelists asked me, "Do you miss working in libraries?"

It wasn't a question that I was expecting, but it's one that I do ask myself from time to time. Librarians are often great champions for libraries and the role that libraries can and should play in society, but they can also be the worst detractors - for all sorts of reasons. It's true that familiarity breeds contempt, and it can become so easy to get disillusioned, whether it's at the sometimes-blatant social and cultural biases that libraries can represent, or their seeming impotence in this amazing age of information, or their inability to demonstrate the kind of value proposition that they should to our funders and budget makers.

Of course, the same can be said for many of our cultural institutions. It's certainly not just libraries.

That said, now that I've been expanding my experience as a communications professional around the cultural sector over the past three and a half years, there is something that I have come to miss: the people who create a sense of professional community.

When I was a new graduate, many years ago, there was a thriving online network of library and information professionals, who would regularly blog - and later tweet - sharing stories, supporting one another, firing up about professional issues, provoking and disrupting where necessary. We'd inevitably gravitate to one another at every ALIA conference, and those online connections turned into IRL connections. We'd go off on adventures around the world, and crash on each other's couches, and have long cups of coffee discussing all the world's problems and how we could address them in our work.

And I do miss that.

Since moving into that somewhat nebulous field of "communications", I've been keeping an eye out for a similar professional community. I don't know if it's just not there, if I'm looking in the wrong places, or I'm just in the wrong city, but so far I haven't found "my peeps" in the same way that I did in the library and information profession.

It's made me come to better appreciate the value of professional associations, such as IFLA, ALIA, AMaGA, etc in providing opportunities to create that kind of community amongst likeminded professionals. Without these opportunities in our professional lives, we run the risk of just becoming solitary workers - not necessarily engaged with progressing our professional practice, or pushing for change in our cultural sectors.

So - I'm setting a challenge to myself. I need to do more work to find my new peeps in this sector, and make a more concerted effort to actively network better, and if necessary, travel to those places where I'll become more engaged with a professional community.

No comments:

Post a Comment