After reading countless articles on the importance of branding myself as an information professional, which includes increasing my use of social networking sites, I am finally getting around to creating a blog – although I am certain that no one will read it.
As I prepare to end my first year as an LIS student I am uncertain as to my future in a profession that seems uncertain of itself. I suppose I feel that my LIS education thus far has been a bit of an enigma, or perhaps, better yet, I find myself to be conflicted as to what I hope to gain and what I hope to give to the profession. I began my LIS degree with high hopes and a nativity that I am afraid may have influenced my decision to go back to school in the first place. I already have a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies and can honestly say I very much enjoyed my graduate interdisciplinary studies, and even enjoy the thesis writing process more than I wanted to let on, however when I completed my MA a year ago I was relieved to be done and excited to have some free time to myself again. This excitement only lasted about six months before I began contemplating my future and suddenly I had a realization – I love to read, I love to learn, I love research, why not become a librarian?! Seriously, I am not exaggerating here, that was my thought process. Even more so, I began to think of how much fun it would be, maybe even romantic, to work in archives and to explore the hidden depths of the greatest minds in the world through their writings. How wonderful it would be to surround myself with ancient manuscripts while searching for some hidden gem or clue all while making a name for myself as a great historical archivist and author – because of course I will use my work in archives to find research for the historical novel I have been “writing” for the past ten years. It all made perfect sense.
That was until I began my LIS degree last fall.
It took no time at all to realize that the future of the profession is transitioning and that if I hope to be relevant, or even employable, then I need to embrace the change and make it my own. But what exactly does that mean for someone who naively wanted to be an archivist? Well, for starters, it involved declaring my concentration in digital libraries. This acknowledgment was actually less painful, and more obvious, than I thought it would be. For as much as I love research and learning, I love even more the comfort of conducting this research in the privacy of my own home. The extensive list of sources I complied for my MA thesis were all located from my home office, on my home computer, not in the university’s expansive library, on the university library system. In fact, during the six months I spent researching and writing my thesis I only visited the library three times, twice to pick up the books I had requested through the library system and once to read and edit my thesis draft because I was having problems finding a quite place at home. Three times in six months and over thirty sources used in my thesis research. Muse and JSTOR became my new best friends and provided me with countless sources and tidbits of information that I would utilize while writing my thesis. Not once during the process did I consult a librarian for help and what is even more troublesome, not once did I even consider doing so. (Now that I am an LIS student the fact that I did not utilize this beneficial resource makes me seriously wonder how different my research may have been if I had, but that discussion can be saved for another day). As someone who is a self proclaimed introvert it made perfect sense to use the sources that were at my disposal rather than drive to the university library and “bother” a librarian for help.
Fast forward to the present day and the sudden realization that as a student I preferred to not visit the library for my research I found myself scrambling to define my expectations for an LIS degree and even more so, what is it I truly want to accomplish with my degree. My internship with the ipl2 could not have come at a better time. After my experiences with answering ipl2 questions as part of INFO 521 I knew that I wanted to continue with the service but was unsure of exactly how I wanted to continue. I was offered a roving reference internship which for 3 months required me to “roam” the question categories, answering those marked as help, and providing feedback to students who were answering questions like I had the previous quarter. Although I have no previous library experience (once again, a discussion to be saved for another day) I have been told this is similar to some of the responsibilities of a reference librarian. After my internship was completed I offered to stay on as a volunteer and was given a position as a reference administer with a weekly ten-hour shift. My responsibilities as a RA are more behind the scenes, transferring incoming questions into the appropriate categories to be answered by students, and communicating with the patrons that their questions have been accepted or denied. During the other hours of my shift I continue to roam the categories, answering help requests or clarifying questions as need be. All three of my positions with the ipl2 have given me a firm understanding of how a digital library service operates, and has solidified my desire to focus on digital libraries.
However, that is not to say that I have abandoned my more traditional approach to LIS. I still tend to stay away from social networking sites. Yes, I have a face book, twitter, and LinkedIn account but up till recently have found them to be nothing more than platforms which allow me to share information about myself that others could care less about, and vice versa. I am now a bit more open to the idea of utilizing the sites but still have some work do to before I can fully accept them as anything other than bothersome. I still do not own an eReader. I have heard from countless friends just how wonderful they truly are but for me, there is no feeling greater than walking into my office carrying a large stack of newly purchased books to be read. I hope one day to find the means in which to live with both an eReader and a my growing personal library, but once again, this is something I must work on.
As a new LIS student the future is both exciting and worrisome. The evolution of digital libraries is here to stay and I for one am looking forward to embracing it, even if I continue to struggle to find the means in which to embrace both my digital and traditional sides – perhaps this is a problem of all information professionals.