My BackTalk article, “We Need Big Tent Librarianship”, is available on the Library Journal website now and will be in print shortly. Before I get into it more, I’d like to thank Josh Hadro and Rebecca Miller at Library Journal for their editing and sounding board support for this piece. I really couldn’t have done it without them.
I really mean that last sentence. For me, this article was the most personal thing I’ve written regarding the profession. It’s one of the closest things to a This I Believe sort of statement, loaded with the hopes and dreams that I have. It might seem odd to some, but it was emotional at times to write it for I was dumping out my heart’s contents onto the page for all of my peers to see. It’s hard to be that vulnerable, but the opportunity to share it on such a platform made the reward worth the risk. So, now you know what lays at my very core when it comes to librarianship.
I’ve said it before on here and in person, but I will repeat it once more. The buildings, technology, services, and materials of the library are all transitional. What interests me, what compels me to write in this blog, and what intrigues me the most when I query my peers about their beliefs and philosophies is what lays at the soul of the profession. We can add video games, Kindles, garden tools, computers, funny t-shirts, video instruction, chat/text, and whatever else is being added to collections all over the world, but it means nothing without our basic dogma and principles. It is the fundamental concept, the basic idea, the primitive notion of the library in an information age that is the most important element; that we are for literacy, we are for all who seek assistance, and that we are information experts in an age of exponential data growth.
I can see from the first comment on the site that someone has asked the next logical question:
If learning more about each other is the first step, what comes next? When comes the step where we act collectively for the sake of endangered libraries and librarians and the people who depend on them?
My gut instinct is to say “soon”, but my brain is saying that this idea has to gain a foothold (grow some roots, one would say) before it can grow. It’s a matter of finding like minded people to build the bridges over the current lacunas that exist. It’s the baby steps of establishing that the underlying concepts of big tent librarianship are a good and worthy ideal. This is not an idea that will march in the streets by next July at the ALA conference, but will need to grow at the person-to-person level. That’s where it needs to be, opening up the mind of one librarian at a time. It’s a matter of not letting chances slide by, but taking them up as a collective challenge to the profession and (more importantly) to the institution of the library itself.
I will have to ruminate on this some more, but for now, I’m just trying to reach one librarian at a time.