Librarianship as a Journey

For me, librarianship is a journey into ignorance.

In walking past the rows of books, I’m reminded about how little I know about the breadth and depth of the universe. Hundreds of thousands of published works around me combined with numerous online databases and resources represents a daunting amount of information. I wouldn’t even dare say the percentage of my knowledge would reach a whole number; it might be one of those comical numbers where the first number at the end of an absurdly long line of zeros appears far far away to the right of the decimal point. It is a moment where you feel just how confined your awareness exists; it is most akin to thinking about just how tiny you are in comparison to the scale of the universe. The profession has made me painfully aware of the limits of my knowledge about the world, even when thinking just about the parts that someone bothered to write down in print or online and share.

It is a constant confrontation with my own ignorance. It is a reminder of how frail, limited, and symbolically mortal my knowledge is. It makes the difference between locating and knowing look like a chasm, for the superficial understanding of most subjects that I possess is generally just enough to do my job without missing a beat so I can move on to helping the next person, phone call, email, or IM. While I thank people for the compliment when they praise my intelligence for locating something or answering their question, it often belies my actual knowledge in the subject matter. I personally cannot explain the nuances of quantum mechanics, Impressionism as an art movement, or the cultural causes behind the Stonewall riots, but I know where to find that explanation or recounting.

But, little by little, in answering their questions, I am pushing back the borders of my own knowledge limitations. Each day brings a new fact, topic, or tidbit of information that I didn’t know the day before. I may not be putting a significant dent into the sum total of what could be learned in this universe, but I am pushing back the boundaries just a little bit each time. It is this tiny benefit that makes me appreciate the journey even more.

For me, librarianship is about being self aware of one’s own ignorance and embracing it as an impetus to stay curious, to seek answers, and to continue to grow. It is truly a journey into ignorance.

6 thoughts on “Librarianship as a Journey

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Librarianship as a Journey « Agnostic, Maybe --

  2. Thoroughly Socratic. Funny how some people develop their greatest curiosities as they age. As a student, I was never engaged in my school curricula outside language and visual arts. Yet, when I began editing textbooks, my interest in world history, math, and the sciences skyrocketed. As a librarian, I now find my knowledge of K-12 subjects is equally important as the practical and theoretical material I’ve studied since beginning my MLIS.

  3. Pingback: Interesting ideas from some smart people. | Matt Phillips

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