We are not one

I’m a librarian, married to another librarian.  You might think that gives us a lot of common ground to talk about in the evenings, but you’d be wrong.  Because my background is cataloging and my passion is administration.  He’s passionate about reference and instruction, and has a background in access services.

My strengths are in data and budget management, big-picture planning and organization, cataloging and metadata processes and services, implementing technology solutions, and creating processes to serve the need for results for all of the above.

His strengths are in doing research, facilitating information-seeking for others, teaching creatively, serving the needs of our users, and generating innovative ideas to support all of the above.

We just don’t get each other. He loves doing things that make me recoil in horror at the mere idea, and the things I talk about with passionate interest make his eyes glaze over.

And we’re married.   We like each other.  We love each other.  We’re committted to each other.  And we still don’t get each other.

So is it any wonder that within libraries, we have colleagues we just don’t understand?  Or who don’t understand us?  Who, though we’re all in service to the same overall goals and institution, are like aliens come down from another planet?  We’re just a group of people bound together by a job title and a shared work goal — nowhere near as strong as the bonds of a marriage — and we’re expected to get each other.

We like to say that we’re all librarians, as though that means something in and of itself.  But I look at my IM friends list, or my Twitter roster, or the blogroll on my sidebar, or even just around my library, and I see people with so many different skill sets, so many varying natural inclinations, so many disparate perspectives and foci — and they’re all librarians.  They’re also programmers, IT staff, technologists, teachers, writers, managers, administrators, catalogers, artists, archivists, … and so much more.

It’s easy when you self-identify to say “I’m a librarian.”  It’s harder to look around at this incredibly heterogenous  group and say, “We’re all librarians”, and then not instinctively say, “So that means we’re all like me, with my goals, and my inclinations, and my strengths, and my interests.”  Because yes, we’re all librarians.  But we’re nothing alike.

I think that’s our strength — our incredible diversity is dedicated to information and learning and libraries — but it’s also what makes it so very hard, sometimes, to talk to each other.

Because, seriously?  Trying to talk to my husband about the nuances of cataloging theory and practice?  He really is from Mars.

Now playing: Zoe Keating – Sun Will Set
via FoxyTunes

One comment

  1. I too have a deceptive sense of homogenity (if, in fact, that is a word) when it comes to all things professional. But even among “us youngsters” there’s division in the ranks, which I interpret as strength rather than a weakness. The key lies in taking turns (yes, this is a defiant stance against “priorities”). As each one of us, in turn, has differing focus we each represent a slice of the total user pool pie. Differing goals reflect the belongingness to differing segments of the user population. We are essentially representatives of some key user group.

    Administrational priorities follow the old sociological maxim: When you create an in-group, you do so by creating an out-group. No one person can be accessible to 100% of the user population. Therefore, even with the most functional of advisory systems, a leader’s fiat will both prioritize a certain segment of groups while subjugating another(s). Instead, devoting waning library resources to one project in turn would better address the fiat myopia, as well as internecine frustrations.

    While A may think cataloging is a portal to hell, he would also respect it if he knew that his priorities were to be addressed in turn, someday.

    Not that the current regime is in question. But rather, in light of previous experience.

    And that is my radical outburst for the day. 😉

    -Radical D.


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