I always wanted to be an astronaut

Last evening when I got home, I tweeted


I had just heard the NPR coverage of the four museums that are getting shuttles in the next year.  The shuttle program is part of my world; I was in grade school when Challenger was lost, and when I think of “astronauts” I see in my mind’s eye the gold-screened helmets of astronauts floating outside the shuttle, Earth behind them. I don’t think Sputnik, or the moon landing, or Apollo. I think shuttles. And I always wanted to be an astronaut. So what do you mean we’re going back to rockets? That can’t be right. Don’t we have a better plan than that? Where’s my rocket car and personal jetpack? I was promised a personal jetpack!

And I had a moment in which I realized that this is very much how I feel about libraries right now.

What do you mean we’re fixating on whether or not librarians are valued members of the academic enterprise? That can’t be right. Don’t we have a better plan than that? Where is my digital library and collaborative academic environment? I was promised a collaborative academic environment!

Really, my dismay in both cases is not that the future brings change. Change is inevitable, and I think it’s exciting and challenging and vital.  It’s that we seem to be, as a profession, struggling to respond with both agility and integrity to the change (see Ithaka, see Trzeciak, see the sad state of LIS education) no matter how many predictions, projections, and studies we’re given. Can’t we do better than this?

I don’t want rockets.  And I don’t want devalued librarians. I was promised better, and if getting it means I have to make it myself, so be it. I’ll do what I can. (Not sure what I can do about the rockets, though.)


  1. RE: going back to rockets, you sound like Harry Stamper in Armageddon, “And this is the best that you c – that the-the government, the *U.S. government* can come up with? I mean, you-you’re NASA for cryin’ out loud, you put a man on the moon, you’re geniuses! You-you’re the guys that think this shit up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up! You’re telling me you don’t have a backup plan…”

    I agree.


  2. Yes, you do have to do it yourself. All professions are inherently sluggish and conservative — nothing particular about librarians there. If you think the whole profession is going to leap as one, you’re bound to be disappointed. The innovators and the change agents are always a small minority. Some of them are in formal leadership positions, but people get into formal leadership positions in all sorts of ways and they are neither more nor less innovative or conservative than the rest of the profession. So pay attention to the interesting creative people and don’t waste time fuming about the others. My library is full of brilliant innovative people doing wonderful things — we’re having a good time and doing good work. The Hoover Public Library (which I pick just ’cause it’s my local one) is doing fabulous stuff and I’ve never been there when I didn’t have to circle for a parking place. There is much more good happening in libraryland than you’d realize if you spend too much time reading the blogs. But our future is about librarians, not libraries. Once you grasp that, it brightens considerably. Put on your jetpack.


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