Sunday, September 25, 2011

No Muzak, Please

I've had the good fortune lately to spend time with a number of people outside of the School of Information Studies, and in every case (there were three) variations on a common theme became apparent.

"So why are you in this, anyway?"

It's an honest question, and comes from people who want to know more about my field, but it drives home a point--while a mission and worldview are vital to our practice of librarianship, equally vital is a pithy explanation of why we're doing what we do.

A recent post over at Hack Library School gave some wonderful tips on the elevator pitch, a quick explanation of vital points designed to be given in a hurry. As a young librarian, and especially as someone who doesn't particularly want to work in a traditional library, I'm needing to explain myself regularly, and the elevator pitch is a strategy I'm finding useful.

So what do I say?

I believe that the aggregation of information brings clarity to society. However, aggregation isn't nearly enough ~ Collected information must be synthesized before it becomes useful. I do that, bringing together the resources needed to resolve conflicts.

As the ocean of information grows deeper and harder to navigate, a need arises for lighthouses, charts, and safe harbors to prevent shipwreck. As a librarian, I work to provide safe passage both for information and for those who are immersed in it. I nurture conversations, support my colleagues, provide sanctuary for those who need it, hold my lantern high and cast light into dark places.

I believe that equal access to information creates an informed citizenry; that an informed citizenry creates a just society; and that a just society is the ultimate goal of civilization.

Finally, I know that I have the right to edit my views--that everything I come in contact with will effect change in my worldview. Synthesis, after all, is the product of just such a concatenation. I'm new at this, and proud to say so. Ask me again next month, everything may be different, may have evolved.

So what are your responses when people ask you what you're doing, in library school, in libraries, in life? Let me know in the comments.

Photo Credit: Ross Tracy


  1. chris, that is a great post!! i'm so happy that you're doing something you're so passionate about :).
    (btw this is katie from nassau!)

  2. I tell them that librarianship is an incredibly complicated career and only those who are nerdy enough can become one ;) That's not really what I say, but sometimes I feel like a silly question like "You're going to library school when libraries are disappearing?" deserves a silly answer.

    I'm in the school media program because I know I want to work with children. That might be in schools or it might be in public libraries. But the reason I want to work with kids is they are honest and they ask the most insightful questions. I want to encourage a life-long love of learning in children, so that they know the importance of being well-informed individuals.