This past week, I’ve been out in San Francisco doing some speaking. One of the groups that I spoke to was the Northern California Technical Processing Group. A fantastic group, that included a mix of people currently in libraries, as well as a bunch of bright, young, soon to be minted librarians. So, a really fun group to be around. My talk tended to focus on some of the trends that I see or hope to see coming out of the work of these large national and multi-national projects like the DPLA, and what I’m hoping they will mean for metadata sharing, aggregation, reuse, etc. Essentially, I’m trying to convince folks that not only should information be open and free, but it should be slutty, hooking up with anyone and everyone. And, yes, I’ve posted my slides to slideshare (http://www.slideshare.net/reese_terry/rethinking-shared-metadata-at-the-platform-level).
The funny thing is, while I had a great time, and some great conversations, the thing I found myself most thinking about most was a sentiment that Sarah Houghton made (well actually, a couple things she said…some of which make me realize that she is way more dedicated to the profession that I would be in similar circumstances, I’m sure) about the need for libraries to cultivate those intimate moments, the special stories in peoples lives where they have made a difference. In Oregon, I served on a public library board, so I can definitely say that this type of connection is important (especially when you have to go before the community and ask for money) – but what got me thinking about this was wondering how many people at the conference have those types of experiences that played into their reason for becoming a librarian, or how many of those folks were like me, accidental librarians that really don’t have those emotional connections to a library (or the idea of libraries, really)
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t work in a library if I didn’t think what I (we) do is important. And working with public librarians, I was amazed at the impact that can make on their communities and their kids (they remind me of public school teachers in a lot of ways). But I’ve never been a library user (can I say that?). Even when I chaired my local library board, I never had a public library card. And at the same time, I certainly work in libraries because I believe in the transformational nature of the work we do, and of the library as the great social equalizer, and maybe that is enough for me. Honestly, its the pace of change, the questions, the potential research opportunities that make me excited to work at a research library.
I can say that I hope that my kids have these stories, and I know that they do. They are avid readers and that’s in no small part to the summer reading programs and involved librarians we’ve had the good fortune of knowing. And who knows, maybe when I finally get off the promotion and tenure track, I’ll take some time to slow down and start reading for fun again…and maybe then I’ll get an opportunity to get to know my public library…