You dropped a balm on me.

20 02 2008

Since Doc Martens has decided not to share the papers written for our fist assignment due to the graphic nature of some of them, I thought I’d share mine. I respect that some of them may have some personal information the authors may wish to keep semi-private but, since I like reading the papers others have written, I thought I’d repost mine here. Also, while I do respect the wish on the part of the authors, I don’t understand it. I haven’t had any secrets since before I can remember. This is true to a fault. I often find that I have made, how the Fench say, a foxpass, without knowing, by making public certain details that offend good taste. Sadly, the following is not one of those cases.

My Informational Career: The View From Here

I didn’t start working at a library until 2003, though I’ve had a love affair with books, knowledge and learning, since I was in the seventh grade. This was not always the case. Until my seventh grade year, I was a “reluctant reader” (Sullivan 2003, 25-32). Of course, that changed. I would not be so passionate about education, learning, knowledge, literacy, if it had not. I remember the book that caused that change. I remember the Summer I read it. I remember the teacher who listed it on the summer reading list.

When my life changed, I was getting ready to start my seventh grade year at a new school. I had gone to Darnaby Elementary in the Union school district since kindergarten. This year I would be starting at Holland Hall in August. At the time, Holland required seventh graders to choose three books from a list of titles recommended by the seventh grade teachers to read over the summer. My book was one of the titles recommended by Mr. Marshall. The book was L’Étranger or, The Stranger, by Albert Camus, and it changed my life. After reading that book, I would no longer be a reluctant reader. I would be a voracious reader.

I was burned in a propane explosion when I was four years old. I sustained first, second and third degree burns over approximately fifty percent of my body. From this accident, I have scars with me to this day. Because of these obvious physical scars, I was often the target of my peers’ ridicule and torment while growing up. I had few friends and fewer people to talk to or who understood what it was like to go through what I was. I’d never seen another burned kid, there were no support groups for me. I was the only burned person in my sphere of consciousness. I felt utterly alone.

At this point in my life, the books we were read consisted of fairly simple morality tales or stories about regular people fitting in, getting along, conforming and being happy. These stories did not resonate with me, but that was the sum of my reading experience at that time. This was the cause of my perfunctory attitude toward reading.

In the pages of, The Stranger, I found a lead character who was alienated, alone and chastised. This resonated. This was something I could identify with, find meaning in, layers of meaning even. With that one book, a spark was ignited in me. I had found that there were books written about people like me. It was that very spark, the discovery of outsider literature, that drove me towards a career centered around education, learning, knowledge, literacy.

That spark lead me to work first in a bookstore, then at the library. At this time, I have worked with books, in either a bookstore or library capacity, for ten years. Though I have only worked in libraries for three years, my previous work experience has given me many of the tools needed to be a successful librarian. While working at Novel Idea Bookstore I became well trained in reader’s advisory. Without knowing what the technical jargon for such things was, I was engaging in “berrypicking,” “area scanning” and “subject searching” (Bates 1989). Though I have not read much by John Grisham, I can recommend similar authors to devoted fans. This is true of Christian fiction, romance novels, westerns and a host of other genres.

Before gaining employment at a library, I was a counselor at Shadow Mountain Behavioural Health System. There I was in charge of the “Threshold” unit. This was a population of inpatient juvenile male sex offenders. Relating to that population in the capacity of authority figure and as friend/confidant, as the counselor role demands, gave me a tremendous amount of patience, tolerance and empathy. My listening skills became very sharp indeed. Due to that experience I have become an active listener. I am able to deconstruct/decipher/interpret, by use of what some would call a reference interview, a user’s “compromised need” as it is related to me, the information specialist, and get a clearer idea of the user’s “formalized need” and sometimes approach the user’s “conscious need”(Taylor 1968, 178-94). I am able to pick up on some of the user’s sociological cues, i.e., socioeconomic status, education, mood, etc things that influence both what the user is saying and the kind of information the user wants. Where I am not able to pick up the cues, I am able to ask the right questions, and have the appropriate professional empathy, to determine these factors as needed.

At this point in my informational career, I feel that I have obtained the most knowledge I can from my professional situation as one is able without continuing in school. I feel that by completing the coursework necessary to obtain my Master’s Degree, I will gain a better understanding of the system in which I work. My goal is to use apply the knowledge I obtain in the University Of Oklahoma’s Master’s Program in Library And Information Studies to the library system as it stands. I want to be a part of the intellectual force of change that is always looking for better ways to do things, find new strategies, new approaches. I want to help the library adapt to current and future trends in information behavior and information retrieval systems.

Libraries are a social institution. As such they necessarily derive their legitimacy from the very people who use it (Weber 2003, 354-5). It is important to me that libraries remain a vital part of the community’s social sphere. This can only be achieved through the constant education of its employees. The serious library employee must stay informed of current trends in information behavior and information retrieval systems. They must also be versed in the canon of the LIS profession. This canonical knowledge not only provides great insight into current system models, it also provides a very stable foundation from which to engage in research or thought experiment on how best to adapt or build onto the system. This information base is also handy when trying to adapt a system to new technology or trends that come to pass. An MLIS also helps steer new studies and thought away from the mistakes, dead ends and pratfalls of the past.

It is precisely by keeping a knowledgeable employee base, one trained in information behavior, information seeking, information searching, information retrieval skills, that libraries remain relevant. It was not long ago, around 1999, that many pundits and talking heads were predicting the end of libraries and if not the end then the marginalization of the institution. This has not happened even on a small scale. Libraries are remaining vital because of the educated, passionate people that work there. By getting my Master’s Degree I hope to help the library maintain its relevance. I also want to aid in educating the next generation of librarians, who will pick up when my generation exits the work place. It is this spirit, obtaining knowledge to better the community and drive to pass that knowledge on, that has kept the library such an important cultural icon and institution.




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