Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Melinda Schroeder, "I never wanted to be a librarian."
Schroeder's piece is an engaging account of her time in library school, and her struggle, during the late 1960s and very early 1970s, to find her place in the professional world. It is funny, candid and a bit depressing for this confused, aspiring librarian. Judging from the spot illustrations, typeface, etc., it seems to have been originally published as a zine or at least in an "underground" publication of some sort. In tone and content, though, it could easily be a blog post from yesterday (minus a few phrases about consciousness-raising sessions and so on). The more things change, the more they stay the same. As a collection of anecdotes, this piece resists the kind of critical attention we have been giving to other, more scholarly articles. It does, however, touch on many of the issues we've been discussing- feminization, professionalization, librarians as "failures" in other fields. It also highlights the importance of primary sources in determining the motives of historical actors. Schroeder's peregrinations as a librarian can be partly blamed on poor working environments, moronic administrators, political and economic forces, and a host of other fairly obvious factors. Without her personal account, however, we might never guess how much her relationships with boyfriends influenced her professional life (and yes, of course, those relationships in turn were shaped as well by social norms and expectations, as Schroeder points out). The point is, without the equivalent of a private diary, it is extremely difficult to pin down the motivations for the actions of individuals. It seems to me that without finding writing of this level of intimacy, arguments such as those engendered (!) by Dee Garrison's "Apostles of Culture" will never be truly resolved. Question for consideration: being brutally honest, how many of us in the SLIS program feel as though they have "failed" in a previous profession or occupation? What does this say about the vitality of libraries if they are province of also-rans and academic second-raters? We all live lives of quiet desperation, but exactly how demoralized are librarians (if at all)? Does it need to be this way (if it is)?