Chris Zammarelli, at Libraryola, has a post about keeping up which I found via the LIS Students Ning.
I left a lengthy comment, which I’d like to expand here hopefully. My comment:
I’m not sure I have a feel for what you are looking to keep up with, although I do see that your thesis is on e-government and your blog is about “trends in librarianship.” Since my comment is more about the concept of keeping up versus how to I guess that doesn’t matter.
I think you’ve done a good job here talking about the idea of keeping up and have a compiled a good list, for certain sectors of librarianship.
But my point lies elsewhere and I’m not exactly sure why your post is the one to finally trigger the thought … but why does keeping up always mean looking forward?
Sure. I can parse out the terms, the metaphor, whatever. I even agree that is what it’s supposed to be. But what is it when you’re looking back at the literature? Is that research, and only research? I think it is only research in certain situations, and that keeping up should not be restricted to the current or future.
I read an awful lot of library literature and a great deal of it is from the past. Often very past. Only sometimes is it research, I would say. When I am working on a specific project and track down sources for that specific topic/need then it is research. Is it research all of the time, even if it is for pleasure reading, if it material is from the past?
Anyway, depending on your interests, I would say that looking back into our literature is an amazing way to learn about trends in libraries/librarianship (among other things). Might even help you put the current trends into context.
Anyway, just a suggestion prefaced by a question. Good luck with the thesis.
For some reason, Chris’ post made me realize that every post I’ve seen on keeping up never talks about what can be learned from the past and how that can be of assistance in keeping up today (and in the future).
Is it because of the metaphor of keeping up itself? Does the phrase preclude thinking of the past?
Or, is it because everything looking backward is research? I can’t see why it should be. For starters, much research is very forward looking.
The OED Online gives me the following senses of research (there are others but they are irrelevant here):
- The act of searching (closely or carefully) for or after a specified thing or person.
- a. A search or investigation directed to the discovery of some fact by careful consideration or study of a subject; a course of critical or scientific inquiry. (Usu. in pl.)
- Investigation or pursuit of a subject. rare.
- a. trans. To search into (a matter or subject); to investigate or study closely. Also, to engage in research upon (a subject, a person, etc.).
- To seek (a woman) in love or marriage. Obs. [OK, this is irrelevant, too, but I found it humorous.]
Noun 2 and verb 2 both had to do with re-search; that is, repeated search.
Clearly, there is no temporal stress on past, present or future. Noun 1, sense 3 could be used to describe my endeavors to consume so much of our past literature, but it is rare. The verb sense (1st sentence) could be used to describe my reading as research. It could also very well describe much of what passes for keeping up, as could sense 3 of the noun, and perhaps even noun sense 1. Noun sense 2 fails for my pleasure reading because it is not directed to the discovery of some fact. It could be claimed to be directed, but only to getting a good general overview. And I find it highly doubtful that anyone could parse out general overview into fact.
I am not trying to argue that my reading habits do not constitute research in the more relaxed meanings of noun sense 3 or verb sense 1. It is more that it is not research in the stricter sense(s). Kind of like LIS (LS/IS) is science and, yet, not science either.
My argument is more along the lines of learning from the past is one way of keeping up. For a large percentage of librarians our schooling lasts one to two years, at most. Even counting assignments, much less what else you did between them, how much of the literature did you actually read? How much of it was historical (however you want to parse that out. Well, other than last month’s issue.)?
I sure wish I was more eloquent on these sorts of things, because I truly think that this view is a large part of the problem in our profession right now. And yes, I do realize that many other professions/disciplines are the same. I could care less about that!
So much is being rejected by people who have no idea what they are rejecting or why. Or they think they know why, but their stated reasons are based on unexamined assumptions and outright bigotry.
“My God, it must go! It’s based on the card catalog.”
Well, perhaps it is based on the card catalog (or some other unhip thing), but do you know what problem it solved at the time and, even more importantly, do you know what problem(s) it might be solving right now? Meanwhile, other things are being embraced that were previously rejected with no idea that they were tried and why they did not work out and still won’t, or that perhaps with x being different now they will. But you best know about x and make sure it is different.
Our field is full of trends that come and go. And then they come back! Do some of you who are new or relatively new to the profession wonder why so many veterans are so worn out? Amongst many other things, it is because they have seen the same things over and over and every new “generation” wants to try it again.
Trying again, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. But trying something again with no idea of how or why it failed, or that it was even tried, is extremely disheartening to many veterans. Perhaps some of our library veterans would be more willing to watch and perhaps even assist in trying “new” things if the new folks made it clear that, miracle of miracles, they were actually aware of the past and why things were different now and how that difference makes a difference.
Or, perhaps they are tired of banging their heads against the wall for 30 or 40 years because a real solution was not tried due to a lack of will, money, commitment, or what have you. Perhaps the technology was lacking then. Many of the things that were shown as distinct possibilities from the 1940s-70s are now distinctly doable. But most in our field have no idea what these even are and then they perhaps complain that the CS (and related) folks are reinventing everything we already know. But what is it you know?
I do realize that the amounts of data we have, new encoding and storage formats, and cheaper more powerful technologies have a profound impact on what is doable and what makes a good solution. Clearly, not everything from the past that was unable to get a fair shake needs to be resurrected. But how is one to rule out the possibilities, or borrow a great idea that if twisted just a little is a direct answer to one of today’s problems, if they do not know what went before?
Perhaps you think I’m just rambling or making up stuff here. I’ll leave it to you to decide; you will anyway. But I know professionals who fit both of these descriptions. It has absolutely nothing to do with not wanting to try or do new things! These folks have done more new and innovative things than you are probably going to get a chance to do [assuming demographic trends about career changes]. They are simply tired of banging their heads against the wall and having what they know completely ignored by someone who has no idea what it is that they know, or how that may (or may not) be useful.
Maybe it’s trite. Maybe it’s a truism. And perhaps I’m just plain wrong. But you know what they say about those who refuse to learn from the past.
Rant over. But I honestly do consider much of the reading of the past that I do to be keeping up. Perhaps catching up would be even better. But there’s no way I could sell that to the new “generations.”
I do well know that there are some old curmudgeons out there that would best serve the profession by moving on to something else.
I also see a lot of talk from the younger generations about respect and their work life balance, and so on. You do know that goes both ways, don’t you? [Says the older guy who is looking for some work life balance as he undertakes his new career. Or, in other words, not all new librarians are young!]
Youth, energy, and idealism are valuable assets. But so is knowledge and experience. And all who are chronologically older do not lack youth, energy or idealism.
The rant portion of this post has absolutely nothing to do with Chris Zammarelli! His post only got me thinking about keeping up as forward looking. Once I turned to the past the rest just came along for the ride. I am not saying, much less alluding, that he thinks in the way I am complaining about.
Certainly, my points about the past could use some nuance and some caveats. They are not meant to be conclusive, or overly general. But it is the case that these situations arise. What the percentage is I have no idea. Nor am I really interested in knowing it [pretty much impossible to determine, anyway].
Anyone have any thoughts on why keeping up seems to be only forward looking?