Community

This piece was written for my 1st LIS class summer 2004 on the topic of "what community means for me as a librarian." It may be directed at librarianship but it says much of what I was trying to say in January with my initial note to myself.

In late 2003 and early 2004 due to various events in my life I gave some serious thought to my sense(s) of “community.” I was spending time with a few small groups of people who are very important to me both personally and professionally. Luckily, these are often the same people.

Some of the influences on this thinking were:

These influences along with others led to some thinking and discussion of the concept of community in my life.

Been thinking a lot lately about my communities, my sense(s) of community, my search for community, thoughts about how they will disappear, change, and come back if and when (until very recently it has always been only a matter of when) I leave. Most likely that's still about 2 - 3 years down the road. Maybe the start of an essay here….
Friday, January 23, 2004 (This was a note I wrote myself which I finally managed to flesh out a little more.)

During summer 2003 I lost faith in my choice to become a librarian due to conditions at the academic library in which I work. Then I stumbled across some radical librarians (Jessamyn West, Rory Litwin,…) on the Internet and found some "alternative" library literature, along with some saner (than the orthodoxy) voices about the uses and relationships of technology to and within librarianship and higher education. This discovery was of critical importance to me. If I had not found these voices I probably would not be here today. This is one community that I definitely intend to join.

So what does "community" mean to me professionally? Taking a cue from the Oxford English Dictionary, "community" for me involves the sense of both a quality or state, and that of a body of individuals. As a state it refers to, among other things, that state of "Social intercourse; fellowship, communion." As a body of individuals it refers to, among other things, "members of a civil community who have certain circumstances of pursuit, common to them, but not shared by those among whom they live…"

I have certainly derived much of my sense of community from my social intercourse in the groups to which I belong and participate in. It is also dependent on being a member of groups with a common pursuit, and of living in a specific location.

It is very clear to me that besides enjoying my time "hanging out" with these various groups, they have also constituted professional development activities. Serious reading and discussion of classic literature, reading and discussion of philosophic and political topics, and related activities undertaken in a small community of individuals (senior tenured faculty, non-tenure track faculty, and fellow graduate students) willing to explore ideas together in a spirit of equality is a perfect professional development activity. It also has the added bonus of being immensely rewarding and enjoyable.

As a librarian I will remain a member of several communities, along with joining a few others. By becoming a librarian I will join the ranks of professional membership. By becoming a faculty member I join the professorate. Upon obtaining an academic job I will become a member of another university, library, and local community. As for reading/discussion groups and other such small-scale communities, I will have to either find them or help found them. These are only some of the communities to which I will belong as a professional librarian.

All of these communities will be important to me professionally and personally. Professionally, these communities will allow me to make a contribution to the field through support, continuing education, camaraderie, and focus. Personally, they will help provide me with my sense of place in the world; give me a sense of belonging; and provide me with an attainable purpose. Currently, as a "non-professional" (sorry, para-professional) several of these communities are important to me. The connections that I have made by working in Circulation, Reserves, and Inter-Library Loan for the last six years as a student and as a staff member have provided me with all the things just mentioned and more, to include a sense of satisfaction.

Community in all of its senses implies responsibility. Spending over two decades in the military and six years at the front lines of an academic library have provided me with a deep sense of responsibility to my communities. As a librarian I will be responsible to my discipline as a whole; to the community of academic librarians; to my university, my library, my department, my co-workers, my staff and students; to my patrons; and to my local community. Some of these responsibilities include doing my utmost to stay current and to continue my education in all of its guises so that I may provide the best service possible to my various communities. Of course, striving to provide the best service that I can is also a responsibility. Responsibilities to more informal groups include being prepared for and willing to discuss and participate fully in our activities. Responsibilities to my local community include getting to know it in all of its various facets so that I may better understand and provide for its information needs while being a full participant in it.

These brief comments on community can only scratch the surface. Suffice it to say that I am becoming an academic librarian for the express purpose of joining, and more importantly remaining a member of, the various communities that I have finally identified as being important to me. Seeing as these feelings of community are what motivate me to arise each morning and greet the day I would say that community is of the utmost concern to me, both professionally and personally.

 

Please email me at: mark [DOT] lindner [AT] insightbb [DOT] com

© 2007 Mark R. Lindner     This page last updated 16 July 2007.