Student Snippets


Whole-self Librarianship

I learned passion and enthusiasm from my dad. My dad is a college English professor and his passions include subjects such as Victorian literature, poetry, Shakespeare, and John Milton. He has other passions as well that he indulges outside of the classroom, like birdwatching and playing the guitar. Both his professional and personal interests make up who he is and tend not to honor the distinction between "professional" and "personal." His academic interests follow him home from the office, work their way into casual conversation, and inform his worldview. Likewise, his personal interests flavor his teaching style and influence the way in which he relates to students and colleagues. I have observed my dad in his various capacities and positions within the home, at the workplace and in our church and I can tell you he is the same man all across the board.

I was reminded of the importance of passion at SLIS West on Saturday. First, there was the lunchtime panel on interview skills with Tom Raffensperger, the Dean of Academic Information Services and Library Director at Westfield State University and Jean Canosa-Albano, the Assistant Director of the Springfield City Libraries. Tom spoke several times on being genuine and Jean spoke of core values. One of the essential aspects, it seems, of an outstanding interview is the ability to be genuine, to be passionate, to know both what you love and what you stand for and express it well. Honesty and tact are required as well as some strategy regarding what and how you share. We were urged to remember that an interview goes both ways: both the interviewer and the interviewee are looking for that great fit and so accurate representation will benefit all parties.

In my afternoon class, Tech for Info Professionals, we ended up on a discussion of "whole-self librarianship" (I'm crediting my instructor, Abigail Baines with this term, since I had never heard it before and a precursory Google search did not turn up much). We had been talking about the personal websites we are creating for our final project and discussing the balance of professional/personal content. According to Abby, there are two approaches to this: one with a more rigid separation of personal and professional identities and another that embraces the "whole-self."

We discussed the implications of revealing certain personal details, ideologies, or beliefs in an interview or on a personal website and whether that could indeed hurt you professionally. But then it could be argued, do you want to end up at an institution that does not honor or support your values and individuality? I believe that in many cases (such as my dad), allowing certain beliefs, convictions, personal experiences and hobbies to permeate your professional life actually makes you better at what you do, and able to relate to others on a more meaningful level. And my dad has found an institution that is a very good fit for his personality.

The takeaway for me from all this is to know who you are, what you love, and what you stand for and to weave that into everything you do. What are your core values? Why do you want to be a librarian? What mark do you hope to leave on the profession? Understanding these things is a journey all of its own, and one that may be constantly evolving. Have someone ask you these questions and get some practice answering them. I often find that I don't know if I know something until I have to express it to somebody else. It suddenly becomes clear that either I have no idea what I'm talking about, or that I actually have some pretty strong convictions that I didn't realize I had or weren't fully formed until I said them out loud.