While interviewing rural librarians and young adults for my dissertation over last summer, I had the most surprising conversation with one high school librarian. We’ll call her Mary to maintain confidentiality. Our interview turned to the topic of how our work with patrons … Continue reading
On Monday, February 8, I successfully defended my dissertation. I stood up in front of a room of people and presented my dissertation research, opening myself up to questions and critiques (constructive). I’ve talked about my fear of public speaking … Continue reading
While working as a professional librarian, I would frequently encounter questions like, “Do we need libraries anymore?”, “Is Google putting libraries out of business?”, and “What do librarians do now that you can just go online?” I imagine the majority of people asking these types of questions lack a solid understanding of what librarians do or how libraries operate. In my experience, these people are usually are not regular library users (if at all) or library supporters. But similar questions have been raised in popular media (For examples, see commentary below from The Guardian, NPR, and The Washington Post) so obviously other people are asking the same questions at public libraries across the country.
To the public, libraries often are believed to be only warehouses of books, documents, and other sources of information. More repositories than anything purposeful, create, innovative, or interactive. If libraries are seen as simply public attics where lots of different things can be dumped, organized, and preserved, then I can understand why the death of libraries seems imminent to many. As more and more books, documents, and other random formerly printing items are digitized and placed online, physical locations to collect, store, and retrieve these items doesn’t seem necessary. But libraries are so much more than warehouses and librarians do so much more than check out books.
Anyway, all of this and much more on the survival of libraries, librarians, and print books has been covered in newspaper, magazine, and journal articles, not forgetting lectures, podcasts, panels, campaigns, etc. The words ‘relevant’, ‘digital age’, innovate’, ‘and ‘change’ appear frequently in the titles of these articles and presentations. I’m curious why these topics has been hyped so much in the press. The way “library survival” is discussed in the media seems almost doomsday-ish. “What will happen?!?! Panic!! Disaster!!” I wonder why. Is it because of the rise of e-Books, smartphones, and other devices? Or it is because of the budget cuts that so many libraries are experiencing across the country? Or something else entirely?
From where do you think this anxiety is comes? How much is based in reality and how much is just misunderstanding of libraries and the librarian profession?
Also, fellow librarians, what do you say when you encounter naysayers of the future of libraries? Have you developed an automatic response after hearing these questions so often?
Library and Librarian Positive Reads:
Now that I’m in my second year of the doctoral program, I’ve been asked more and more about my dissertation topic. So far my reply has been somewhat vague and confusing (both to me and to the person). Usually I respond with words like ‘social media’, ‘young adults’, ‘informal learning’, and ‘libraries’. This doesn’t feel or sound like the correct response for a second year doctoral student. I have so many research ideas and curiosities that it is hard to wrap my mind around the idea of narrowing it down to just one focus. Then, I start to think, “should I have a complete and well honed dissertation title? Has everyone else in my cohort figured out exactly what direction they going with their dissertation? where should I go with this? what am I suppose to say!?!?”. If there is one thing I’m a professional at, it’s becoming pointlessly anxious about pretty much anything. It’s all too easy for me to compare where I am in my work with other doctoral students and stress out about how far behind I am (or seem to be). This is probably a common activity among doctoral students. I tell myself that anyway.
Luckily, this week I met with my major professor, settling some of my anxieties and concerns. I even have a few theories that I’m excited about researching more. I feel much more comfortable with the direction I’m heading, even though I still have some uncertainties and confusions. At least my dissertation topic is better than these. Although it’s definitely less interesting and not nearly as sexy. I imagine I will continue to adjust and modify my dissertation focus, at least a little bit. This is probably the norm. Right??? Now, hopefully, my response when people ask about my dissertation will be slight more intelligent and focused (at least sound like it is…). At this point, I still have a lot of thinking to do about my dissertation, so don’t ask me about it just yet! If you do, I imagine I will still look at you blankly (probably for just a few seconds anyway).
For my fellow doctoral students: At what point in the program did you figure out your dissertation topic? How do/did you respond to people who ask/asked about your dissertation as you were figuring out where to go with it? What do you stress or feel anxious about as far as your dissertation goes?