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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Real Life Librarian in a Non-Existant Place


We have lives other than shelves and books, other than due dates and patron privacy rights. I typically work about 60 to 70 hours a week and justify this to my family by saying I can work from home.

But is it because I work from home that I have longer hours? I feel like the new mother whose days are a blur.

I remember way back when, my first word processing job on a Wang. I sat there and looked at the blinking cursor, thinking how perfect my papers would be. No more "Whiteout" - no more cutting with scissors and pasting with, well, tape actually. I could produce three or five really good pieces of work in a day, but with that computer and all its editing features, I would be able to do this with a lot less headache.

And then reality set in. The 'labor saving' device turned out to be a way to produce even more in a day. Now the expectation is to complete ten papers. Now we crank out in double time.

My library work follows along the same path, but I smile when I write that because this is a job that "has more meaning" for me. It's a good job; I'm helping in my small way the fight for information literacy and access to information. I'm helping to elevate the common view of librarianship by engaging in a new type of information professional.

And yet, I still have to take care of life matters, just like everyone else. My cat has cancer, my faucet leaks, laundry is stacking up and I should get to the grocery store soon. I was out mowing at 7am (with a quiet reel mower) so I could log in by 8am. I often work until 9 or 10 at night except on Wednesdays when I drag, kick, or somehow motivate myself to get to my weekly yoga class. The whining stops here.

I am tired, I think that's all. I appreciate this work, and nowadays I have a sense that I better appreciate that I have a job. Honestly I am just trying to figure out my place in a place that doesn't exist. I am searching for an understanding of something that I think is beyond me, this job, this career, and extends into our culture of labor in the U.S.

Back on earth, the 24-hour day swirls by and then it's August. I'm glad for my family and yes, for this challenging job and the fact that I am a real librarian (whatever that means to each of us). I'll turn around again and find that it's February; cold and dark and I'll trudge along trying to keep a smile even when no one sees me. For here, in the cyber world, I am often faceless. My words float on a screen because my fingers tapped this laptop's keyboard. Some of the letters on this keyboard are so worn from use that they are blank.

Let's keep this in mind when we work online - that we are real, we have substance, and lives behind the screens we access. Connections are to be made, but they are only cohesive if we have given a bit of effort to engage in a personalized way. I hope this comes through!

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