Last week I attended the Oregon Chapter of the Special Libraries Association annual banquet. Since this is my last year as a SLA member (long story; nothing to do with the organization and everything to do with my expenses) I looked at the dinner as the end of a long goodbye. I’ve been in the profession long enough to know these events feature a well-respected speaker with a semi-upbeat topic, something along the lines of “yes we are facing challenges but this is a unique opportunity” kind of thing. And this year’s speaker seemed pretty much on target: Nancy Gershenfeld from University of Washington’s Information School. The topic? “The Future of Special Libraries”. Oookay….
After the baked chicken and flourless chocolate torte, I dutifully turned my chair to listen to Ms. Gershenfeld’s presentation. She did not disappoint: What the L? Challenges and Opportunities for the Special Librarian. Slouching down into my seat for the post-banquet lull, I was grudgingly surprised when Ms. G started describing her path into the profession. So far, so good. Then we got to the S Word.
I’ll admit I’m the biggest offender when it comes to talkin’ about the stereotype. And as the biggest offender, I find myself feeling a little impatient about the topic. After all, if there’s anything that exemplifies the proverbial dead horse professionally, it’s this. I slouched even lower and developed a sudden interest over the hours of the no-host bar.
But there was something she did during the presentation that shook me: she asked the audience what they did to overcome the librarian label. How did they fight preconceived notions of what librarians are and do? Then it struck me:
Is being a librarian like being mixed race?
More next time…..