Playoff Season for Information Professionals

Poor Dan Uggla. When the Atlanta Braves assembled their baseball team to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series earlier this month, the popular second baseman was left off of the playoff roster. But it’s part of the process:  When the playoffs begin, the rosters get cut down. For Dan Uggla, a veteran with a nice paycheck but pathetic bat, it was a rough moment.

For librarians, this is also a time of excitement and uncertainty. For those like me who seek new opportunities in academic settings and research centers, making the roster of a research team is a great thrill AND a great opportunity, akin to joining an expansion team.

But this is also a time of roster cuts. It’s a time when research funding gets held up, bogged down, and/or cut off, and when budget cuts are demanded by the higher-ups. It’s the time when decisions about who brings value to the team are being made, and nobody wants to be Dan Uggla.

My own library recently went through roster cuts. It was painful to see co-workers lose their jobs, their roles on the team no longer valued. Like Dan Uggla, it wasn’t about not wanting the player, it was about needing to keep only those roles that provide the most value.

Every team needs a second baseman, and there was a time when every academic institution needed a library. It was a given. Today, however, we’re more like the Atlanta Braves, carrying more than one second baseman on our squad. In other words, our general managers and field managers and coaches have more than one information resource from which to choose. There is more than one way for them to access the resources that they need.

If we want to stay on the team, we have to prove to them that we’re worth it. Simply providing the resources or putting the classes on the schedule or claiming that we can search better than others – the librarian equivalent of batting below .200 – isn’t enough.

In her book, Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals, Kim Dority writes about the difference between lifetime employment and lifetime employability. Her argument that we are all, ultimately, self-employed (i.e., “solely responsible for the well-being of our careers”) resonates with me as I find new ways and new opportunities to make myself – me, the librarian – valuable to people on my campus. It’s this value – a value that changes with an ever-changing work environment and its information needs – that keeps the librarian (and the library) employable. And employability is what allows a librarian to both make the expansion team and then stay on it, all the way to the World Series.

 

Sally Gore writes a blog called “A Librarian by Any Other Name.

 

 

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