It is an honor and a privilege to be speaking to you today. Because at most commencements, you can talk about following your dream and keep your passion alive. But most of the people you’re talking to are going to build careers sending and receiving e-mail, composing Powerpoint slides, and generating Excel spreadsheets. “Click strong! Thank you very much.”
But you? You have gone to school to pursue a creative vision, and have now acquired the skills to do so. This puts you miles ahead of most recent college graduates, who have yet to realize that skills exist, and that skills matter. Expertise matters. The important work that you build your reputation on – you can’t just Google it. You don’t cut and paste it from Wikipedia. You roll up your sleeves, and bring all your creativity and meaningful skills to bear on the problem of building something.
I haven’t graduated from library school yet, and I’ve never gone to the graduation ceremonies from my previous degrees, so maybe I’m not one to talk about inspiring speeches. But the implication that people who work with spreadsheets and email (and debugging websites) are less deserving of inspiration than design graduates irks me. It irks me even though I’m guilty of it too.
One of the things that gets to me about library work is the lack of creation in it. I mean, yes we work on databases and finding aids and displays and information literacy lessons, which all require being creative, and sure, I can talk the talk about librarians facilitating knowledge creation in a community, but usually that kind of stuff feels hollow to me. It’s just so much rhetoric to make librarians feel better about ourselves, like the debates about professionalism we have at school. I mean, I’m all over being passionate about librarianship; being awesome is great in whatever field you’re in. I don’t want to get kicked out of the cool librarians club I haven’t even joined yet, but I can’t be the only one who finds it kind of natural that creating something that gets collected by a library is better than being the collector.
But. I learned today that I might be heading out to rural Australia next month to train the staff from a health services library system in using Koha. Which I’m kind of excited about. There is expertise involved there too, stuff I’ve gone to school for and have a bit of talent in. It’s an opportunity to go somewhere and see some more stuff. Take me away from nitpicking a website and I can remember I’ve got some passion for this kind of work. I may not be a “creative professional” deserving of an inspirational speech, but as far as day jobs go, this can be a pretty good one.
It’s also kind of great to work at a place that values my abilities and trusts me to go out as their representative into the world. I’ve been here less than two months and I’m still a student, but I’ll get to go on a business trip (inshallah) like I’m a person with a real job. I don’t know how much I want to be a person with a real job, but it’s kind of fun to pretend. Pretending’s part of creation, isn’t it?