1950s — Children’s Librarian Hazel Keedle with Reading Club birthday cake, at OLD Ann Arbor Public Library on East Huron Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan. flickr photo by In Memoriam: Wystan shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license
A couple of weeks ago over lunch with a colleague, I decided it was really time to call myself a “mid-career” librarian. I’ve been feeling kind of mid-career for a while, but it wasn’t until making some comment about not sweating a lot of the small stuff (like presenting at any conference that will have me or serving on any committee that asks) because it doesn’t actually matter, that I realized I’ve attained that point of not sweating the small stuff the way I did 5 years ago. It was liberating to admit I’m old.
Then this week the SLA 2019 Awards Class was announced. Congratulations to all who are being recognized! You should go read the whole list of award winners. It’s a pretty good class! And then there’s me. This isn’t false modesty – it’s really kind of weird to become an SLA Fellow, but a recognition I was mildly prepared for having accepted becoming mid-career. See, long ago… I gave up expectations or dreams of getting awards for my work because it was inherently selfish and lead to disappointment. I engage because I value those connections and want to help the information profession evolve and grow in a way that benefits society. I saw so many others working hard for the betterment of SLA and the profession without much of a personal agenda, with a genuine commitment to service, and I decided to follow their path.
And that’s the thing that has been the most rewarding thing so far about being named an SLA Fellow – the outpouring of support and recognition from all of those colleagues who have helped me out over the years. Those who gave me advice, gave me opportunities, gave me their time and feedback. Many of them are SLA Fellows, and to join their ranks is a huge honor. (I do feel kind of like a fraud – have I actually done enough work for the association to join this cadre? – but I will try to let those feelings pass and accept that others value my work with SLA.) I can’t really give a full run down of all the people I especially want to thank, since you are numerous and I would hate to leave people out, but I know most of my conference in Cleveland will be thanking you all in person. I couldn’t have reached this point without your support and belief in my abilities.
This also has reaffirmed my commitment to the profession though, and sustaining pathways and opportunities for new professionals to contribute for the betterment of all. I still strongly believe that as you progress in your career, you owe it to those coming after you to help them in the ways others helped you. Like writing letters of support. Or giving people opportunities to present and share their knowledge and perspective. The people I have grown to respect and admire in SLA are those who continue to do that hard work, even (or especially) if there is no direct, immediate benefit to themselves other than satisfaction in helping others. (I’ll save my screed for those who pull the opportunity ladder up behind them for another post.) And I’m excited to see this new crop of Rising Stars and what they will continue to do with SLA.
Let’s go have some library cake.