This is the first post from co-founder and editor Chelsea Heinbach. As of October 2017 Chelsea is a Teaching and Learning Librarian at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. From September 2016 to September 2017 she was a temporary reference and instruction librarian at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She tweets here.
I became interested in building a community like LibParlor through my experiences as a graduate student and as a new professional who wanted to publish but wasn’t sure where to start. My one year anniversary as a full-time librarian just passed, and I’ve been reflecting on my place within the profession and how I want to approach my research moving forward. I’m eager to contribute to the scholarly conversations that have been so helpful to me, but I have hesitations. Where do I start? Who else is interested in what I am interested in? How do I know if the work I am doing is worth sharing with a broader audience? And the ever daunting – Do I even have anything to say?
I began exploring these anxieties as a graduate student through an ACRLog post written with Alison Hicks, my library instruction professor, and Cyndi Landis, a fellow student. We discussed a project Alison assigned that took us through a mock peer review process and published our work in a self-published open access ebook . If you teach MLIS students-do this! For more about this project check out our ACRLog post linked above or Alison’s recent article . I remember the excitement I felt when we were assigned this project. I was nearing the end of my final year of library school and this was one of my first opportunities to share my work with a wider audience. However, with that opportunity came unease. For the first time in my graduate school experience I was hesitant to make bold statements with my work. I agonized over my topic and the potentially negative consequences I might face as a graduate student on the job market. To simulate peer review, Alison read and edited the drafts, sent them to other librarians in the field, and eventually published the revised versions online. This engagement with the publishing process showed me quickly that I had a lot of growing to do professionally and academically.
One mistake I made in graduate school was convincing myself that becoming a Librarian with a capital L would magically pacify these concerns. One year in, I’m still waiting for the moment when I no longer feel like an imposter. I’m still unsure about taking up space in the profession and I still fear that everything I will think of will have already been said. This mindset doesn’t seem particularly helpful to the development of my research agenda.
I recently happened upon an essay by Adam Phillips in which he argues against listening to the ever-critical part of us. At one point he personifies this voice as a person at a party that constantly drones on with negativity. He dismisses this voice within ourselves as incorrect, unhelpful, and unimpressive.
“The self-critical part of ourselves…has some striking deficiencies: it is remarkably narrow minded; it has an unusually impoverished vocabulary; and it is, like all propagandists, relentlessly repetitive.”
Phillips | Against Self-Criticism
It’s easy to laugh off this issue when envisioning our negative inner voices as obnoxious party guests, but it can be really difficult to battle unproductive self critique. As a new professional it’s easy to compare yourself to those that inspire you. During graduate school Kevin Seeber was my supervisor, Alison Hicks was my instructor, and I briefly worked with Zoe Fisher. I benefited from the expertise of many accomplished librarians and researchers, but it was unclear to me how I would get to where they were professionally. It wasn’t necessarily their CV’s that I admired – it was their centered approach to their work. I recognized that they knew who they were professionally, and I didn’t yet.
Over the last year I’ve transitioned from graduate student to a new librarian teaching credit-bearing courses. Today, I am preparing to move to another state and tackle the new rigors of a tenure-track position. I am incredibly fortunate, but moments for reflection on my space within this profession have been difficult to find, and they’re essential.
“It’s not a problem of getting people to express themselves but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say.”
Gilles Deleuze | Negotiations
It’s important we give ourselves time for silence and reflection as we get our bearings before inundating ourselves with criticism. Kevin wrote in our first guest #libparlor post that it took him three years as a librarian and eight years in the profession to truly feel like he had something to say. This was humbling to learn and I’m thankful to him for sharing it with us. Soon I will start a tenure-track position as a Teaching and Learning librarian at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I am humbled and thrilled by this opportunity. In this inbetween time, I am dedicating myself to focusing on ideas and developing relationships with others that are as passionate about their work as I am. I think taking this time will lead to better contributions on my part in the future, and I am growing more comfortable with the idea that these things will come in time. I cannot walk in and demand wisdom from myself. I can insist upon curiosity, passion, and dedication, but wisdom will take time.
When I was preparing to attend ACRL Immersion Teacher Track in July, I was reading Brookfield’s “Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher” and came across this quote:
“It never occurs to us that what needs questioning is the assumption that neat answers to our problems are always waiting to be discovered outside our experience”
Brookfield | Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher
I jolted and lunged forward to write down “LibParlor”, because I recognized that this was what I’d originally sought with this project: something or someone else to didactically tell me how to develop and pursue a research plan. In hindsight, that wasn’t truly what I was seeking.
I was seeking a place to wrestle with the more abstract anxiety of finding the mental and temporal space to identify my place in this field. I wanted a community. I wanted a space to try things and talk to other who are trying things. I love the idea Hailley had a few weeks ago about using this space as an intentional reflection space, and I hope everyone uses LibParlor that way. I think the most meaningful thing that could come from this project isn’t just lists of resources or examples of research methods, but a community that empowers others to discover what research means for them and pursue it, and I am very much looking forward to it.
Keep the conversation going…
- How have you built a research community?
- How do you test your ideas?
- When did you recognize a professional identity or voice within yourself and your work?
Thank you to Hailley Fargo, Katlyn Griffin, Zoe Fisher, and Thomas Padilla for reading & commenting on painfully long preliminary drafts of this post.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.