One reason I was drawn to librarianship is the profession’s potential for being pedagogical in an empowering way: connecting people to the resources they seek in order to educate, delight, or otherwise inform themselves fills me with lots of excitement. Of course, as Catherine wrote so well in her blog post, the corporate, capitalistic, job-prep mindset of major universities today is impossible to ignore. Few and far between are the patrons who come to the reference desk looking for a geometry book purely out of personal passion, or for a stack of books on queer performativity just “for my own reading.” That being said, I’ve had both of these rare Pokemon reference interactions stumble across my path; interactions such as these keep me going. As I read Tessa’s post lifting up, with such laudable honesty, her experience with burn-out, I found myself both nodding along and thinking–how can we get out of this? What steps might I take to keep myself believing in everything that drew me toward librarianship in the first place? What steps am I taking already?
First things first, I’ve been trying to walk my talk. I became really unsettled realizing how eager I am to leave the library. What’s this all about? For someone who used to linger in the library for hours, strolling through the stacks and riffling through luxurious mountains of books, a sudden aversion to being in the library should bode some serious ill. But when I’m only here for work or class, the associative box that gets drawn around “being at the library” is not a super positive one. I’ve started stacks-strolling again. I’ve started going up to the PS3000s and tracing my fingertips along the spines of poetry books until one catches my eye/skin/heart.
I found this poem:
Her blue dress is a silk train is a river
is water seeps into the cobblestone streets of my sleep, is still raining
is monsoon brocade, is winter stars stitched into puddles
is good-bye in a flooded, antique room, is good-bye in a room of crystal bowls
and crystal cups, is the ring-ting-ting of water dripping from the mouths
of crystal bowls and crystal cups, is the Mississippi River is a hallway, is leaks
like tears from windowsills of a drowned house, is windows open to waterfalls
is a bed is a small boat is a ship, is a current come to carry me in its arms
through the streets, is me floating in her dress through the streets
is only the moon sees me floating through the streets, is me in a blue dress
out to sea, is my mother is a moon out to sea.
and this one (both of these included here for pure inspiration, but also for their tie-in with the beauty theme this semester):
What is beauty? Ask my soul–
beauty is every extravagance, every gleam,
every flood of abundance
and every great poverty.
Beauty is being faithful and going naked to the fall.
Beauty is a parrot’s plumage or the sunset predicting a storm,
beauty is a stern expression and its tone of voice. It’s me!
Beauty is a great loss and a silent procession of mourners,
beauty is the light touch of a fan that wakens the breath of fate,
beauty is being as sensual as the rose,
or to forgive everything because the sun is shining,
beauty is the cross the monk has chosen
or the necklace of pearl a woman was given by a lover.
Beauty is not the thin sauce poets serve up as themselves,
beauty is making war and seeking your fortune,
beauty is always to serve a higher power!
translated by Samuel Charters
Beyond returning to the library for inspiration and renewal, I’ve also tried to seriously educate myself through the library’s resources this semester. Registering for fall classes last spring, I realized that there was information I wanted that the classes offered by SOIC-ILS were not going to provide: I wanted to learn everything I could about library services in correctional facilities, with a particular focus on library services in juvenile detention centers. There just aren’t classes on these topics (yet?). As a good wannabe librarian, I would have to seek out the information myself.
I registered for a directed reading/independent study and started making myself a curriculum, Almost immediately, I had that feeling, familiar to all who have faced an arcane question at the reference desk, of despair: there aren’t many resources at hand for the serious study of correctional center libraries. But after a few deep breaths and some dedicated search time, I cobbled together a respectable curriculum drawn not only from IU’s stacks and resources, but also from the network of librarians I’ve come to know in the course of getting my MLS, who recommended texts for reading and connected me with librarians facilitating a juvenile detention center’s book group in Johnson County. All of this served to turn my initial despair on its head. Satisfaction fills me when I realize that, between the library, the internet, and some persistence, I truly can learn about anything I want.
Bringing us back to earth from that dewy-eyed (Dewey-eyed? sorry) moment, I’ve got one last self-care suggestion drawn straight from personal experience: picture books. They’re everything a stressed out student/worker/trying-to-be-well-rounded person could possibly want in that they’re short, colorful, inspiring, comforting, funny, and heart-warming. IU has a collection that is equal parts marvelous and alarming, modern and antiquated, housed over at the Education Library, and Monroe County Public Library’s picture book collection is a force to be reckoned with. Need general ideas or particular suggestions? Here’s a few titles I’ve enjoyed lately, but also feel free to ask me in person or friend me on Goodreads (this probably also goes for any other youth librarianship folks, but I’ll just speak for myself).
Promising Picture Books:
The Storyteller by Evan Turk (MCPL)
Pool by JiHyeon Lee (Education Library; MCPL)
Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle (Education Library; MCPL)
Jazz Day by Roxane Orgill (Can request from Indianapolis; MCPL)
Jones, Saeed. Prelude to Bruise. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2014.
Södergran, Edith. We Women. Translated by Samuel Charters. Portland: Tavern Books, 2015.