The Rule of GLAM

I'm going to preface this by saying I am a terrible student. I've never really enjoyed studying and struggle to take tests and assignments seriously as I prefer real life practical tests of my knowledge. This is reflected in the way I've taught myself outside of educational institutions. The way I learn code is pulling apart other code and even then only when there is a real life example in front of me. I taught myself html because I needed a website. I learn just enough Linux commands to get me into trouble and create Raspberry Pi projects that directly effect my work or home life.

Now, I'm not saying this is the best way to learn, but it's the way I learn. Apologies to any teachers/lecturers past, present, and future who have to put up with me. While my learning style isn't quite suited to structured learning, you know what it is good for? Professional development. Here's a real life example of it in use:

Local History Librarian: "We have all this data and need a platform to present it. Maybe something with computers?"

Me: "Hmmm, a wiki platform would be great for that. You could cross reference, link, display data, pull from this resource..." [madly scribbles in leather-bound journal]

LHL: "Ok, sure. Who can do this for us and how long?"

Me: "Give me a weekend." [Runs off an learns how to setup a MediaWiki install from scratch]

Looking at the topic for this month it is difficult for me to say what I wish they had taught me in GLAM school. Mainly because if I found my knowledge lacking in the last 15+ years I went out and learnt it. Every now and then the topic of what should GLAM courses be teaching comes up, usually from discussions with Kathryn1. While people are happy to throw out things like coding, change management, social media, 3D printing, etc. we always come to the same conclusion: what do GLAM professionals do that no other profession does? When we try and look at skills that only apply to our areas there are the stand outs like cataloguing, and curation. However most of the practical skills we use every day aren't restricted to the GLAM profession. So it usually ends up being something like 'TEACH ME EVERYTHING!' Which isn't all that helpful.

So what does this mean? Do we focus on teaching our new GLAM students a wide range of skills that cross several professions? Should we pull back on the industry and focus on only those core things that GLAM does differently? No, what I think we should be teaching, and ultimately what I wish I had been taught, was how to teach yourself. Or more importantly, that it's ok and encouraged to go out and learn new things. Try and capture the wonder and passion of new GLAMers and encourage them to feed it throughout their career.

It might be the overload of Star Wars that I've recently been listening to in podcast form but I'm reminded of the Sith code2:

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.

While the Sith might not be the best role models [citation needed] there is a freedom you get from following your passions and weaving them into your work. There is nothing I enjoy more than getting lost in a project that I've set up, learning new skills to get to the next level, and creating something amazing at the end.

This might not be something you can teach someone in GLAM school, but as a member of the GLAM profession you can certainly encourage it in others.

  1. I've just realised that I am in fact a mature age student now https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwManpnnha4.

  2. Just call me Darth Shaddow.