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The Library of our Discontent

Edward Shaddow in GLAM Blog Club, Libraries, personal, fear

Fear. Fear takes many forms, from childhood nightmares to crippling anxieties. I experienced a lot of fear this past month, mostly around getting this blog post done in time (my fears were realised), but there were professional fears too. Will my public PC system crash (yes, repeatedly), will anyone come to my NLS8 presentation (yes), will I mess it up (no). As I've been mentally writing this blog I've spoken to a lot of people, and over the past few weeks I think I've worked out what I fear the most, GLAM wise.

I fear I'm becoming too jaded, yet I worry I'm not jaded enough.

Heathrow Baggage Retrieval System

I worry a lot about my profession. I worry about the people in it, I worry about the students studying it, and I worry about the people we're serving.

I fear that too many people come into our profession with amazing ideas and ambition, but they will be squandered and lost due to poor management, risk adverse employers, and naysayers. I fear those employers who hire amazing people and then don't allow them to do the amazing things that they were known for. Risk adverse organisations who complain about being behind the trends, then risk manage 'disruptive' ideas or technology to death. I mostly fear that our profession will lose or worse, break, the very people we need to move forward as a profession.

I worry about our new GLAMers, coming through tertiary systems. Are they being taught relevant things that will actually allow them to work? Will they find jobs in their chosen career, or will they be relegated to working on the fringes, volunteering, or giving up and switching paths? I fear our students may not be resilient enough. What happens when a new grad runs head first into the wide GLAM world only to experience terrible managers or retired in place black holes who suck all the joy and ambition from them? I worry about how our profession is now, and what happens when the next generation grow up in it, will they shrug it off and make it better, or will they take it in and conform?

I fear we focus on ourselves too much. Looking at how great we are and how well we've done over the last few decades. I fear we pat ourselves on the back too much, yet I worry we don't highlight our work enough. What does our profession look like to the general public? Are we our stereotypes, or do we help people like we think we do? Do our galleries and museum exhibitions touch peoples lives and make them better? Do people weep when they see themselves, their culture, represented in a catalogue or didactic? Do we perpetuate inherent bias, telling the same stories without risk or fear? I worry our work doesn't touch enough people. I fear it touches too many.

Jaded Librarians Unite

I fear becoming like them, those jaded, resentful, people we all know. The ones who keep doing the same things over and over, yet complain how nothing ever changes. I worry I complain too much, yelling into the void. I fear my words fall on deaf ears, too hard to change, to much too do. Am I doing enough to mitigate my fears or am I doing too much and causing more harm than good? Snarking in the backchannels, not speaking up. Opening my mouth, drowning out better voices, making people look at me not those they should be looking at. These are all things I fear.

I fear I don't fear enough.

Fear is the Mind Killer

While I seem to have a lot of fears I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing. Knowing, and facing your fears is a big part of growing as a person. They say it's not the first thought that comes to mind, but the one right after that matters. Fearing something but knowing why you fear it, what about it that makes you so terrified, there's power in that. You can use that knowledge to build on, work out coping mechanisms, making changes to help you and others. Odds are you're not the only one who fears something.

This quote from Dune has always stuck with me, despite not sticking with the source material. The first few lines have become a little mantra I say to myself when the unknown begins to overcome me.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

-Dune by Frank Herbert

Here's Your Kebab

If you've made it this far, well done. This blog was a hard slog and more of a cathartic exercise for myself than anything. The more I thought about 'fear' over the last month I realised that I saw it in everyone. We're all dealing with our own fears and talking about them can help. I highly recommend finding a like-minded, snarky group to blow off steam and rant with, this often saves my mind. While it was good to focus on this topic for a while, I don't recommend staying in this headspace for long though. Learn, acknowledge, move on, get a kebab.

A writer with weird ideas and a polytheism fixation. My alter ego lives in the library, soaking up tech and designing pretty things.

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