My Reflections on Five Weeks and Librarianship

Meredith wrote a long post yesterday about her feelings regarding Five Weeks and I thought it was time I posted mine as well. Her description of how this came about is honest and her comments are all things I can say “exactly” to. It was a success because our participants felt like they learned and had a good time. That means all was well in my mind. Not perfect. There were glitches, but we dealt with them and moved on. It was great and I can not imagine building it with anyone else.

This particular post has been long in the making.

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you read this post I wrote a little under a year ago about some thoughts I had while in ALA 2.0 Bootcamp. What started out as a good experience soured quickly and we were indeed told that it could not be done better. That is a challenge I am loathe to back down from, especially when I had started the conversation for the purpose of making things better. The challenge from Kathleen was reason one why we “sat down,” over IM, and hatched a plan. She was the impetus and for that, I am grateful to her.

Reason two involved the library profession more personally, for me. (Please brace yourself for broad generalizations.) We pay too much for things that do not work. We refuse to change, grow, and learn. We fail to see the future even when it is no longer nipping at our heels, but crushing us under its weight. These attitudes make me tired and I have only been struggling in this profession for less then 3 years. No wonder I know so many older librarians who have become malcontents. (and plenty who are not, they are what keep me smiling)

I helped build the dream that became Five Weeks because I believe that we, librarians of the world, hold the capacity to learn, change, and adapt. I believe that there are enough of us that dream big and then do, but I think we are too few. Too far apart.

It was inspiring to watch the participants learn new things and build amazing ideas and plans of their own, but it also broke my heart to hear about all the roadblocks they each face. I moderated two groups and we spent time every week in each group going over ways to deal with reluctant staff, stubborn administrations, and refusals to adapt. It was especially disheartening to hear over and over again stories of supportive management that nevertheless refused to change because of one or two vocal staff. To hear them voice the concerns that plague my own life made me want to weep for our profession. Weep for the ability of other people’s stubbornness and a culture of indecision to steal the fire that is in so many of us. Weep for all of us who struggle uphill to make things better, but mostly weep for those who hold our profession back.

I hope that all the participants bring their wonderful ideas back to their libraries and meet with resounding success. I hope this everyday for them. They worked so hard and are so full of excitement about what they could be doing for their communities.

I did not intend for this post to be so gloomy, but my feelings about Five Weeks ranged from elation and hope to despair and I think this post was reflective of that. My largest hope is that others will build their own Five Weeks projects. As Meredith stated in her post, an online learning project can be about anything. My desire is that libraries and organizations, even ALA, will see the value on building these kinds of learning portals and offering them for free. Free. of. Charge. For. Everyone.

There are some libraries doing absolutely awesome things, sometimes with little resources and a small staff. We all know who they are. These are the places that give me hope, restore my smile on days when I want to rend my clothes and pull my hair. We are watching you, oh beacons, and we hope that more people notice too.

I still love my profession, but like any love relationship, some days, I do not like you very much. Recently, I have felt all I want to give you is tough love. From the heart, but very tough.

–Jane, power to the people