On being a righteous freedom-fighting librarian
Meghan over at Re:Generations recently posted about what it means to be a righteous, freedom-fighting librarian. I think that as librarians, a profession charged with no less lofty a mission than protecting access to information, whether from governments or parents, and helping provide that information–in as unbiased, nonjudgmental, and friendly a way as possible–to people, that we are more than usually inclined towards righteous freedom-fighting.
Our day jobs (and the need to pay off those library school loans), though, tend to interfere with our fulfilling those idealistic goals.
So, are there ways we can get help without giving up our day jobs?
Libraries Without Borders states its mission as “support[ing] education in developing and disaster affected areas by providing children, students and adults access to well-equipped, up-to-date and efficient libraries.” The main way they ask for support is through donations of either books or money; I could see hosting a book drive or fundraiser at one’s library, whether public, school, or academic.
Librarians Without Borders is still getting off the ground, but recognizes that a “vast information resource inequity existing between different regions of the world. Our vision is to build sustainable libraries and support their custodians and advocates — librarians.” Hopefully they’ll be up and running soon, but at this point their news feed looks like a good place to keep apprised of relevant upcoming conferences, ways to help, etc.
Did you know that as a librarian you are eligible to participate in the Fulbright Specialists Program? These are two- to six-week programs that could easily be done on vacation time (or, since they’re prestigious and library-related, may not even require time off!). (You can also, of course, apply to be a Fulbright Scholar to do library work in developing countries, for example, but the academic year timeframe for this makes it rather less amenable to the working librarian’s schedule.)
And then there’s IFLA, which allows for more formal, resume-friendly involvement, with numerous special interest groups and sections one can get involved in.
I derive a great deal of satisfaction from helping college students—or even just a person walking down the street—with real, useful knowledge (how to find information, a valuable resource that will be referred to again and again) but still feel as though I could be doing more. As a library school student (set to graduate in August!), I have yet to embark upon my professional career, but I can see how easy it would be to end up comfortably ensconced in one place, due to the significant others/children, not wanting to take a lot of time off from a new job, lack of vacation time, etc. I’ve already joined Librarians Without Borders and plan to join IFLA soon (membership is rather pricey for a paraprofessional’s budget) and very much hope that I will be able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Fulbright program in some way. We are so privileged here, even with the high unemployment rate and shaky economy, and—especially those of us new to the profession, energetic and eager to change the world and help in any way we can—we should take advantage of any opportunities available to us.
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