As I move forward along the path of becoming a librarian, I have only a few long-term goals: to help others and to intimately work with information, publishing and literature in new and exciting ways.
It’s taken me awhile to figure out which direction my career should take, but whether I’ve been studying publishing or working as a journalist, a few things have remained constant. I’ve always wanted to: work with words, readers and writers, do a bit of writing myself, promote literacy and find new ways to communicate.
These goals changed – I’m going to say matured – a bit after spending two and a half years as an online community journalist. During my time writing, reporting and serving 20,000 readers day in and day out, I dealt directly with the evolving needs of a community as it becomes more digitally oriented. I heard a lot of “We need more of this, but less of that” ; “Why can’t I find this online?” ; and “How can I make my life easier by using these tools?” My company experimented often with how readers interact and communicate online. There were a lot of failures, but as editor, I learned a lot.
During this time, I also became acutely interested in the fate of online publications, particularly content that is published outside of a major “brick and mortar” news organization or publishing house. As an online journalist, I became adept at finding and utilizing online resources in my reporting – whether that was searching Instagram for photos of my town, or pulling Tweets and Tumblr posts into a Storify for a reaction piece on a breaking news event. It soon became evident that this is how stories are being told these days, and will continue to be told in the future. The digital world is where our history is being written and where information of the here and now can be found.
And yet, I had to ask myself: who is organizing this information? Who is monitoring the millions of megabytes of data being produced every second? Who in the world is archiving all those stories I wrote for my online publication? In the past, newspaper offices were equipped with their own “libraries” and librarians, with back issues safely stored either in physical form or microform. Where are the libraries for online journalism? For Tumblr? For Twitter?
And for that matter, where are the libraries for books published only online? In 2000, my favorite author Stephen King published The Plant, a novella that could only be purchased and accessed online. It wasn’t the biggest success and Mr. King took his money-making talents to more profitable ventures, but it gave us a peek into the Pandora’s box of digital publishing – a box that has largely been ignored in the commercial sector in recent years. And yet, digital publishing is an important reality for academia and academic publishing, particularly with online-only academic journals and digital textbooks. What will the academic library of the future look like when all students are equipped with tablet computers and that can download their biology textbooks in seconds?
And so, with my passion for literature and (digital) literacy, I knew that working with libraries was the only path for me. Here at Wayne State, I’m hoping to explore Digital Content Management as part of my studies, as well as digital preservation, to learn as much as I possibly can about what I imagine will be an important branch of the library profession in the next few years.
However, I can’t imagine myself trapped behind a computer my entire career, even if I was working as a digital archivist. I have a deep-seated desire to work with and help others, and I want my career as a librarian to reflect that. As I mentioned in an earlier post, a librarian should always work with the patron in mind – our’s is a customer-service based industry, and the patron should always come first.
In that vein, I want to pursue a career at a university library, working with both digital preservation as well as with students in a journalism or English department. I not only want to be their guide to library services, but I want to help them explore new ways to move about the modern media landscape – whether that’s journalism or publishing – with digital at their top of their minds. I want to bring the techniques of collection management to media management, so that when historians look back on 2013 and try to write the stories of our time, they’ll have the tools and information they need.