I just received a sample copy of Information Today (23:5, May 2006) in the mail, which included an article titled “Seek and Ye Shall Find” by Shirley Duglin Kennedy. (Subscriber-only link, but it’s available in InfoTrac and elsewhere.) She notes:
“Some people think I am a magician because, in 90 seconds, I can find what they could not find in hall a day. They think it’s because I’m a whiz with databases and search engines. But usually that’s not why I’m successful. I’m successful because I’ve spent so many years poking around the Internet, reveling in serendipitous finds.”
Well gosh, yes!
Serendipity got me through half of an (abortive) PhD program — whenever I looked up one book, I’d scan the shelves around it and almost always find related resources. I kept up the practice whenever I walked people to the stacks as a reference librarian in a public library. And I’ve always thought of print research as following a similar pattern to online research: One book or article will point to several more; look those up and they’ll spider out further; you’re done when your outbound links start to duplicate to the point where it’s unlikely you’ll find anything new on your topic. (Or never done, if you’re obsessive and in a PhD program! )
I think this is a point we’ve somewhat overlooked in the recent discussions about professionalism and keeping current. Because I read blogs and journals and web sites and tuck aside things for use in presentations or articles, I’m more likely to be able to find an answer later. Limiting your reading and participation to what strictly pertains to your current job limits your outlook and limits the foundation you will later need to build upon when your job inevitably changes.
One of the things that makes us professional is the underlying inquisitiveness that makes us go beyond, that makes us think about how things fit together and who else might benefit from or be working on a given topic, that makes us ponder what implications our serendipitous finds may have on our workplace or our profession — and makes us want to pass our thoughts on to others. Dorothea makes a good point when commenting on the last professionalism post, saying: “Isn’t that what deprofessionalization is, really? Turning a career into a job?”
Seeing librarianship as a career, not a job, means seeing this as a profession, not just a field in which we are employed. It means being willing to go beyond, to embrace serendipity, to participate, and to see ourselves as part of a larger whole.