A Surprise Ending

At ACRLog, I try to write about the biggest issues I can wrap my head around, and I try to write primarily for librarians who are new to the profession, especially those who are only a year or two into school or who have recently graduated. I think of this as following the imperative to “write what you know.” Since I don’t know any less about the biggest issues than I do about the smallest, I stick to the biggies, and since I enrolled in my first library class just eighteen months ago, having never worked in a library, I write mostly for my peers.

It’s been a fantastic eighteen months, perhaps the best eighteen months of my life: if you had told me then that I’d be where I am now, I would have thought you were crazy. Meredith Farkas has just published real advice on how to achieve real success, and I suppose I’ve managed to do some of the things she wrote about, though for me it’s mostly been a matter of stumbling uninvited into committee meetings and writing about things that interest me.

Fortunately, that seems to have been enough. While getting your first full-time library job can be tough, other sorts of opportunities seem all but limitless, even for new librarians. I’ve had a chance to meet dozens of people I consider role models, and probably hundreds more I admire. Incredible people have agreed to let me visit their libraries, allowed me to publish and make presentations, invited me to join them on committees and boards, and have agreed to work on thorny, long-term projects with me.

Which is a long way of not writing that a funny thing happened on my way to my first full-time job at an academic library: as of May 1, I’ll be director of the Collingswood (NJ) Public Library. It’s a wonderful library, with a fantastic staff and board and friends group, and I’m incredibly excited about working for my neighbors. I’ll really miss academic librarianship, but some opportunities are too good to pass up. Though the specifics will change, I hope to find similar opportunities in PLA, NJLA, and LAMA.

As for ACRLog, this is it for me. As much as I’m dying to publish it, I can’t imagine that anyone would read 2,000 words on how bibliometric analysis of every student paper, thesis, and dissertation, and every faculty article and book, is not only technically possible, morally defensible, and cost effective, but may be the most relevant assessment tool for academic libraries. And not just for its traditional use, evaluating collections, but also for measuring how effective we are as educators: if reference interactions and instruction sessions don’t lead to scholarly citations, then how useful can they possibly be? Given the possibilities created by expanding the scope and importance of automated bibliometric assessment, now seems like an ideal time to work with scholars to standardize on a single, simple, open citation format. It would also be a good time to study academic libraries’ annual reports, codify best practices, and develop a data specification that facilitates quick and accurate benchmarking.

Which is to say, thank you for reading. And be sure to look me up next time you’re in Collingswood.

4 thoughts on “A Surprise Ending

  1. I like the idea of a standardized citation format, but maybe we should sort out world peace first, since it may be easier.

    Best of luck, Brett! and congratulations on the new job. It sounds as if you’re entering a very supportive and exciting new community. You’ll be missed here.

  2. Wow! Congratulations! Just goes to show that great things can happen when you’re open to them and are willing to engage in some fearless networking. Your story is a terrific example for new librarians. Good luck in the new job!

  3. @Barbara: Mark Pilgrim’s kid sorted out world peace a couple of months back: “Just be nice to each other!” As for the citation format… can you keep a secret? The idea of starting from whole cloth was meant as something of an Overton window, with a not entirely unrealistic goal of persuading one or more of APA/MLA/Chicago to endorse a free, YAML/Dublic Core-ish subset of simplified, human and machine readable citation formats that meet most undergraduates’ needs most of the time.

    @Meredith: I was willing to engage in networking, and it turned out to be a lot of fun, but fearless? No, not so much. I think, like a lot of book lovers and information junkies, starting a conversation with someone I don’t know involves varying degrees of fear, whether it’s in person or online. But I’m glad I’ve overcome those fears so far. Librarians, and people who love libraries, are incredibly kind and generous. I’ve loved getting to know so many of them.

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