Back in 2003 I authored an article titled â€œPassion for the Professionâ€ in portal: Libraries and the Academy. In this piece I shared my reasons for being passionate about our work and provided my rationale for why we do it â€“ and why those contemplating a career in librarianship would do well to consider the academic sector. I waxed eloquently on the virtues of serving students and faculty, as well as the joys of being part of an academic community and a professional network. But perhaps I was guilty of overselling the concept of professional passion. According to some real passion experts maybe I should have written an article titled â€œSatisfaction for the Professionâ€ or â€œFinding Meaning in the Professionâ€ because for most of us that is about all we can hope to achieve.
Real passion, it turns out, is rather elusive. According to experts true job passion is a state of total involvement and complete immersion. A truly passionate academic librarian is fully absorbed in the experience. How absorbed? Picture a teenager playing his or her favorite video game. Hours can pass totally unnoticed. While I often have days when Iâ€™m wondering where the morning went and occasionally have one where I literally lose track of time â€“ an occupational hazard that leads to showing up late for appointments – most days pass just about right and rarely does boredom strike. When I occasionally check Facebook or Twitter during the work day it seems that some colleagues are frequently changing their status, reporting their top five kung-fu movies or sharing quiz results that indicate which Star Wars character they are. A passionate academic librarian would be so immersed in their work that he or she would not only not have time for such questionable diversions, but would be so caught up in their work that they would hardly even contemplate stopping for a little break. Iâ€™m not suggesting thereâ€™s anything wrong with the occasional social network visit â€“ it may even be beneficial in giving our brains a needed rest. A truly passionate academic librarian just wouldnâ€™t go there.
While I enjoyed thinking and writing about being passionate for academic librarianship â€“ and it made for a good article title â€“ in hindsight Iâ€™d say that while most of us certainly enjoy our work and are challenged by what we do, passion may be too strong a word. Iâ€™m certainly not the only academic librarian who has gone on record expressing their passion for the profession (see here). But perhaps itâ€™s not necessary to be passionate about academic librarianship at all. According to the experts, feeling a sense of control over one’s work situation and having work that one is able to master while taking on challenges that afford the opportunity to grow are the foundation of feeling satisfied with oneâ€™s job. Being completely immersed (obsessed?), if thatâ€™s a sign of passion, is not necessarily required for workplace happiness or professional success.
So if you do find yourself in a position of speaking with a potential, future academic librarian what should you tell him or her? Should you pull all the stops and go with the â€œPâ€ word? Or is knowing just how elusive real passion is a reason to put the kibosh on introducing it into the conversation? In thinking this over I conclude that itâ€™s fine to go with passion. If I tell someone Iâ€™m passionate about my work I think he or she gets it â€“ I really like what I do and look forward to doing it. From there itâ€™s a matter of elaborating on the reasons why I know so many colleagues who, like me, have practiced this profession for so long. Ultimately I think it does go beyond just being satisfied about or finding meaning in what we do. What is it that explains our passion for the profession? If you have a chance, try reading the article.