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Whooo Says:

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Dear Whooo,

I am a health sciences librarian, and I am very tired! It seems that our profession is changing so rapidly that I can never catch up. I keep trying to learn about the new technologies and practices, and then to incorporate then into my library. However, just when I get something started and working, things change and I’m back to trying to catch up and “get with it” again. Help!


Dear Frazzled,

It’s nice to hear from you. I’m glad that you are taking a minute to stop, breathe and ask for help. I suspect that there are many librarians that share your thoughts about the rapid change in their environment.

I’m going to try and respond to your question by comparing your library career with a river rafting adventure. We’ll start our discussion and comparison by noting that both your library career and riding a river raft are conscious choices with a lot of unknown factors. When you start your river trip, the water is calm, the scenery is beautiful and your fellow rafters are excited and filled with anticipation, just as you are. It takes a little while to learn to use your equipment (paddle) and to get acquainted with your fellow riders. It also takes some time to learn to coordinate with the other riders to form a team; each person needs to understand the rules and how to work together to move the raft downstream.

Another fascinating part of a river trip (and a library career) is that the scenery and the conditions are always changing. Rivers change with the topography, sometimes moving slower and sometimes racing into whitewater rapids. In the slow spots, everyone needs to pitch in and paddle to keep moving toward the end of the journey. In the whitewater, sometimes it’s a wild ride with everyone trying to stay in the raft and avoid getting hung up on the rocks. An important thing to note is that participation is not a choice in either of these situations. Because you started the journey, you have committed to fulfill the responsibilities as well as enjoying the adventures entailed in getting to your destination.

Teamwork is another aspect of a river trip that makes the journey happen. It is possible that you know all of the riders on your raft at the start of the journey, but it is more probable that you will meet new people with multiple skills on your trip. Identifying a common goal and working together to achieve that goal makes the journey a much richer, more productive trip. It takes everyone pulling together to get the raft safely through the rapids or moving appropriately through the slow, still passages.

So, Frazzled, in answer to your question, I think the individual’s attitude is key to successfully running those rapids in our careers. We can easily let the river (environmental changes) overwhelm us and flip the raft, or we can choose to lean into the wave and push ahead with our teammates toward a common goal. We should always be prepared for new situations and experiences so we don’t get caught “up a creek without a paddle.” Sometimes we have to paddle as if our lives depended on it, and sometimes we can lean back and move a little slower, but we should always be aware of the beach (goal) at the end of this leg of the trip. We need to recognize and call upon those we can count on as teammates to collaborate and join us in the ride down the river.

Check out these videos of whitewater rafting to get yourself excited about the journey:





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