Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Straightfoward Work

Recently I've caught myself thinking along the lines of "Wow, it must be nice to have a job where the responsibilities are obvious." I think it was after I found myself saying No to some ideas that I might have said Yes to in the past, and wondering whether it really made a difference either way. In a field like engineering, for example, it's more obvious what is good and what is bad. If it works, it's good; if it doesn't work, it's bad. What constitutes success or failure with certain ventures in libraryland is less clear. (I'm part way through writing another post right now about how to measure the success of a collection, which expands on this.)

Maybe it's a feature of work in the social sciences, where objectives can overlap in contradictory ways. While librarianship as an occupation includes aspects of many other jobs -- medical and IT fields first come to mind -- there is a uniqueness to what we do that defines us. Or maybe I just need to get better at defining and planning how to measure success before I start projects.

Simultaneously, I've been listening to Nickel and Dimed in the car. And I'm wondering, is work low-paid when it can be reduced to an extremely simple process? Is the fact that librarianship cannot be reduced to a simple process evidence that it deserves its categorization as a profession? Is this why work at a service desk lacks prestige -- because it's perceived to be straightforward, even if it's technically not? Is the element of uncertainty, the need for good judgment and imagination, and the lack of repetitive, simple tasks partly what distinguishes professional work?

So now I'm back to being glad that my responsibilities are not always straightforward -- it is evidence that librarianship is a profession.

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