Librarian: Postmodern Modular Identities

I find it odd when librarians worry about idea of librarianship in terms of an Identity Crisis.  An Identity Crisis is a term thought up by psychologist Erik Erikson and refers to adolescence, specifically failing to achieve a proper ego identity adolescence.

Interestingly our species arrives at adulthood both in terms of physical sexual maturity combined with the result of how our mental self-image is assimilated with the mental images others project on to us.  If we navigate adolescence correctly, so theorized by Erikson, it is said one will achieve what he called “Fidelity” which means you are a nice person and not a jerk.

If we fail this navigation in adolescence, we end up as physically sexual mature adults without a sense of the “who, what, where, when, how, and whys” of ourselves. Unable to assimilate our internal and external images into cohesive whole we become assholes, usually because being an assholee is at least something of a tangible identity. And having a bad identity is less burdensome than the tension of cognitive dissidence brought by the inability to self-define a place in the world. Or something like that.

While corporations may be people, in some embarrassing twisted logic, they do not from psychological crisis.  Organizational Crisis, yes and they can be similar in topology to the kinds of this people may go through.  But that is normal for professions and people.

And while corporations may be people, in some embarrassing twisted logic, they do not from psychological crisis.  Organizational Crisis, yes and they can be similar topology to the kinds of  crisis people may go through.  But that is normal for professions and it is for people.

What seems to make a profession a profession is some codified requirements taught by schools, associations, ethics, laws, and terrible trade magazines full of bad writing with people dressed like they are running for class president and ads…lots of ads.

Individually, professionals are those who have gone through the training and professional hazing by other professionals in their profession until they can go out into the world and not embarrass their teachers.

So it might very well be the case that some librarians experience something of an Identity Crisis in their experience of their profession.

That is different than saying librarianship itself has an Identity Crisis. In my view the profession has issues of budgeting, communication, etc. but the profession itself hasn’t lost essence or aboutness.

Librarians have been around a long time, we are beaten by older trades I grant you, but 5000 years is pretty old. We need not worry like adolescents about adolescent things. When we have professional issues we work these issues out in the various conferences, journals, blogs, bar room brawls like any other civilized profession.

In my view, the feeling of Identity Crisis is more an internalization of the general external malaise and societal boundary dissolution.

Physical computers are interface the software advance. Thus computers mesh learning in general into confronting technological interfaces, both hardware and software. And while similarities prevail over pedagogical technological manifestations and aims (teaching patrons how to use the OPAC, trainers teaching office products, admins teaching how to use an email client, etc.) the phenomena itself as such, offers no proverbial shift of paradigms for librarianship.

These paradigms themselves are interdependent among themselves. The going about teaching Bibliographic Instruction is similar to the going about teaching practically anything on a computer just out of similarity of interfaces, but it is the substance that is being taught that differentiates it.

Instructional Technologist, Educational technologist, Information and Communication Technologist, etc. are all ways of saying that someone is showing someone how to use some technology in some context. Figuring out where Librarianship fit IN those ideas is like pushing a square peg in a round hole. Figuring out where Librarianship fit AMONG them is looking at the shape, size, and color of the pegs for purposes of juxtaposition. As such, overlap is fine.  We can be like something without an Identity Crisis.

That some people in and out of libraries  in ways that conflate, dis-join, remix, confuse or fuse librarianship and other professions is fine.  Because of the similarities of technological interfaces there is something of a repetition in going about working in various applications, tool bars, drop down menus, Boolean logic etc. but that is more superficial, differtitaction comes in substance, essence, and aboutness, all of which are doing just well in Library World.

Since the substance of librarianship does not change because of the medium or methodology we can recognize the work of ancient libraries as will new generations recognize our work. The dissolution of boundaries in terms of methods is not equivalent to dissolution of substance.

It  may be that Librarianship grows in the way we as people are the same person as we grow older.  We change in all dimensions over time but yet are the same. We know we are the same because all bills are addressed to us, beyond that we could change sex, religion, occupations, but we are always ourselves.  Librarianship will change methods, technologies, roles, materials, job titles and responsibilities over time, but at core it is the same 5000 year old deal, just like fishermen, soldiers and the like.



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