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 |  the personal is professional

The personal is professional; the professional is personal. No more hiding behind the day job, no more feeling weird or guilty about the side passion or art project or band or class that might on occasion keep you up a little past bedtime on a "school night."

You never know where you're going to meet someone in your field or a similar one - a film festival, a knitting circle, a farmer's market - and stumble upon an easy opportunity to network. Chances are that band you're playing with next week features a librarian or teacher or arts council member among its ranks, and instead of cloaking your daily life to look "cooler" (or not get traced back to your employer), you should join forces, commiserate, or celebrate. You should take comfort in the fact that there's others like you out there - maybe they didn't get their very first dream-pick of how to make ends meet either; maybe they also couldn't spurn their lower-middle-class work ethic enough to risk everything on the unevenness of an artist's life.

No more expectations that our coworkers, subordinates, and bosses just shut down for the night when they're off the clock, only to be rebooted when the lights are switched on the following morning. We're all adults here; we can let down the buns from time to time. We want our colleagues to be happy, sociable, funny, engaged members of society, don't we? We can think of those people as existing beyond the strict parameters of productivity... right?

The personal is professional; the professional is personal because there are plenty of lessons learned, anecdotes, and insights from one that can lead to ideas and inspiration (and common sense) in the other. And we spend so much of our conscious hours either at work or preparing to go there - proportionally, is there anywhere else away from home that even comes close? - and it's impossible for the two to not slosh over the boundary from time to time.

There are places, chiefly startups and the monolithic tech companies, where it's practically part of your job to fold your personal life in somehow, and while that's extreme and problematic for various reasons, you can waste a lot of time and energy on keeping them completely separated, too. Refusing to acknowledge the existence of family members, living situations, pets, hobbies, and all the other trappings of the personal life is awkward and virtually impossible. Why bother?

The personal is professional; the professional is personal because your workplace stands to benefit from the exposure, audience, or community of like-minded souls your external behavior might attract, whether that's in person or online. It could be a well-tended blog, a hashtag that generates discussion or buzz far and wide within the profession, a meetup at a restaurant, dinner and drinks after a conference talk.

No matter the medium, making yourself available and accessible through it can lead to so much more: collaborative projects, skillsharing, co-presenting, a place to stay at an out-of-town professional event. When you present at a conference, you should be able to connect yourself to yourself; you should be able to declare your handles and screennames and URLs with pride and confidence, not with hesitation or paranoia or fretting over somebody seeing an unrelated flippant quip about a news story you made three months ago on Twitter.

The personal is professional; the professional is personal because when you're in a bar or a nightclub and you join a friend who's chatting with some folks you haven't met, they're going to ask you what you do, and when you say "I'm a librarian," it never ends at that. They'll want to know which library is your library, and you could probably dodge that somehow without seeming weird or unfriendly, but something feels disingenuous - you are, after all, a community steward of sorts; you embrace this and you also aren't inclined to conceal information. Those values are a big part of why you chose the gig in the first place, right?

Much like education, social work, or long-distance running, librarianship is a discipline that's hard to have joined by pure accident. Sure, any number of us in possession of liberal arts degrees pivoted into LIS-ville in rotten economic times, and there's an air of "second-choice career" that can't be written off in all cases. But there's too much risk and too little reward, plus an undeniable professional ethos of generosity and fairness that's tough to miss (and not begin to embrace) during your training, for just about anybody to make it out of grad school without a plan to stick around.

The personal is professional; the professional is personal because librarianship is personal. It's who you are. It's what you love.. So, go on doing you - I assure you, you're in good company.


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Hey Cal, why is there no comments section? Comments sections have a tendency to devolve into nasty little spaces, teeming with spam & ad hominem attacks. I also have a fondness for the 1.0 Web (props to Neocities, powerer of this site). If you'd like to share your thoughts, find me on Twitter or fire off an email. Thanks!