Thursday, May 29, 2008

Not Ready for the Pasture Yet

Last week at the New Hampshire Library Association spring conference, I was part of a program called "If I Knew Then What I Know Now." A panel of six "experienced" librarians were quizzed by a group of three people new to the profession, with questions and comments contributed by the audience. The questions focused on our career paths and what we would have done--or not done--differently. Four of the panel members are currently directors of public libraries, two (including me) are former public library directors happily working in middle management positions today, and one was interim director of an academic library during the search for a permanent director. All but one are long-time friends of mine, and together we probably had about 150 years' worth of library experience. The questions were thought-provoking, and while we were basically in agreement on many of the issues, several interesting perspectives were offered.

I've been in this profession for more than 35 years, and often, after a particularly challenging day, I ask my righthand man, Alex, if I can retire at the end of the week. He always says no. I tell him that I will still call him with all my reference questions, but I think he'd rather I continue to answer them myself. So no retirement for me in the near future, I guess. My retirement account agrees, unfortunately.

Cheryl LaGuardia is a Research Librarian at Harvard and a blogger for In a recent post, she wrote about how lots of people who had planned to take early retirement have postponed it, mostly for economic reasons. But she goes on to say that many Baby Boomers are postponing retirement because they love their work and can't bear the thought of not being where the action is. Libraries are continually changing. Our patrons are looking for the next big thing, whether it be in print or online, and we have to be on top of things to be able to deliver the goods. There's always something new to learn, and I figure I have to justify the time spent learning it by using it for a while until the next new thing comes along, and so on. Cheryl LaGuardia says that she won't retire until she stops learning. That probably describes me, too, so I guess someone else will have to mow my place in the pasture until I'm ready to do it myself.

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