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ala 2011 annual conference: leaders wanted

29 Jun

CC image courtesy of dolescum on Flickr

Honestly, I didn’t have any high expectations when I left for New Orleans last Friday morning. Now that I’m back in DC, all I’ve been thinking about is the conference and how I left New Orleans inspired to take action in a variety of ways. It was great to finally meet other library students I’ve been in contact with through Twitter, notably writers and readers from the Hack Library School community. I had such a great time with all of you, and I’m proud to call you my friends! The time spent just hanging out with people was definitely the highlight of the conference. I would go back just to hang out again!

As for the conference itself, the session that stuck with me the most was “Leaders Wanted / LIS Doctoral Programs Options Fair: Cultivating Diversity in LIS Education.” I quit my Anthropology Ph.D. program three years ago, and I never considered pursuing a doctorate again until this conference session. I have quite a few issues with academia, but one of the panelists — Camila Alire, 2009-2010 ALA Past President — definitely got me thinking about changing my position on pursuing a Ph.D. She stated that it’s important for librarians/library students of color to get their Ph.D.’s because we need to diversify the profession. Additionally, earning the doctorate makes you a role model — not only for other LIS students of color, but all the patrons of color you’ll interact with. One out of three people in the United States is a person of color, and the library profession should reflect this diversity.

Camila’s comments really resonated with me and got me thinking. I can’t just wait for other people to step up to the plate — or wait for others to provide my perspective in the greater body of LIS knowledge. My goal has always been to perform research on issues important to me, regardless if it related to my job or not. If I’m going to be doing this research anyway, I might as well get that other “union card” at the same time — and the institutional resources and support that come with being in a doctoral program would be immensely helpful. It’s also unfortunate, but a reality, that having a doctorate gives you a certain credibility to some (or many) people. If that credibility would give my research more weight, then I seriously need to consider that. I do not plan on ever becoming a full-time professor — I enjoy working in libraries and archives too much! And if I pursue a PhD, I also don’t intend on becoming a full-time student. I just want to work with people in a library or archive, connecting them with their information needs, and at the same research issues that interest me — is that too much to aim for?

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