Librarianship is a unique field. There are relatively few librarians I’ve met that started their academic careers with the intention of becoming a librarian. For example: I have a BA in Psychology and worked as a crisis counselor for a year before deciding to make the switch. One of my co-workers has a degree in Marketing, and another has a degree in History. I’ve also found that most of the librarians I meet are passionately interested in something outside the realm of librarianship, and that these interests vary widely. I think this is what makes libraries strong, and that incorporating our personal passions into our work is the key to being successful and happy in our roles.
I was always active and athletic in my childhood. I started taking dance lessons and playing soccer when I was five, and became passionate about basketball in junior high. The stresses and challenges of college led me away from active endeavors. Combined with my Standard American Diet (SAD), this resulted in a weight gain that began impacting my health. I decided to take control of my health, and as a result have lost over half my body weight. For more on this, check out my personal blog “Girl in Half”. My pursuit of health and wellness began out of necessity and has become my key focus outside of my work. The intersections between health and wellness and librarianship aren’t as common as those with other fields (ex. History, English), but they have been happening with increasing frequency.
My health and wellness interest has evolved from a simple focus on food to incorporate physical and mental well-being as well. One practice that I have begun to incorporate in my daily life is meditation. I am not as far along on this as I want to be, and I hope to have more time to work on this when I finish my half marathon this weekend. Although I haven’t been consistent in my practice, I have found it enormously beneficial to my work. Meditation is the best way I’ve found to calm and focus my mind, which allows me to be more productive in my daily tasks and in my more creative endeavors. I teach workshops and individual classes about presentation skills, and meditation is one of the tools I share with them to prepare and mediate their anxiety,
I have seen meditation popping up in the library world with increasing frequency. My favorite library blogger Char Booth references meditation frequently in her posts and has discussed how this practice has been useful in developing presentation skills and battling impostor syndrome. Jill E. Luedke wrote a post on the ARCLog blog recently titled “Focusing the Mind, Practicing Attention in the One-Shot Library Session” where she discussed the use of guided meditation at the beginning of library instruction sessions. Brilliant! Naysayers may see this as a waste of precious time, but I would argue that 3-5 minutes is worth it if the result is a more focused and engaged group of students.
Another practice I am trying to actively incorporate into my life is gratitude. We tend to be grateful when we are faced with a story of someone else’s misfortune or when it’s Thanksgiving time. This is unfortunate, as gratitude has amazing benefits (see this article from Dr. Robert Emmons at UC Davis). My goal is to recognize moments where I am grateful on a daily basis, either through sharing them with others or being especially mindful of them myself. These grateful moments happen frequently in my time at the library, and I think they have helped me be more empathetic to the experience of students. They also make me appreciate that I have a job where I can genuinely help others in the immediate present, and potentially make a difference in the future.
Much of my free time is devoted to researching, blogging, and having conversations (in person and through social media) about health and wellness. One of the nutrition researchers/authors I most respect is Marion Nestle. I follow her blog, and she often weaves concepts of information literacy into her posts. I love when this happens because they illustrate the myriad ways the skills we teach as librarians can impact the world outside of our libraries. She posted a blog recently titled “More on food company sponsorship of nutrition research and practice” that I adore because it shows why it’s so important to be aware of where you information comes from and who paid for it.
I am fully plant based, and a lot of the false and misleading information on the health benefits of certain animal foods is based on research sponsored entirely by entities like the Dairy Council. This is a huge conflict of interest that many people are shocked to find out when they start learning about plant based eating. Another post she wrote “What’s up with the retraction of the Séralini feeding-GMO-corn-to-rats study?” tackles the issue of journals retracting published papers. Nestle details the process of publishing and peer review from her perspective as a researcher. This is a fascinating read for both the librarian and health nut that coexist within me.
Having strong passions outside of work is key to living a fulfilled life, and having the opportunity to combine the two is an incredible gift. I am thankful to work in a profession that draws people with such varying interests. I know that I can always learn something new from a colleague, and that no question from a student will go unanswered because we all bring these unique passions with us to the library each day.