June 21, 2018

Of Leavings and Beginnings

I attended the retirement party of a good friend and colleague recently. It turns out that this was the tip of the iceberg. Someone afterwards sent me an email listing a dozen people from UC Berkeley alone who are retiring, most of whom I worked with in my career. These are, by and large, very good people. Professionals who have had long, distinguished careers of which they can be proud.

I’m depressed about some who are leaving the profession, as I count them among those who have truly made a difference. Unfortunately, either they have not all had a send-off, or I was not informed, being long gone from the institution from which they are retiring.

I am only consoled because I have made an effort to connect with those on the other end of the pipeline — new librarians who are our last, best hope. And I’m gratified to know that we are in good hands.

As I have done at past American Library Association (ALA) conferences, I hosted a dinner of relatively new librarians at the conference in Anaheim. As I’ve said before, I continue to be impressed with the new talent entering the profession. Should I ever be in the position to retire, I will feel completely comfortable leaving the profession in the hands of these young professionals.

But I also wish there were ways for retiring librarians to pass on what they’ve learned. Not so much the specifics of their day-to-day work, which are of limited usefulness, but rather more subtle, complicated, and important skills. Like how best to navigate the tricky politics of an academic senate or a board of trustees. Or how to be a great employee and an even greater manager. Or even how to learn to love letting go of antiquated knowledge so you can more easily grasp the new.

There is so much wisdom that is leaving us, and although it leaves us every year, we are entering the watershed years of the Baby Boomers retiring. We will be experiencing a tsunami of lost wisdom, where  the experience of decades is washed out to sea as if so much flotsam and jetsam and those on shore are left to try to make sense of it all. At least I know they are up to it.


Photo courtesy of PTMoney.com, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.