The Beginning of the Search of “What is ‘IT’?’”

[This was first published at AMPed.]
One of the first things I did when I found out I was accepted into library school was to Google for blogs, wikis and podcasts from others like me: new to be librarians and archivists who were in or had recently graduated from their respective programs.
I figured it was 2008, surely there would be loads of blogs, Facebook groups, listservs to name a few places for this sort of thing.
I was wrong – there wasn’t really squat. Let me rephrase that, I found lots of things from other people looking to apply TO library school but nothing really detailing what it was like being IN library school. And what I could find on being IN library school fell into two camps: One camp was the very vague, mainly one-liners on random blogs and other social media sites such as, “I really like collection development.” Or there would be the opposite end of the spectrum where students used social media sites for research results or gave detailed accounts of their projects but then wouldn’t include reference materials of any sort for their readers to do further independent reading.
And the thing is, I didn’t really think I was looking for something really that vague or obsolete or unusual: I’m a new library and archivist student. I’m looking to connect with others like me. Why was this so difficult?
This is not to say, completely, that these type of blogs/wikis and the like were not out there; I eventually did find one or two that lead me to a few others, which lead me to a few moreand so on. But in reality, I felt like I was missing some super secret handshake that all my fellow students seemingly were totally getting. And it’s also not that I didn’t ask – I did ask on mailing lists, blogs and to my professors: What is the best place to keep up to date on library and
archival information? And you could almost hear the pin drop, at least on the mailing lists. Many others also asked the question before me on several lists and not a single person answered, even when others would pipe up, “Me too!”
By the time the school year was nearing to an end, I had joined (it felt like) a dozen associations from the ALA to the SAA to all the subgroups and student committees. I was receiving so much email, that I had to create a new Gmail account to keep track of it all. The Twitter explosion had taken off and I was obtaining feeds from
librarians and archivists through it and other social networks. At a tech unConference that was held shortly after I finished my first year, I posed the same question to the ending panel and was given a minute list of websites that I was already following and reading.
And it still, shockingly enough, didn’t feel like I had the pulse on of what the heck was going on in my chosen career path.
For nearly a year, I was chasing this library and archival holy grail of sorts to make sure I was in “the know” of everything was going on in these professions. I couldn’t read, listen or write fast enough to keep up. If I was honest, half the time I felt like I was missing out on huge chunks of “need to know information” because I wasn’t paying close enough attention.
Recently, after nearly a year of this kind of OCD behavior, I was having a conversation with someone when I was lamenting my thought process on this topic with her. “But Lisa,” she said, “You ARE it. Do you have any idea how many people look to you as you have the pulse on what’s going on?”
I used this overly long example to illustrate a point: “IT” is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. In my quest to know “IT” in library and archival sciences, I had become “IT” without knowing it. Once I got my friend’s point, suddenly the need to seek out so much information didn’t seem as important as it used to. Sure, I felt vaguely disappointed there was no secret handshake but the pressure to get all that information that I was supposedly missing, lifted from my shoulders and I felt like I could breathe again.
This concept is very Buddhist, but it’s also very true. When new technologies arrive, whether mechanical or digital, the media and the tech evangelists tend to blow up that particular technologies importance while deeply underscoring that if you’re not using X technology, clearly you must be an old fart or not hip enough to get the lingo or the technology itself.
This is all poppycock, of course. No one can possibly know everything – it is virtual impossible to be an expert on everything; especially in the digital world. But what you, the reader, can do is to know that even by searching out for “IT” on the subject of your choice, you probably have a greater understanding than those around you on the topic.
Even the media, at best, is a neophyte of sorts in this regard.
AMPed plans to take a look at “What is it?” by examining aspects of this ideology from variety of perspectives and experiences. As each one searches of “IT,” so then does the definition of “IT” change – we hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as we do.