procrastinatin’

procrastination (from Wiktionary):

From Middle French procrastination, from Latin prōcrāstinātiō, from prōcrāstinō ‎(“procrastinate”), from prō + crāstinus ‎(“of tomorrow”), from crās ‎(“tomorrow”).

So in a week I finish my MLIS. My studies in this degree have raced by (unlike others): one day I was just starting, wondering how I’d manage online study alongside a handful of part-time and casual jobs, and the next day I’m facing down my final assignment due date, with a full-time library job and other grown-up responsibilities perched upon my shoulders. I have learned a lot from my (formal) studies, but elements of the course confirmed my suspicions about the shortcomings of Australian library science education. I used to wonder why the librarians said and did certain things — things which weren’t necessarily a reflection of their individual personalities (the most unlike and distinct people saying and doing similar things). I now realise that part of the explanation for this tacit groupthink is an outcome of completing one’s LIS education before one actually works in the sector. I was more fortunate than I initially realised in having done years of work in libraries before embarking on the qualification; by starting in a low-level library job I essentially had the practicum completed before the scientia were imparted. I also had the chance to develop and confirm the people skills that now inform the mission of public libraries and inflect us toward the psychology of the classical professional services industries.

Another thing I’ve wondered about is the distinction between librarianship and the arena of library science. Wikipedia notes a debate about whether ‘library science’ and ‘librarianship’ are indeed distinct professional identities in a relationship akin to ‘medicine’ and the work of ‘the physician’. In 1951, Pierce Butler wrote about the appearance of the modern librarian as a by-product — a custodian and arranger of book collections. The modern library industry has developed all the characteristics of professionalism as defined by Magali Larson (see also Larson’s 2014 reflection, published in Radical Teacher). The most interesting thing about this confirmed professionalism has been its impact upon LIS education: the standard assignment throughout my MLIS has been The Report, with its set of unchanging (and unyielding) rules, conventions, and marking rubric embedded in the scholarly firmament.

Having been on the receiving end of more than one report over the years, I can confirm that The Report is as fine a vehicle for conveying an argument as you’re likely to find, however, constant repetition of the same writing task in assessing the acquisition of knowledge in diverse LIS areas has some drawbacks. Firstly, it overstates the value of The Report in daily professional practice; not every library employer, not even (dare I say it?) most library employers, exult in The Report in the same way that university educators do. Secondly, its conventions are distinct from those of any other piece of formal business writing: The Report helps you not at all to compose an excellent email, write strong meeting agenda, or draft the budget commentary that will fascinate and engage your funding agency. Thirdly, The Report fetish risks confirming a professional LIS monoculture of report-writers writing reports for report-readers (all of whom will then write reports, potentially on the report and first-tier report-writers).

I mention this because my final assignment in the degree is to write the text of an informal talk. The hypothetical scenario is that we are addressing a meeting of a seniors’ computer group, and have to outline some ways to ‘think about and do’ digital preservation work. This is an awesome assignment for several reasons: the scenario is more real than most of my previous assignment scenarios put together; it is grounded in an idea of community engagement; it takes something remote and long-term and makes it immediate in both time and space, bringing the future to a front-of-mind space and forcing us to focus on what we need to do now to make things accessible then.

And so, why ‘procrastinatin’’ as my title and theme? Well, I write this while I should be writing the talk: classical procrastination. But this has been sideways-productive, encouraging me to think about where this degree has taken me (a rapid learning trip indeed, with no time to stop and think). Procrastination isn’t always negative. The etymology, which I copied and pasted from Wiktionary to get me thinking, is essentially about tomorrow; of tomorrow, for tomorrow. Ultimately, there’s nothing that puts more faith in the potential productivity of the future than the act of procrastinating itself.