So I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be born in the late 70s/early 80s, what it meant to grow up in the 80s, go to college in the 90s, and begin working in the 2000s. And so far, the clearest (and most obvious) cultural shift is how the internet shapes one’s perception of what is possible.
Over and over again, I’ve thought about how I’ve been allowed to do things at this point in my career that I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be able to accomplish by the time I turned 30. And it’s not just me. Many of my professional friends have had the same experience. I know that most of the things I’ve gotten to do have come through contributing in one online forum or another.
My blog started conversations with people that I didn’t think would even notice that I had anything to say way back when I was just starting library school. Giving a webcast at an early online conference helped me establish some area of expertise way before I would have thought that possible–and I’m sure I was only given the opportunity because I wasn’t too worried about attempting to give a webcast. Twitter means that I never go to a conference with strangers. And I say all this here not because these experiences are unusual, but because I know many of you have had similar experiences.
And this really is different. I felt comfortable saying things in blogs and webcasts that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable saying in an article or a face-to-face presentation. Getting good feedback in these informal channels helped me feel confident in more formal ones. I certainly don’t have expectations that I’d continue interesting opportunities without continuing work and productivity, but I also have no hesitation sending in all kinds of proposals for consideration for journals, magazines, and conferences. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And at this point, if it doesn’t, I assume it’s more about the fit of the topic than anything. That kind of confidence (especially for me) is something that is a direct result of the context in which I developed as a brand-new professional.
And what’s exciting about this, to me, is it’s all still happening, so we’ll continue to get more new voices. And even more exciting is that a whole large group came of age in this environment–or joined in and adapted with it–meaning we’ll have a whole lot more confident folks who feel comfortable sharing their ideas, opinions, and experiences, even if they are edgy, controversial, or radical. The entire field is richer for it.
So, anyway, Outliers is a great book, and a fascinating read. I am thankful for the clarity it’s giving me in thinking about what it means to be in the library and information science field at this point in our history, and I highly recommend it to you.