A Gift For Librarianship?

Having 2 kids under 2 I spend allota of time wondering about intelligence, careers, and whether or not being "smart" is inherited, or it's something the kids will have to work at. If this is something that interests you, check out "The Myth of Prodigy and Why it Matters." I'd give you a link, but I'm lazy, and you're probably a librarian, so you can find them on your own. Here's my one sentence interpretation/summary: Being a child prodigy probably doesn't mean you'll be some kind of super successful adult genius. Most things take ALOT of practice to really stand out at. Being a child superstar means you're a good learner, being an adult superstar means you're a good doer. See Also: "What Do We Make Of A Boy Like Thomas" and "How To Grow A Super Athlete." Almost all my reading time is spent on parenting articles these days.

Those articles, and my own children, got me to thinking about we're "naturally" good at doing and how that might influence our career paths. Should I hope my kids are all super geniuses and become brain surgeons, oncologists or world famous physicists? What happens if they turn out to be naturally gifted sociopaths and become lawyers, Senators or CEOs? With a "natural" gift some career choices are obvious, like sports, or art, or music, but what about all the other normal careers like librarianship? I can't think of anyone who would get excited about a young child showing a natural ability to organize books, "Oh boy, he's going to be a librarian when he grows up! Look, he knows how to use LC and he's only 18 months old!" Lebron James was a superstar that excited everyone at a young age because he did so well at basketball, somehow I can't see much excitement over him if he could memorize cutter 6 numbers or search Medline better than anyone else. But I suppose that's just how it is with most professions, not just librarianship. No one gets excited about "natural" skills unless they involve sports.

I can only think of one thing I seem to be naturally better than the average bear at doing. That is, there's one thing I don't need to practice and I still seem to stand out in a crowd: I have an almost photographic memory for most places I've been. I'll give you two examples to illustrate.

When I was young (between the ages of about 11 and 16) we would go to a family member cabin down in Alleghany County once or maybe twice a year. So I'd probably been there 6 or 7 times in my life and then stopped going for 10 or 15 years. The last time I went was sometime during the early 1980s. The wife and I went down in 2004, and I didn't need a map to get there. It actually never even occurred to me to bring a map. Keep in mind the cabin is at the end of a 5 mile long unnamed, dirt road. Another example; A friend of mine was showing a group of us his vacation pictures. He had taken a road trip to the Atlantic Ocean and had all the usual shots of the beach, random road signs, people, and dead fish. There was also one shot of an alley, just a random alley. I have no idea why he took that one, but I recognized this as an alley in Corning, NY, because I had parked in that same alley probably a decade before that.

You could probably drop me blindfolded any place in Western New York and I'd be able to tell you how to get back home. I can still picture random cities I spent a few hours in 15 years ago like Salinas, KS; St. George, UT; and Phoenix, AZ. I can't really remember street names, but I remember buildings, houses, bridges, and major landmarks. It's not all that impressive, and it drives me crazy that I can tell you how to find some stupid bike shop in Seattle I haven't seen since 1993, but I can't remember where I left that letter I got from my bank with the new password I'll never remember to get into my new account. If I could just find a way to make a million dollars with my useless talents.

So anyways, as is often the case, I'd like to finish with a question. Are there skills most librarians seem to posses naturally? Some common trait we share like superstar athletes are all fast, muscley and competitive?

Are we, as a profession, naturally inclined towards something? Meetings? Conferences?

Comments

Genetics vs environment

Having a bit more experience in the parenting dept. (my kids are 38 and 39), I'd say 98% genes, 2% environment, and all you get to contribute after they pop out are values and the accoutrements like good school system, good health care, safe neighborhood, etc. I've seen a lot of larger families where the kids all have essentially the same advantages but one may go to prison, one into medical practice, and one becomes a beach bum. So I'd say a predisposition to librarianship, or something like it (increasingly a bent toward technology) combined with a certain desire to be a social worker or one of the helping professions is probably in the genes.

Here's how it works:

Nature delineates potential, nurture develops it.

Re:Genetics vs environment

I hear that alot from people who've gone through it all. I figure all other things being equal (i.e. health, wealth, parental invovlement) it's mostly in the genes. But those things that we as parent do, count for alot. I've seen the results of bad parenting and it ain't pretty.

Re:Here's how it works:

You are wise in the ways of parenting.

problem solving

I was a always a bookish kid--my juvenile delinquent neighborhood pals would proudly introduce me as "the girl who reads encyclopedias." While that certainly helps, it's more my ability to problem solve that's made me a kick-ass librarian and what is helping me in my early days as a manager. My first act of librarianship, long before I considered becoming a librarian, was a multi-year search for my birth family. I started in my early 20s by reading about other people's searches and just did some old-fashioned detective work. It didn't pan out, so I kept trying other angles until I was successful. Of course it was great to have a successful reunion with my birth mother and sisters, but I got the biggest buzz out of the process. It's been that dogged curiosity that I see as my biggest strength as a librarian. I always thought that I would make a really good private eye, and I do tackle reference questions with a detective's eye.
I also think that there would be different beneficial gifts for different types of librarians. Having ADHD has been a blessing for me as a front-line librarian because I like, I need variety, and am able to switch gears quite (too) easily. But, I imagine that cataloging takes more focus, more ability to accept rules. Anytime I'm faced with a cataloging issue, it drives me mad because I see it as such a flawed system and want to look for ways to fix it. Probably not good if you want to be a sane cataloger.
I also think that your question, Blake, really hits on how much librarianship has changed in the past ten years. Not that all librarians before then were homogeneous, but the gifts that today's front line librarian needs are significantly different than what were most functional 20 years ago. Those who have been in the field for a long time and who are able to adapt, who exhibit social and intellectual flexibility, are the folks who are most happy and successful. Maybe that's the gift--adaptability? What got you thinking about this, Blake?

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