Last week I had the honor of attending a panel session featuring the top commanders of the Library of Congress. These included Chief of Staff Ryan Ramsey, Principle Deputy Mark Sweeney, and, of course, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.
It was incredibly valuable to receive career advice from a panel of such intelligent and passionate individuals, all of whom love the profession and desire to share their excitement for it’s progression into the digital age. It was also interesting to hear more about the goals and aspirations that the Library of Congress hopes to achieve in order to better serve not just Congress, but the nation.
I took two major pieces of advice away from this session. The first was to not be so rigid in your career goals that you do not take opportunities presented to you that may feel slightly outside your comfort zone or abilities. Everyone on the stage that afternoon agreed that there were many times they reached their goals after gaining more unique experiences, or times where they had changed their minds about their career after trying something new. It felt encouraging to know that if something doesn’t work out the way I hope it does, perhaps unexpected opportunities can take me places even more fulfilling and interesting than I had hoped for.
My second takeaway was the comfort I received upon hearing that the Library of Congress could benefit from having more generalist-librarians in their staff — individuals who can look across divisions and specializations, appreciate them for what they are, and then connect them to common goals in tangible ways. It can be difficult to imagine librarianship as a profession of specialists, but I often feel a little out of place as someone who doesn’t want another masters degree in order to specialize in a specific topic. Even in music librarianship, which is a relatively narrow field, I’m surround by those who specialize in film music, or the classical time period, or Russian composers, or female composers, or even baseball music! To know that I can prefer to know a little about a lot of things and still be desirable as a potential librarian was a great boost of confidence.
I am incredibly grateful to have received advice from the top figures in my field. And now I shall leave you with the best words of the entire afternoon from Dr. Hayden, in response to the relevancy of librarians:
“Well you know that Beyonce has a full-time archivist, right?”