For various reasons, I’ve been reflecting a lot on service* lately. Through this reflection, some things about myself have started to coalesce in my mind. As I mentioned in a previous post, my path to librarianship was not direct. However, every job I’ve ever had has been based in service in some way (though not necessarily service as defined by my *). I don’t know which came first, my service jobs or my service ethos. Whatever the order, I can’t remember a time when service wasn’t important to me. It is essential to me to be of service both in and to my work and to ensure that my service is high quality. As a librarian, I have spent ten years developing a program of service that benefits my library, my university, and my profession. Along the way, I’ve also accrued benefits in the form of personal satisfaction and a network of friends and colleagues that I can turn to when I need support.
I recently read Cal Newport‘s So Good They Can’t Ignore You in which he argues that passion for your work is something that grows with time rather than something innate. It’s only through building “career capital” and cashing it in for more creativity, impact and control that we become truly happy in our work. That has certainly been the case for me. I didn’t come to librarianship with a burning passion for it, but my happiness and passion have grown over time. Without realizing it, I have become, at my professional core, a resource sharing librarian with a commitment to providing access to information in all its forms. Resource sharing has become my life philosophy, extending far beyond the sharing of library materials. I see service as yet another form of resource sharing. Whether it be sharing my librarian perspective in faculty governance, sharing my experiences and expertise through mentoring, or sharing my knowledge in professional committees, it is all resource sharing. It is all service. It is only through sharing our personal resources and serving our communities that we can hope to achieve collective success.
* I’m defining service here as applying one’s “knowledge, skills, and expertise as an educator, a member of a discipline or profession, or a participant in an institution to benefit students, the institution, the discipline or profession, and the community in a manner consistent with the missions of the university and the campus.” ~ from Service at Indiana University: Defining, Documenting, and Evaluating (1999). Indianapolis, IN: Center for Public Service and Leadership.