I was at a meeting the other day when I heard a phrase I hadn’t heard in a long time.
“The greying of the profession.”
It used to be bandied around a lot when I was attending some of my first LIANZA meetings 15 years ago. The phrase was used to refer to librarians getting older then retiring and leaving a leadership gap in the library profession. I don’t know if the people using it were worried about the lack of librarians to take on the leadership/managerial roles or that they were worried the next generation were the wrong kind of librarians. I wonder how the library bigwigs of today feel when they reflect back fifteen years. After all, they would have been the ‘leadership gap’ referred to.
Is it a conceit of every generation to worry that the next generation won’t get it? That everything will go to hell in a hand basket once the new generation are in charge? I look around at the leaders in the profession today – people I’ve been privileged to work with, and for – and I feel proud of what they are achieving and working towards. I look at my peers and am confident we can step up if needed.
I don’t actually think that the person who used the phrase was using it as shorthand for the collapse of library leadership in New Zealand. I think they were using in conjunction with ‘new librarians’. That’s the updated version of what used to be called ‘young librarians’. (Apparently you can’t say ‘young’ anymore because of the numbers of people transferring to their second or third career.) I wonder if library leaders look at them and worry about the future because the ‘new librarians’ haven’t spent years working in libraries.
Personally, I don’t think it matters whether you have worked in libraries for 3 months or 30 years to be a leader in the profession. Whether it’s in the digital space or at storytimes or helping a customer with a query – you just have to be in the right place at the right time with the right attitude.