You can be what you want to be…

One of my favorite activities to do with students is a source card activity shared at the 2015 LOEX Conference by Meagan Christensen, Todd Burks, and Meredith Wolnick of the University of Virginia.  This activity begins by the librarian explaining to students that a citation provides readers with key information about an information resource (namely author, date of publication, title, resource) and that through this information we can deduce what we are looking at and begin to evaluate the resource’s value for our intended goals.  The students are then given a card that contains a citation and a screenshot of a resource.  They meet in groups, try to determine if their resource would be valuable to the task at hand, and then return to the larger group to share their findings.  I always enjoy the conversation that follows:  students wonder aloud if their source is too old, what the difference is between a book and an article, and why one website seems so much better than the next.

Next week I’ll be visiting one professor’s Exploratory Studies classes (the DeSales mash-up of First Year Experience and “Undecided”) to work on source evaluation with a homemade source deck built around the question “Can you be whatever you want?”  In putting together this source deck I found a whole bunch of resources that can be used to argue ‘yes’ or ‘no.’  The resources fit into seven categories and I find them incredibly interesting:

  • Do you have the right character traits?
  • Do you have the right skills?
  • Are you following your passion?
  • How will your education level and marketplace demands impact your options?
  • What if you face discrimination?
  • How strong is your network of support?
  • Is luck is on your side?

Basically, you can be whatever you want to be if you have the right character, skills, passion, education level, skin color (and weight, level of attractiveness, abilities, etc.), support network, and a bit o’ luck!  Isn’t that encouraging?!

Preparing this activity has me reflecting on my own professional journey.  I became a librarian, in part, because my dad told me I had “soft skills,” that my character made me suitable for serving others. My skills resulted in a quick and painless college experience and I found that I’m passionate about encouraging people to consider others’ perspectives, read to learn, and use technology.  The marketplace hasn’t been great – I graduated high school in 2008 (read: recession) and college in 2012 (read: another recession) and had a bit of trouble finding work.  But the job I did find after graduate school, though  not a perfect fit, led to some great friendships and a lot of self reflection.  I’ve faced minor discrimination and though it was frustrating it lead to compassion for others who encounter injustice more regularly.  I’ve been supported by friends, family, and coworkers and luck seems to be on my side!

If “Life is luck” (Thompson, 2014) I’ve managed to hit the jackpot.  Kim, Rhee, Ha, Yang, and Lee (2016) note that being tolerant of uncertainty links an individuals’ circumstances, career decision self-efficacy, and career satisfaction.  My tolerance of uncertainty is high but not 100%.  My experience interviewing of a new job exemplifies my tolerance level and is always the same.  After an interview I feel confident for 48 hours and then I start shrinking in the face of uncertainty – perhaps my answers could have been misconstrued, of course not everyone understands my brand of self-deprecation…

I relived the interview uncertainty recently because I applied for another job!  I’m happy to announce that I’ll be transitioning to the Muhlenberg College Trexler Library where I will continue my practice as their Assessment and Outreach librarian.  If you remember my first post to this blog you understand how this job seems uniquely fit for my passions, skills, and experience.   I’m lucky that my colleagues at DeSales support my move and recognize this as a growing opportunity.  To me this seems like luck, but I guess that’s all of life!


Author: Jess Denke

Assessment and Outreach Librarian at Muhlenberg College

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