My occupation, formerly, obscurely


brainexplorerThe next item in the Prompt Book is “What is your occupation? Explain in the most obscure way possible.” I’m going with my most recent one, prior to retirement.

I was an explorer. Early on, I was attracted to exploring. I guess you’d say that I was discoverer-adjacent, or maybe a voyager without the training.

As an explorer, I had this big machete, which I would use to chop down trees, bundle some of the branches, and ship them off to those in need.

Strange thing, though. The forests got thicker. Much thicker. Some of the trees were accessible to everyone, stooped over so that almost anyone could take the branches they needed. This was, in theory, a wonderful thing. The democratization of exploration. Some people assumed that my job wouldn’t be needed anymore.

But then the forest became overgrown. It became more and more difficult to discern which branches were useful, and which were actually just leafy thorns. Now I wasn’t needed to access the low-hanging branches. But my expertise was useful to make sure the branches I did chop were of sufficient quality for the task at hand. That machete became quite necessary.


Next question. “You discover that there is a poltergeist in your house. How has it been haunting you?”

It has been interrupting my sleep. The damn thing then reminds me of all of the things I did that I should not have, and all the things I didn’t do that I should have. In the former category, if you’ve ever felt aggrieved by something I did, there’s about a 90% chance that I remember it, and an 81% likelihood that I feel bad about it.

It has led to long stretches of insomnia. I’ve needed to eat nothing after about 7 pm and get really exhausted in order to sleep six hours in a row.

I is for information, please? (ABCW)

Where are you trying to go?

informationWaiting for a bus recently, I had what is possibly an obvious epiphany. Sometimes the technically correct answer isn’t the answer you need.

For instance, if you were to ask me, “Where is the nearest bus stop?” I could easily point someone to it. But using what we librarians call the reference interview, maybe I should ask a few clarifying questions to make sure it’s the answer that would actually be helpful.

For instance, “Where are you trying to go?” The nearest bus stop might not be heading in the correct direction. Or that bus doesn’t operate on weekends. Or it might not be running in the middle of the day.

Recently, I happened across a guy who was waiting in downtown Albany for a specific bus in the late morning. Because I know these arcane things, I was sure that route would not be operating for another four hours! But I aware that another bus that ran every 20 or 30 minutes would get him fairly close to his destination.

I’ve mentioned before that I have to be vigilant against false information. In the cases of the former First Lady Barbara Bush, and the legendary singer Aretha Franklin, reports of their deaths came out two or three days before their passing. Why? In order to be first with incorrect reporting?

Conversely, I was sitting in a deli hearing guys talking about a woman dying from dog saliva, a story I had not heard. It turned out to be true. But one fellow said to another, “They shouldn’t report that. It’s doesn’t happen often and it’ll get people all worked up.” I disagree; the story correctly noted how RARE the phenomenon was. Intentionally not reporting it is untenable.

Check out analytics evangelist Ann Jackson on being the voice of data, overcoming imposter syndrome, and setting aside intuition. It’s something I strive for, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

For ABC Wednesday

Ich bin ein LIBRARIAN!

In my self-introduction yesterday, I failed to say what I do. Well, now you know, of sorts. Actually, the way I see it, being a librarian isn’t merely what I do. It’s what I AM.

When I was a kid, I was always reading the Encyclopedia Americana and the World Almanac. The latter I have received for about 38 out of the past 40 years. (Someday, I’ll tell you my father’s reaction to that.)

But, I was self-misdiagnosed. For a while, I thought (and others thought even more so) that I’d be an A.M.E. ZION preacher. Later, I thought I’d be a lawyer.

My first job, other than delivering newspapers, was working as a page (i.e., gofer) at the main branch of the Binghamton Public Library . I was under the tutelage of one Mrs. Fawcett, an elegant lady from my church.

But, no, I stayed with the idea of being a lawyer, until I FAILED an undergraduate law course. Then I didn’t know WHAT I was to do. After graduation from the State University College at New Paltz, I drifted about. (A story in its own right.)

I decided to go to the University at Albany and major in Public Administration. What a mistake! The students were cut-throat. Ultimately, I dropped out, worked for FantaCo Enterprises, a comic book, and film book emporium for 8.5 years. Then I had a dreadful year at Empire Blue Cross. (Can’t wait to talk about THAT!)

While I was working as a Census enumerator in 1990, three of my friends, Jendy and Judy, who were new librarians, and Broome, who was a lawyer, convinced (OK, NAGGED) me into applying to the UAlbany library school. Frankly, I didn’t think they’d take me after my previous disaster at the graduate level.

But they did. And I found it was a very cooperative experience, due in no small part to the fact that most of the students were women. Also, I didn’t feel out of place as a returning student. That year, I was 37. The average age of students in the department was 37.

I got a job that I’ve had for over a dozen years, and it’s clear that this is what I ought to have been doing all along. I LOVE librarians.

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