It’s four in the morning and I should be asleep. Commencement starts in 5 hours, but chemo is keeping me awake. I was planning on writing a general message to new LIS graduates, but it just kept feeling overblown and preachy. Instead I’d like to direct my comments to this year’s graduating class of library science students – now librarians – at Syracuse University’s iSchool.
First, know that you are special to me. You were the first class I was responsible for accepting while LIS director. I learned so much from you. I saw how you filled the holes in curriculum and hands on skills by organizing yourselves and building a network of support. That move changed the program, and the school. I saw how you quickly saw beyond buildings and books to communities and proactive service.
Let me, if I may, give you one final lesson – a thought as you head into what for many will be your first job in libraries: Don’t wait. It will be too easy to wait to share your voice and your vision. You will want to wait for some experience. You will want to wait for promotion, or a management position, or the next job…don’t. Your voice, and your fresh perspective are too valuable to wait. The field needs you, just as I needed to learn from you.
I am not asking you to alienate, and I am certainly not excusing you from the obligation of listening. What I am saying is that time is no automatic test of fitness. Good ideas come from new places, and old ideas may need to be retired. The field needs your passion and it needs it now.
I realize that many of you are in your 20s and 30s and see the expanse of your life before you. You have plans, and career tracks, and goals for tomorrow…don’t wait. Don’t wait because now is the time for big and bold ideas. Don’t wait, because you have been prepared as radical positive change agents. Don’t wait, because you never know when all that time you saw before you is taken by lay-offs, an unreasonable boss, or the knife of a biopsy.
You have a voice in this profession not because your newly minted degree entitles you to one, but because you have earned it. I have seen you earn it in the classroom, and beyond. I am proud of you. Change the world!