I am irrelevant, therefore I matter

Lately, due to the push for educators to embrace 21st century learning and TECHNOLOGY (caps intended), I have felt my career as a librarian (what a quaint, out-dated and adorable word) has made me irrelevant.  I have become an example of my own philosophical “theory of opposites”- which I hope to write about one day, once I finish spending all my time learning and writing my dissertation. Just kidding- we are never done learning.

I am an example of my opposites as a truism because the moment I admit my irrelevance…I somehow seem to matter.  The more I learn…the more I realize I know nothing.

I opened a school library in 1990 and have watched the slow evolution, or should I say the sudden snap, as we close “the Gutenberg Parenthesis”.  The gigantic dictionary in my school library (it must weigh over 12 pounds) causes kindergartners to turn their heads, gasp, and ask “what is THAT?!”

That gargantuan, once respected, object is irrelevant and is only kept on a display stand as a relic.  The death of “the dictionary” is symbolic of the end of the high regard for the printed word as king of meaning.  One might agree with those who feel that the printed word was overrated all along.  The authors of books, for goodness sake, are people.  Each human being is both extremely important and ultimately expendable.  Any media format may hold important information, entertaining information, aesthetically pleasing information, or be full of nonsense- and there’s a place for that, too.

So…I join those who struggle to live on the other side of the Gutenberg Parenthesis, particularly because (as a librarian) my profession was based on the prior hierarchy.  My 20 year (plus) career has been wonderful and now I stand on sand that is slowly blowing away under my own feet.  I am in awe of that!  How lucky I am to witness it.  I saw it coming and I am already standing on firm digital ground.  But…I still secretly love the smell of books.

Thomas Pettitt on the Gutenberg Parenthesis from Nieman Journalism Lab on Vimeo.



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