Do you know where the word “journeyman” came from? I cannot remember where I heard this, maybe the Harmontown podcast, maybe somewhere else (although probably a podcast), but after you apprenticed and learned from a master, you then went around to other masters and learned from them. Because you had some skills, you could make a living and still learn a bit before setting up your own shop. Or taking over someone else's shop, because f^&k renting, you know?
I even learned a bunch more (because I can read wikipedia) that some carpenters in Germany still hold to this journeyman tradition and I wondered... Could I be a journeyman librarian? Just walk the Earth, straightening what is not straight, bringing order to the wild shelves of America.
I wrote something sort of like that, a library western that turned kinda timeless, if sometime in the last 100 years can be considered timeless. The initial idea is a librarian in search of a book and a man. Called it Still Creek Jacks and read it last week on the Story Time podcast. Give it a listen. I might do more of them, librarian walking into town, searching for something and finding something else.
But could I do that in real life? Is there a journeyman type librarian position that does not involve selling something? Probably not, the bureaucracy is nuts. Hell, if someone came in my library and started rearranging the magazines, the director would stab a fool rather than pay them.
I have been doing some thinking about what wanting this lifestyle says about me. Why would I want to go out and learn? I mean the whole reason I was attracted to libraries is I like to read and know a range of stuff, not just a bunch on one topic. I’d be no good as a straight history guy or science guy, I’m too all over the place. Hell, even the undergrad I did get, English Literature, spans about a thousand years and jumps all over from topic to topic, form to form. The library seemed to fulfill that need in me to do stuff, to learn all kinds of things. I can do that from any library, right?
Oh, that’s the other idea of a journeyman: a jack or knave. It lead to the expression: “jack of all trades, master of none.” A guy that could adapt to a situation, not being perfect at one thing but knowing a bunch of skills to get by with.
I am that guy. I like reference not because I enjoy helping people (although when they are nice it is a bonus) but because I like answering questions and learning new things.
“What’s the capital of Norway?” Let’s find out.
“What’s this bump on my neck?” Hell if I know, but this book has a bunch of gross pictures.
“I need to know if you have books on raising chinchillas to fight.” I need to know that, too, because that’s a collection development process that went wrong.
But lately, it is less about where the information comes from and what it is and knowing it, and more about regurgitating it out onto a piece of paper to prove some kind of bet with a teacher or school board. I hate that part, the forgetting that knowledge is contained yet wild and free.
But what I hate most, what I dread most right now, is that where I am is where I will be forever.. And that I put myself here with debt and comfort. I feel stuck and alone and really want to just get in a car and drive as fast as possible in one direction until I stop and then change directions and change directions and change directions so I can not find my way back easily.
And I can. Nobody depends on me. With communication and global travel, I can be just about anywhere on the globe in less that 48 hours.
I do nott want a home just yet. I am not sure that I ever really will. Of course, I say that and most of you out there roll your eyes, tut-tut and smile saying, “Oh, yes you will.” And I probably will, but right now, I do not feel that way. That I’m already in my 30s and still have no feeling of permanence means something, right?
I want to walk, to go and see. I want to journey and find out that most cliche of cliches, home is where the heart is. There is truth there, I know it, we all know it. But for right now, waking up and seeing the same thing day after day is dull and boring and routine and I feel stuck...
Well, this dropped into whining really quick, huh? I mean, I am well paid, fed, roof over my head, car that works (sort of), family and friends that love me. Why complain and ask for more? Why tempt the internet fates and end up on a “white whine” website?
Because I want to know more about me, dammit. Me as a person and me as a librarian. I want to wander to other libraries and see what they do, learn their ways and then go on. The ALA and Sirsi and a dozen other companies have not centralized anything, every library has their own systems, their own shelving methods, their own programs and ways. I want to learn and grow and travel and see these, journey around the libraries and experience them.
Someone will point out ALA and state conferences as a way to meet others and learn more, but that’s not the right way to do it, I think. Those conferences are there to meet, greet, hear some speeches and go back to your community hoping that you can bring something new back to your community.
But what if you are not going back to your community?
Heaven help me, but I have been in south Mississippi since birth, for 32 years, and everyday I see or hear someone do something so... just wrong. I look around and even in the faces of loved ones, I see strangers, members of another tribe. And I know somewhere out there, someone would do a better job helping and serving this tribe, this community, and I would do a better job serving someone elses.
That’s not to say I am not doing my best. I am trying and smiling and doing what I can. That’s all we can do, really. Keep trying and answering questions and giving out books and hoping that the world would be a little nicer and more accepting to each other. But isn’t that the mark of a live of “quiet desperation” that Thoreau talked about?
First things first, dig myself out of this hole of debt I put myself in. I am working on that in a ferocious way. Then.... I do not know. We shall see.For now, I pull another man’s lesson about “walking the Earth” and his friends thoughts on that.