(Personal) Scope Creep

When I was in book publishing, I grew to be wary of even the slightest whiff of scope creep, as hell hath no slope so slippery as that of a publisher thinking aloud: a book that was a 224-page paperback with flaps becomes a 352-page hardcover with three 8-page colour inserts, that sort of thing. Rarely was I against the ideas — the marriage of form and content is critical to a book’s success — but they did often have a direct impact on me. I never had the authority to say no, but I could speak of consequences.

Usually, it went like this: if you want x (gorgeous book), it will cost you y (time or money or both). It’s the fast, cheap and good rule: pick any two. (If you’d like to see a publishing-specific, Flash-y learning object for this maxim, go here.)

But, as we know, people want all three, and it’s hard to argue consequences when you’re not only outside of the creative process, you’re at the end of the internal supply chain, which I was, with little choice but to get it done.  It was stressful. It was one of the reasons I left.

And now here I am, with degree, and with job. And I wonder, if only out of habit: where do librarians sit in the supply chain? Is there an equivalent in this profession? Librarians don’t offer product; they offer a service. This is new to me, which might be why I’m still feeling a bit flush with my new-found freedom. But, I mull, services cost money and time, people want certain services faster without any sacrifice to cost or quality, or higher-quality service with no impact on cost or time … how is it that I can spend two years in school, surrounded by Current Issues and Trends in Librarianship, and only now do I really understand that, same as book publishing, we’re expected to do more with less?

I feel like I’m up for the challenge. Maybe in 15 years I won’t be quite so can-do. God knows that 15 years in publishing wore me down, unwise as that might be to admit. But I wonder if I was built more to offer information, instruction, knowledge, hope, all of those awesome (if sometimes cliched) services librarians hold dear, than to literally build the vessels.  Book publishing is no less noble a profession, if I may throw another cliched term in the mix, but librarianship might be more me.

My school application included a personal statement, as many do. I pitched my publishing experience, right up front, thinking that because I knew books I’d present as a good candidate. Then, not quite as an afterthought, I pitched my instructional experience, thinking it couldn’t hurt. I thought it was publishing that got me in. I don’t think so, now; I think that U of T saw instead that I was a teacher, that I loved teaching, that I didn’t want to stop, and they spent the next two years offering me the chance to realize that, myself.

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