’Tis better to be a live dog than a dead Loon—er, lion1. Yet another of the things they (we, now, the Loon supposes) don’t tell you in library school is that you may actually have to make the choice.
Sometimes “the worst that could happen” is damnably, grievously bad. Sometimes you’re not the protagonist, you’re not Achilles. You, too, can be Hector, bidding everyone you love farewell to walk calmly to your own death-battle, after which your mutilated corpse will be gleefully dragged around by the hair in the dust of your murderer’s chariot… all because of larger fights you didn’t even pick, but found yourself enmeshed in anyway.
Your shade will then spend its Letheless afterlife wondering what the hell you could, should, have done to avoid that fate. Moreover, it’s not exactly a comfort that Aeneas will go on to found Rome; you’re still dead in a ditch, Hector.
That is the worst that could happen. Does happen. Has happened.
The Loon is of course talking about herself, haunted shade that she is. She isn’t only talking about herself, though. She remembers a conversation she had with her duly-assigned new-employee mentor, once long ago. The Loon explained that she was feeling constricted, blocked, unable to accomplish anything for lack of resources and lack of autonomy. Her mentor nodded sadly, and brought up a recently-retired librarian who had pioneered a different service area. “She spent thirty years fighting for that,” said the Loon’s mentor. And didn’t actually get anywhere much, the environment being as deeply and essentially hostile as it was, was the left-unspoken subtext.
In hindsight, that’s when the Loon should have started making escape plans. Instead, she told herself she could be a hero. After many a clash and fray, she lost her death-battle. Even now, the victors gloat; the Loon’s no fool, she knows that. She should have cut her losses much earlier than she did. She’s not a hero because she didn’t, and her reasons for eventually doing so aren’t “excuses” (the only moment in which the Loon violently disagreed with Rogers’s otherwise-excellent series). What she is, because she didn’t cut and run soon enough? Is broken, that’s what.
The cohort of librarians the Loon fell in with as she started her career—many of them as new as the Loon herself, some of them well-seasoned, all of them smart and thoughtful and forward-looking—would make an interesting study. A substantial portion of them have joined the librarian exodus to vendors, to consulting, to IT, to ed-tech, to publishing, to any number of places that aren’t the library. How many of them lost their death-battles too?
It’s easy to frame that exodus in terms of individual failures, and in the Loon’s specific case that’s well-warranted. (The Loon has spent a lot of time in the Letheless afterlife, self-recriminating. Be glad she’s kept that off-blog. It’s not pretty.) The aforementioned recently-retired librarian, however, was a paragon, to the Loon’s best knowledge. The larger pattern therefore warrants scrutiny. The Loon finds that pattern rather hopeful for librarians, rather less hopeful for libraries.
If we can’t defend Troy, we’ll found Rome. Perhaps the topless tow’rs of Ilium are indeed past their useful life as configured, but they are too hard for even Hector the hero to rebuild from within. Very well. Let us see what sort of tent-city we can erect between the walls and the sea.
The Loon hasn’t any sage advice for fallen heroes—the most she dares do in the daily run of things is warn students gently that some heroes do fall—nor does she think herself any sort of model for the ideal afterlife. All she can say for herself is that she’s still swimming, though she misses her old ponds. She’ll close, then, with all the advice she has, and it’s poor enough:
The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing—for the sheer fun and joy of it—to go right ahead and fight, knowing you’re going to lose. You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to enjoy it.
- After Ecclesiastes 9:4 ↩
- Professional development
- Examining OA-journal solicitations