Sometimes I can see why people think librarians are pedantic: a bit like lawyers’ letters or accountants’ statements, things in Libraryland need to be “just right” – the completely accurate catalogue record, the perfectly correct citation, or whatever. And to be fair, if the details aren’t correct, then there’s a good chance the reader – or the librarian helping them – won’t retrieve what they’re looking for. It matters!
But add to the pedantry of a librarian, the perfectionism of a research scholar and published writer, and you begin to see how I can get hung up about terminology – even when it doesn’t affect the day-job. I struggle with two concepts at the moment – that of “early career researcher”, and the idea of a “portfolio career”.
People expect early career researchers to be – well, YOUNG. I’m not. I certainly was an early career researcher once, in the sense that I was young and doing a PhD. But I didn’t complete that one, took a quarter of a century to decide to start again, and now, here I am being a part-time postdoctoral researcher. An early career researcher in all but name, and this time I have gone on writing, and doing the kind of stuff you expect from an early-career researcher. Except for being unexpectedly old. Hey-ho!
And then there’s the portfolio career thing. Everyone knows what they mean by it, but in my world, a portfolio career is something freelance musicians and artists have. They do a bit of this, and a bit of that, and at the end of the day, they’ve earned their honest crust of bread, but not necessarily had the security of a regular day-job. That doesn’t apply to me, with the nine-to-five and (thankfully) a pension plan. Being freelance sounds glamorous, when you hear about trips to the continent, and gigs, and buying a posh frock for the next oratorio. However, except when I’m daydreaming, I do value the routine and stability of being an employee. So, I’m currently three-fifths librarian, two-fifths researcher, and I suppose any extra research I do comes into the category of ‘independent scholar’. That’s how I get my work ‘out there’ and visible. But it’s still not what I, personally, would call portfolio!
Or maybe I just agonise too much about precise definitions? What do you think?