And apparently they fade away long before they die.
Recently, I have had 3 separate and distinct conversations with 3 different librarians about basically the same thing. The conversations went something like this:
Them: “We’re looking to hire a visionary, a leader, someone innovative and forward-thinking.”
Me: “Who do you envision hiring?”
Them: “Well, we’re thinking it will probably be someone in their 30s or 40s because anyone beyond that age has been around too long and is too entrenched in the old ways.”
Me: Thinking, wait, I’m 50, and you’re saying this to me?
Are you kidding me?
Ironically, this post immediately follows another post on age–one that dismisses the importance of the actual number in favor of the age of a person’s mindset instead; however, I’m beginning to think that in the library world the number is what counts. Not exactly a very innovative or visionary way of thinking.
Who says that someone in their 50s or 60s cannot be a visionary? Or innovative? Someone that age can most definitely be a leader. As a new, older librarian, I have often found myself in this position–struggling to reconcile my actual age with my librarian age. I’m a young librarian. I’ve only been in the field for 8 years, and I only earned my degree a little over a year ago. I am no different than a 20-something coming fresh out of library school ready to take on the world except that I have 25 more years of life experience under my belt. In my mind, that’s a wickedly good combination.
And I happen to know many old, older librarians who have been in the field for decades but are able to look forward, embrace change, and see beyond the traditions and hierarchies that have been in place in so many libraries for so long. Of course there are also many who have a problem with change and want things to stay the same. But that doesn’t have anything to do with their age, or it shouldn’t.
Get a grip, people! If anyone in the position of hiring is going to have blinders on when it comes to a person’s physical age, then they are the ones who have a problem. I’m not talking about blatant ageism or discrimination here. I’m talking about what I’m beginning to see as a pervasive mindset that younger is better. Okay, well in all fairness, 3 conversations does not really count as “pervasive.” But it is an indication. And it’s just flat out ridiculous.
I say take those blinders off. Look at skills. Look at abilities. Look at energy. Look at mindset. Look at accomplishments. Look at the person behind the number. If you don’t, you are doing everyone a great disservice.