Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students


Ever since our class discussion about it last semester in Professor Rachel Williams’ LIS 450 “Public Libraries,” I have been thinking a lot about vocational awe. As preparation for the discussion, we read an article by Fobazi Ettarh “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves.” My class had a stimulating discussion about vocational awe and burnout and our own experiences in libraries as well as other former careers and jobs. 

Vocational awe is generally defined as the feeling that people can have for their own job, where they refer to it as a “calling” or a “vocation” or that the work that we do is “inherently good and sacred.” Helping professions like teachers, librarians, social workers, and nurses are particularly susceptible to this kind of thinking. We seemed to agree in my class that a little attitude like this, a feeling that the work we do is important and helps people, could be helpful to get out of bed in the morning some days. But the general thought is that a lot of vocational awe leads to not standing up for ourselves when we are overworked or underpaid, because we feel like we are being fed by the soul-food of the good holy work of librarianship. It leads to burnout and a lot of staff turnover. 

Ever since we had this discussion, I’ve been reflecting on my own attitudes toward my work, which hopefully I will continue to do for the rest of my career. As I assess my attitude toward my own work, I focus on questions that I hope will lead me away from the idea of vocational awe: Do I enjoy my work? Am I good at it? Do I find it challenging (in a good way)? I figure as long as the answer to these questions remain ‘yes’ for the most part, I’m in a good space. It’s been wonderful that Simmons offered the chance for two different practicum experiences so I could finish my degree with such a solid feel for how the work in the library teacher field actually fits me.