In Praise of Iteration | Editorial

Sometimes taking the long path fits the work.

Sometimes taking the long path fits the work

Lisa Peet headshotMany of you already know me as LJ’s News and Features Editor; I’ve been covering the library world here for more than eight years. This month I’m writing as Executive Editor; I’ll be managing news and feature development, working with our events team, and keeping our coverage of the issues current. It’s a role that I’m proud and excited to take on, and one that’s made me think about what I do and how I came to it.

I arrived at library journalism in a roundabout fashion. I started out as a visual artist, after spending my undergraduate years in New York’s early-’80s downtown, soaking up more music and culture than formal education. I also put in a decade as an office manager for an architectural firm. At some point in the early 2000s, as the internet sharpened my worldview—and provided opportunities to talk about things I loved—I realized that what I really wanted to do was work with words.

I took an entry-level job at a small journal, paying close attention to the before-and-after of pieces as they were edited. Swept up in the enthusiasm of the blogging boom around the turn of the millennium, I started holding forth about books, publishing, and libraries, and learning how to write in a public voice as I went along. The journal job ended as the Great Recession was winding down, and I decided to get my MLS. Student loans aside, it was a good move. I learned a lot and enjoyed myself, including a few semesters at the coolest internship ever with the Darwin Manuscripts Project at the American Museum of Natural History, transcribing high-resolution scans of Charles Darwin’s nearly illegible notes into XML.

I was also in my late 40s in a sea of bright young Gen-Xers. This was both a good thing—I had a broad knowledge base and solid study habits—and a bit discomforting. People were endlessly surprised that I was comfortable with technology (never discount non–digital natives who learned to log in with a DOS prompt!), and the mom factor might be why I was automatically appointed leader of any group project. However, I was older than most of my instructors, and I worried that I wouldn’t be competitive in the workplace. But I landed at LJ, and it was the right fit from the beginning.

In her farewell editorial last month, “The Work Lasts,” former LJ Editor-in-Chief Meredith Schwartz talked of how what we do continues even when we’re not there to oversee it. She’s right: The work we accomplish remains vital and important whether we’re actively involved with it or have shifted to a different role, workplace, field, or focus. And on the other end of that trajectory, we bring that work—and the spark that set it in motion—with us in some form, no matter what our next steps.

When I think about my own trajectory, I’m appreciative of the advantages I began with—I’m a white woman who grew up in a home where learning and reading were always able to be prioritized—and that the long arc of my career path, and the knowledge I picked up along the way, fits so well with my chosen field. Hearing the stories of library staff, leaders, volunteers, and advocates has made me sharply aware of how strongly library work rewards iteration and process.

That process is not always straightforward or easy, and it’s important to me that LJ can provide signposts along the way. In this issue, EveryLibrary Executive Director John Chrastka examines how last year’s library votes responded to pandemic disruptions and the political climate (“Fighting for What Matters,” pp. 28–30), and digs into the priorities reflected in the 2022 Budgets and Funding Survey (“Value-Added Budgets,” pp. 32–34). On a personal scale, Leah Dudak looks at the focus on helping address staff and patron trauma (“Working Toward Wellness,” pp. 36–38). For those looking to put library values into practice through their collections, our book preview and editors’ picks offer more than 400 titles to consider (pp. 14–25).

The twists and turns of my working life have given me the opportunity to bring everything I’ve learned to LJ. Much of that is thanks to readers who make sure I know what they’re doing. So please tell me what’s on your mind, and what you think I should hear about. No matter how many years it’s been, I feel like I’m just getting started.

Lisa Peet signature

Author Image
Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Executive Editor for Library Journal.

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