I don’t what it is, but I’m never asked about what is new and exciting in the world of librarianship. I’m always asked about the “old” stuff: books, card catalogs, Dewey, and (occasionally) shushing. I don’t know anyone who strikes up a conversation with a teacher by saying, “Blackboards, are they still used?” or a doctor “Are they still teaching bodily humors?” But for librarians, the past seems to be the low hanging fruit of small talk.
To be fair, what is new and exciting is still a tough sell. Copyright rules, net neutrality policy, and banned books are niche sort of interests. Makerspaces only really pay off if you’re a staff member at a library that is actually doing them so you can speak from first hand knowledge. Even then, it’s a niche and nuanced form of ‘new and exciting’. It rests both in the speaker and the audience both agreeing on what meets those definitions.
I suppose that I’m resigned to the notion that I do important yet boring work. I change lives, but in ways that are mostly invisible. For example, I can help someone get a job. It’s a great feeling and something that can be measured directly. But the ripples are much greater; it adds to the tax base, puts money in the economy, and can improve self-esteem. That money in the economy works to support others and so forth and so on. It’s not as ‘sexy’ as solving a murder or performing a heart bypass, but it is important to the people involved. Boring but important.
I don’t know if librarians will ever get beyond the “old” stuff nor whether turning the conversation towards our ‘new and exciting stuff’, but I’m thinking from now on about saying I do important but boring work. That might take the conversation in a whole new direction.