Patrick O’Hanlon on his Profession in Library Sciences

Being surrounded by books teaches you a host of life lessons.

As many of you may know, I worked as an Information Assistant at my college’s library. My experience working at the library is one that I hold in the highest regard. I enjoyed so much helping others find books and recommending my favorite reads to students. I also found it fascinating to witness our library’s transition from majority print resources to shifting towards more digital resources. Our world is changing at such a rapid pace that it becomes increasingly important to prioritize asking why these changes are occurring, what our future will look like, and how we fit into this new normal. It was such a great pleasure to speak with Patrick O’Hanlon, who works in the Library Sciences, to hear about his unique career journey as well as his take on the future of print.


Patrick! Please share a little bit about yourself!

What was your major in college and how did your academic experience guide your professional endeavors?

During undergrad studies, my major was Speech Communication with a minor in Media Production. It’s a very broad major, but I supplemented it with internships and a variety of jobs. I was a jack-of-all trades after receiving my bachelor’s degree, and just after graduation, I bounced around more than I’d expected. The biggest change happened after I lived abroad for a year and then returned to find a media job in academia. That position helped me form my personal life and gave me stability.

Did you always know that you wanted to work in library access services or have a career trajectory towards library and information science?

Working in library sciences was something that I was drawn to as a career change. My personal life had the chance to grow because of the steady job I found at Suffolk University. The reliability of the workplace was comfortable, and while I did pursue other projects outside of work, it became clear that my existing skills weren’t going to afford me any new opportunities to advance my career in the visible future.

While discussing it with Lynn, my wife, my propensity for organization kept resurfacing, and I applied for the Masters of Library Science program at Simmons College, which has since become a university. Once I was accepted as a part-time student, it took four years to finish the program. Taking graduate classes – even one at a time – with a full-time job, doesn’t afford the same kind of tight-knit experience that undergrad does. You make connections and collaborate with great people, but you’re all quickly pulled in different directions with life’s other obligations being based almost entirely off campus.

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How did you ultimately end up working for Babson?

After graduation, it took about nine months of searching after finishing my Masters before I made my way to Babson. Simmons is one of the best library science schools in the country and offers its graduates great resources for job placement. It was finding my way through my own personal boundaries that became the real challenge. My family is mostly in the Boston area and Lynn also has a very serious career here, so picking up and moving somewhere new simply to apply my new degree was not in the cards.

I had been to Babson’s Wellesley campus on an occasion or two in the past, and as a visitor, it had just seemed like a picturesque college. Returning with the possibility of working in the library opened up the highlights of the business community for me, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the community is inspiring. The students want to not only do well for themselves, but also to build the future. Entrepreneurship is the long lever that they have found that really can move the world. This was a place I was intrigued to be a part of, and it’s fantastic to contribute to an constantly evolving institution.

What about your job is most engaging to you?

It’s the academic setting of the Horn Library that is one of the appealing things about working at Babson. It is a community of people who believe in changing the world for the better. The students and teachers here are the stars. My role as a librarian and a manager is a supporting one. The technical aspects of working in a library can be picked up rather quickly, and it is absolutely about making the library serve the community,

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

The ongoing, but welcoming, challenge is managing people. Oh, and scheduling. (My god, the scheduling!) The student employees are more often the day-to-day face of the library and report to me. As a manager of people who are in one of the first jobs early in their work life, it’s about encouraging them to trust their problem solving abilities and then recognizing the teachable moments when difficulties occur that will help them navigate as professionals in careers well beyond library customer service.

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Do you have a favorite book or author?

One of the books that made an impression on me just after college was the memoir “A Pirate Looks at Fifty” by Jimmy Buffett, the musician. (Two things to be noted are that his personal worth is currently estimated to be around $600 million and that he has no relation to Warren Buffett the investor.) Here is someone who took a very basic skill that he learned in college during his spare time – playing four chords on a guitar – and parlayed it over decades into one of the best-known entertainment careers of the Baby Boomers’ generation. His public journey was far from certain and even a performer’s career comes with unexpected indignities in tow. His music isn’t complex and hasn’t won many awards in spite of the widespread popularity of its heyday, but he measures his success in the reception he and his bandmates receive from fans when they perform. The reflections he has in the book show that even with the adventures he’s been afforded, no job compensation or perk is worth the effort if you can’t give yourself fully over the day-to-day of what you do or if you don’t love who you share your private time with once the crowd goes home. (His pro tip for future parents: hone your pancake-making skills.)

How is the field of information and the way that libraries function changing and what do you see the future of libraries looking like?

Libraries are undoubtedly leaping towards a more digital future, but they won’t be entirely digital. Digital resources are the supercar of knowledge. They can get you where you want to go faster than anything that has come before, but you still need people to drive it. Storing and encouraging knowledge is what libraries are here to do. Librarians are never themselves going to be omniscient repositories, but they can be the sherpa guides who know the territory to get you where you want to go. Libraries will be where the digital and human worlds of education meet.

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Will print ever die?

The question of whether or not print will ever die is a perennially relevant question. The short answer is no, even as we’ve come to rely on digital exponentially more during the pandemic. Is it changing? Absolutely. People freaked out that oral tradition was going to die and intelligence would dim with the written word becoming more common back in Socrates’ day. The Gutenberg Printing Press made books more accessible than any time before and there was concern that people would devalue the skill of reading. Now we’re well into racing along another iteration of how people disseminate and consume information, and any rapid, systemic change is unsettling. Paper is certainly less efficient for rapid delivery and is becoming less day-to-day, but it will still be an important part of how we consume and store information long term. Studies have shown that, as individuals, we retain information better when we read analog print, and there isn’t yet a digital tablet that has the battery life or storage medium to outlast paper and ink.

What about the future personally excites you?

Today’s students are approaching the world with an eye toward making the whole work better for everyone. It’s a spirit of leadership that will take advantage of some of the best technologies we’ve ever had to solve problems. I look forward to seeing the inventiveness of the classes of students I’ve watched pass through campus come into their own and show just how much they can do.

My 10 Best Reads of 2020

A review of some of the books I read this year.

This year, unlike many others, has allowed me to really take the time to sit down with my thoughts, a good book, and a cup of tea. Some of these reads have moved me to tears, some have broadened my perspective of the world, and some have encouraged a smile on my face. I once read that it is important to note what you enjoy reading about, as this will point towards your passions and interests. However, in reading a variety of different books this year, I have found new interests, new passions, and new discoveries. I am excited for more interesting reads in 2021- if you have any favorites let me know! Here are some of the best books that I have read over the past year.

That Will Never Work

Book by Marc Randolph

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As I have mentioned before on the blog, this book just cannot be missed. Written by Marc Randolph, the co-founder and first CEO of Netflix, the book takes you on an intimate journey of the creation and evolution of Netflix, the streaming service that we all know and love. What many don’t know, however, is that the company started by mailing rented CDs to customers and grew exponentially from there. Did you also know that Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, offered to buy Netflix in 1999 for $12 million dollars? The book is filled with interesting anecdotes and provides an insightful birds-eye view of what running a business looks like- newsflash it’s often not as glamorous as depicted. My top read of 2020 and probably will be for many years to come.

Kite Runner

Novel by Khaled Hosseini

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

When I am unsure of what book to read next, I often find myself scrolling through lists posted by news outlets and blogs alike of the “Top Books to Read in Your Lifetime”. On almost every list Kite Runner appears near the top, a novel I have heard of before, but never read. Once I picked the novel up it was one I could not put down. Kite Runner is just one of those books that finishes so perfectly, tying together every theme so well at the end, leaving such a satisfying aftertaste you’ll be tempted to read it over again once you finish.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Book by Malcolm Gladwell

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Tipping Point is all about uncovering what sparks massive trends, epidemics, and social movements. If you are passionate about marketing, then I definitely recommend the read. Gladwell expertly breaks down the important facets of such “tipping points” using an accessible approach to the everyday reader. What I love about all of Gladwell’s books is that they cause you to apply his logic to personal facets of interest and this book is no exception. You’ll have yourself thinking about everything from TikTok’s ever growing popularity to the ripped jeans trend- the list goes on!

Educated

Book by Tara Westover

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book was one of two choices in a virtual book club that I was recently apart of- which was such a fun experience that I highly recommend seeking out! Although this book is not one I would have grabbed off the shelf to read myself, I really enjoyed learning all about life in a survivalist Mormon family, a life contrasting my own. The resilience and sheer vulnerability that Tara displays throughout the novel is totally inspiring. Tara shows us an intimate look into the human experience of discovering personal identity separate from any entity that surrounds us. It’s a New York Times Bestseller for a reason!

Little Fires Everywhere

Novel by Celeste Ng

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Little Fires Everywhere is another book from my virtual book club that I am so glad that I had the chance to read. Now an acclaimed TV series, the novel takes you into the parallel lives of two families who could not be more than different, but uniquely intertwine. It is such a thrill to watch the stories of the two families unfold that you won’t want to put this book down for a second.

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now

Book by Meg Jay  

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Being someone in my twenties, I thought that this would be an appropriate book for helping me navigate some of the tough questions that many people my age face. This book was especially interesting because it is written from the perspective of a clinical psychologist talking with her patients who are all in the twenty year olds. Although it was a bit anxiety inducing- talking about time and big decision making does that doesn’t it?- the book was an insightful read. If you think that you are alone in asking “if my twenties are supposed to be the ‘best time of my life’, why doesn’t it feel that way?” this will be the book for you.

The Rich Boy

Basil and Cleopatra

Love in the Night

Short Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald  

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

These short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald were such a joy to read. Packed with delightful details, you will feel all of the emotions in reading a large novel in just a few pages- a true testament to Fitzgerald’s eloquent writing. One of the many things that I love about short stories is that you can embark on many different literary journeys in just one afternoon, exploring a variety of themes, characters, and motivations. If it isn’t this book of short stories, I recommend you pick up another.

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days

Book by Jake Knapp  

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Although this isn’t a book I would normally pick up for a leisurely read, Sprint was super helpful in guiding me with a project I was working on. Sprint is especially helpful to entrepreneurs and leaders who are looking to shake up convention and provide a new way of doing things in a speedy manner.

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures

Book by Malcolm Gladwell

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Although Malcolm Gladwell is my favorite author, I had to give this one a three out of five stars because of the lack of cohesion between the stories within this book, although understandable considering they are a compilation of the journalist’s articles published in The New Yorker. If you are looking for a light read or even a book to consistently pick up and put down, this is a good one for that. Packed with interesting stories and anecdotes, you will never get bored reading this one!

The Shack

Novel by WM. Paul Young

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I am not quite finished with this novel, but I knew that it had to make the list. Incredibly detailed and nuanced, The Shack tells the story of a man and his meeting with God and the subsequent adventures that they embark on during their meeting. For anyone who has ever grappled with questions about the Christian faith, this book is a compelling and quite beautiful read. Young humanizes God in such interesting ways, which makes the read altogether enjoyable and thought provoking. I can’t wait to finish this novel over the holiday break!