Closed Until Further Notice

The government shutdown this week has me reflecting on my work with the National Park Service and what it means to be a public servant. With this partial shutdown has come a great deal of confusion and frustration from the general population and government employees alike. The National Park Service seeks to provide access and interpretation to our nation's most treasured and unique places, something I think we can agree appeals to members of all political factions. The shutdown came mere days after "Forest Festival Weekend" at my national park, the biggest event in our calendar. This year the event was an absolute success, with perfect weather and visitors from all over the country. It was truly a weekend when I felt proud to be a federal employee and represent my country as I shared my amazing park with so many visitors. On Monday my boss sent an email to our staff expressing how he thought the weekend went:

"I wanted to pause for a moment to recognize and thank all of you for providing an extraordinary example of public service during this event. I feel strongly that as a National Park we have an obligation to the American people and others from around the world to provide the best in interpretation and visitor services. You all passed with flying colors. I am honored to work with you all and am so impressed with each of your diverse skills. The feedback from all I spoke to was overwhelmingly positive.  What I saw was superlative."

Not to say that my boss doesn't give positive feedback, because he most certainly does,  but he is rarely this eloquent when it comes to expressing the work that we do.  It takes a certain kind of person to work as a public servant and it does not always come with rewards. That said, it makes positive feedback like this all the more meaningful.

I see many of the same kinds of people working for the National Park Service as I meet at GSLIS, people with a desire to be constantly learning, and more importantly to pass that knowledge on to other people. There are many career paths to take in the field of library and information sciences and not all of them involve working for a publicly funded institution, or even working directly with the public. I see a great deal of crossover when it comes to the skills and compassion required to succeed in this field and other careers serving the public. A librarian working for a consulting firm exhibits these skills by providing the best information possible in the quickest time; an archivist may never work at a public desk but her attention to detail and care in preserving artifacts for the future is vital.

The American Library Association posted an article called "The Government Shutdown and Libraries" (find it here: detailing the many organizations and resources being effected by these closures.  Hopefully Congress will come to some agreement and all parts of the government will be back to business as usual very soon. In the meantime, perhaps the shutdown will serve as a reminder about some of the very important things the government does.


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