I recently listened to Katie Rose Guest Pryal on Camille PagΓ‘n’s podcast, You Should Write a Book, talking about how she found the throughline in her work and life. (Just listen to her articulate it on the podcast. I am afraid if I try to sum it up, I’ll get it wrong.)

At the time I listened to it, I was like, “I don’t know what mine is. Maybe I’ll never find it. Waaaah!”

But as I sat and let the idea marinate for a while, and I think I’ve figured it out.

A sticker in the shape of a prize ribbon. The center of the prize ribbon reads 'Library Enthusiast.'

I recently bought the above sticker and several other library-themed stickers, as well as a Read Free or Die t-shirt, from its creator.

One of the possibilities I was considering for after my postdoc was going back to being a school librarian. I don’t think that one’s going to pan out, but it did sort of launch me in the direction of identifying my throughline.

In May, several folks working on different grants funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, including myself, met and talked about what we’d learned from our work and what our capacity was for working on connected learning in libraries moving forward. All of the other academics indicated that they had to move on to other work, which might incorporate connected learning, but would not focus on it.

I found myself heartbroken.

This is what I want to work on. And nobody else, nobody with an institutional affiliation, was going to be able to work on it anymore?


Over the course of many weeks, I decided that I would still work on it. That I would find institutional partners who were willing to do a little bit of the work, so that I don’t have to have an institutional affiliation myself to get the work funded, but that I would be happy to do the bulk of the work so long as I could get a consultant’s fee for doing it. Enough to pay my student loans, mostly.

I’m in the process of refining this vision.

But the throughline, I’ve got that now.

Fine, it needs refinement, too, but here’s the basic idea:

My work builds libraries' capacity to facilitate learning and connect with their communities. The two modes I use to do this are research and professional development.

This describes so much of what I’ve done for the past 8 years. And more than that, it describes what I want to do going forward. It’s expansive enough for me to take on a variety of projects, and narrow enough that I can continue to establish my areas of expertise and grow my network.

What’s your throughline?