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Owning My Career

I originally planned to post this on Friday as an extended #FridayReads, but I got too into what I had to say and was interrupted before I could finish it. I still think it was a worthwhile train of thought, though, so I took the time to finish up recording my thoughts and polishing the whole thing up a little.

A lot of the non-fiction I've been reading lately has been parenting related, but currently I'm finally finishing an LIS career book I bought a couple years ago when I was going through a difficult time career-wise. Rethinking Information Work by G. Kim Dority is more aimed at LIS students and would make a good textbook for an intro class focused on planning your career (which, I think, is really under-emphasized in library school). Some of the suggested resources listed at the end of each chapter have me rolling my eyes, but if I were new to Libraryland, I would need to have them pointed out to me and would probably learn a lot from them. Published in 2006, many of the resources listed are getting dated, but since the book stays away from discussing specific technologies, it still has solid strategies for job searching and career development.

When I originally picked this book up I was desperate for a job and, being an avid Dave Ramsey listener, thought the entrepreneurial path might work for me. Now that my life has stabilized a bit, I see I was stressing myself out too much trying to figure out a way to start my own information business. I'm not outgoing enough or comfortable with the level of risk involved in running your own business, and I don't look forward to spending a significant chunk of my time making the business work instead of working with customers. I am, however, a big fan of taking responsibility for my own work and taking the initiative to improve my job description or workplace to better suit the needs of my patrons, and reading about all of the alternatives out there in the information world has reignited that creative, responsibility-seeking part of my work self.

I'm especially interested in the ways people rewrite their traditional library job descriptions to meet the needs of their patrons, even when those descriptions don't match what people usually expect from a traditional librarian. Exploring that idea would probably make a good blog post, but right now I'm thinking more traditionally about how much I've been letting our patrons drive what I do instead of focusing internally on Libraryland procedures and what makes them more comfortable for me.

After a rough job search complicated by personal issues, I was feeling pretty beat-down, so when I landed my current library job I kept my head down, did what was asked of me well, but once that was done, took the time I had left to figuratively catch my breath and curl up into a protective shell. It didn't help that one of my coworkers was struggling to complete basic tasks, so I thought I was doing really well just managing to finish my work.

I spent the summer off on maternity leave and came back this fall to realize that that wasn't going to fly anymore. The new director who'd started before my leave had hit the ground running, starting new projects and revitalizing others. New coworkers joined the library who are not only competent, but totally invested in what we're doing. Now just showing up and doing my work accurately isn't going to cut it. But since just showing up to work felt like an accomplishment the first few weeks back, I could sense myself wanting to crawl back into that protective shell I hid in last year.

Instead of being excited about starting to use LibGuides, I'd been grumbling about figuring out how to use this new technology. Similarly, I was freaking out about having to participate in the massive weeding project that had started over the summer.

I'd become the kind of librarian I said I'd never be.

So I couldn't have picked a better time to read this book. It's helped me regain the perspective to remember that I am really excited about the new things we're doing. Instead of being overwhelmed by all the changes to my comfortable old schedule, I'm trying to treat it like a new job, because in many ways it is. I'm working new hours, I have new responsibilities, and now that we not only have a director in place, but a director open to and encouraging of change, there's a new attitude to my workplace as well.

Instead of freaking out that I have to learn how to use LibGuides, I've remembered that I was disappointed that we didn't do something like that when I started. I think it will be a great passive way to reach out to the students who use our website but don't come up to the desk to ask questions. Similarly, I'm relishing the ability to finally clear out the old, outdated, irrelevant materials cluttering up our shelves to make room for resources that can actually help students with their classes.

And I'm trying to see the rest of the little things that were freaking me out with the fresh-eyed idealism of a new hire. They're just part of our attempt to improve services to our patrons and I'm just as responsible each of my coworkers for making these changes work.
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