Monday, January 14, 2008

Librarianship as a Career

I have to admit, I don't expect to become famous in my first two (or even three, or four) years of librarianship. (I do hope my boss doesn't mind.) Mind you, this doesn't mean I'm not working hard. I am working on coauthoring an article on something practical with my dean (I know, practicality and publication don't necessarily go together), I'm still learning the ropes and such at my position since I've been here all of five-and-a-half months in my first professional position. I'm learning more about areas outside my subject expertise, because we're a smaller university and haven't an abundance of separate libraries or subject specialists - we're all happy know-it-alls (or at least, know-most-of-its). I'm reviewing regularly (6 book reviews published since August, one chapter reviewed), and just getting on the ball with creating tutorials. I enjoy my reference desk work, and I love, love, LOVE teaching library instruction, because I'm a big geek. I'm even starting to enjoy collection development, but this is my first time, and it just started, so don't judge me.

I like to think I maintain a nice balance and don't come off as either a Negative Nancy or a Pollyanna to my coworkers. We have a really great team where we respect each other, and our administration, which is something that I rarely see. Is it a problem, career-wise, if I decide not to leave? (Given, of course, that my tenure review in 5 years goes well? Yes, I know, but I'm a sucker for thinking too far ahead.) Would I be a traitoress to those Gen-X masses who want to be famous? I don't particularly want a plodding career, either, but I do believe there's room enough for things that need to be done at my current university that, with continuing professional development to keep myself sharp, make my skills in my position useful for years to come. Am I a slacker for not wanting complete rock-star status and shooting up in the ranks? (Caveat: Not that I do not want promotion and greater responsibility. This is more a commentary on how directorship has never really factored into my career plan).

There, I said it. Will I burn for it? Director/deanship was never in my plan. I wanted to find an academic library where I could make an impact on the students and teach them some lifelong skills they'll actually use once most of that philosophy major is long forgotten, where every day would bring something different and where I could - within reason - make my own decisions about what I thought was important for a librarian to be involved in, and, like Nike says, "Just do it." I have that in my current position.

I do realize that there's still some rose-color left on my glasses, as I've been here less than a year so far, so it's early, yet. But all the signs are good, and it's pretty tough to trick me into believing in Library Utopia. I worked at a place where backstabbery (yes, I made that word up) was a super skill to I have coworkers I trust who are able - and more than willing, even! - to help me out when I get into a bind. Is being comfortable in your position a bad thing? Now, I'm not saying there's no stress - I freak myself out on a fairly regular basis that I'm not doing enough for tenure and such, and I have my moments of personal darkness that spill over into my library persona on occasion.

I don't know that I'm the sort of "transformative personality" the Ubiquitous Librarian" has in mind, as I'm no Emeril. (I do, however, occasionally blurt "Bam!" at random passersby and during phone conversations.) Is my occasional *happy dance* in front of my supervisor's office window enough for her to think I'm interesting enough to keep on? I'd rather it be my rapport with the students that does that, though that may fade once the tattoos get wrinkly. But I've got at least a decade or two before that becomes noticeable. Then again, Maybe like Steven Bell I'll be one of those who builds up to fame gradually. That may be the best bet, given the preponderance of drunken/high/felonious poptarts who all tasted the fast-lane fame.

I'm more prone to agree with pieces of what the Annoyed Librarian has to say about librarianship as a career, in that it often depends on whether we're nationally mobile (or want to be), care about rank and title, prefer a large or small university, and a myriad of other issues that eventually direct our career path. I, for one, despise moving. My library is enormous, and heavy, and now I have real furniture. I like the size of my institution, which is very Goldilocks: not too large (like the 40,000 student university I worked at before), not too small (like the 1,000 student college I attended), but just right. I'm in a part of the country I like. I enjoy my coworkers (though things can change once a few of them start retirning, heh), and I have a supportive administration.

I suppose my question for all those who are pouring out the career advice would be, is there anything wrong with being happy where you are? Is that complacency, or just sanity?

1 comment:

Elver said...

Since I very rarely use libraries and get most of my information online (and books from Amazon) I've got a strange question...

Are libraries a good place to meet smart and intelligent women? Does it work sort of like the intelligentsia version of a pub?