five years in

Are you between five and ten years into your career as a library or information professional? If yes, a few questions for you:

-What has been the most surprising thing about your first five years? (This is another version of “What do you wish you had learned in library school, but didn’t?”) How did you cope or respond to this surprise?

-In what ways have you changed, grown, or learned now that you have a bit more experience under your belt? Have your early career goals or intentions changed?

-What’s the most effective way you’ve found to impact your workplace and the profession?

-What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve found to impact your workplace and the profession?

-How do you stay connected to colleagues and peers – in your organization and beyond?
Don’t feel you need to answer all of the questions – you can just pick one or two and add your thoughts. I’m taking a short break from the marketing stuff to think on the “staying engaged” aspect of community building and library practice and I’d love to have your perspectives! Please reply by comment or privately by email – I’ll contact you for confirmation before we put anything you have to say into print.

Thanks as always…

5 comments:

  1. Allison, 2. November 2006, 13:24

    I recently left my job after nine years as a branch manager. This was my first professional job (I had worked in several paraprofessional roles before getting my MSLIS). I think the one thing I wish I had learned more about was how to manage/supervise. Overall, I feel I have done well, but I think more experience would have smoothed some of the bumps. Fortunately, I could use my own life experience and a seasoned supervisor to help me.

    Working in a small/medium size branch, in a county library system, I felt very isolated. There wasn’t enough staff at times to make me feel that I could go to conferences, classes, and other networking opportunities outside of the library system. I also felt that there wasn’t a lot of personal interaction with colleagues. I was the only full time and only librarian in my building for 5-6 years, which is part of the reason for those feelings. I am surprised at how much I enjoyed the collection development work I did and I think that when I return to work, that this is something I would like to persue further.

    Email, the Internet, listservs, and professional journals/websites keep me connected especially now that I am not working.

     
  2. martha maytnier, 2. November 2006, 14:26

    I graduated in 1995 with an MLIS with a focus on Information Resource Management, now generally called Knowledge Management or Enterprise Content Mangement, from what is now Dominican University in River Forest, IL. Because I also have degrees in Marketing and Finance, and had experience working in corporate America, it seemed that being a corporate librarian would be the best fit for all my talents.

    The most surprising thing to me has been … that being good at what I do does not mean I will have a job. Those who depend on having, “the right information, at the right time, and in the right format”, do value the contributions of someone trained in Library Science. However, those making the financial decisions see us as Administrative overhead, and as such, unless we have a very powerful mentor, jobs in the PUBLIC corporate sector are precarious to say the least. Job security is an unknown quality.

    Another surprising revelation has been the inherent resisitance to change I have encountered. The “box” and the Internet radically changed the delivery of traditional library services wilthin corporations, just as it has throughout the library world. But again, the financial investments needed to re-invent service delivery were and are hard to sell to those with the purse strings. However, they will incur enourmous expense to put pricy information services on the desktops of “revenue producers” who seldom have the time or the inclination to make effective use of these tools.

    In answer to your question about changing career goals…I have spent the past year trying to “transition” from the corporate world to preferably, an academic library, but I would certainly consider a public library. I found that I really liked to work with new employees and interns who were interested in learning how I found information effectively and quickly. There is a difference in using information in an academic situation and using it in a “real world” environment.
    However, it seems to me that there is some kind of invisible line that is hard to cross over to make the transistion from working in one library environment to working in another.
    I would think that being able to blend the best of both environments would be a big asset to academic or a public library. Having had opportunities to work in Reference for short periods of time at academic and public libraries, it is my opinion that it is far easier to learn what I would need to know to be effective than for someone coming from either enviroments to the corporate world. In academic and public libraries, most of your patrons respect that you have specialized knowledge they do not have, and are willing to let you help them. In the corporate world for the most part, the actual perceived value of our degree is always open for debate. If “they” have a “box” and Google, can’t they find it for themselves?

    Greatest impact…I once walked into a full-sevice library that had been abandoned for over four years, and in addition had suffered water damage from a fire within the building. The library was being re-posisitoned within the organization as a more specialized library focused on electronic trading. I had less than two months to analyze, evaluate, sort, purge, and pack the library contents. In additon, I was moving into a temporary location, and would have to move to a permanent location six months later. And, the online catalog was so corrupt that I had to scrape the whole thing and start from scratch. And, I had only the vaguest memory of cataloging class. Most business libraries now have very little “hard” copy and what there is, is placed on sheves under general headings. And in additon to this I had to work with architects and Bldg Ops to design a functional space. And somewhere along the way in those 8-10 months, I also had to provide content for a visual display on the history of Globex, ( a proprietary e-trading platform), and create an webpage with links and descriptions of online resources for Traders. And…I had help from only two or three employees, none of whom were trained professionals. I did it so well, had all the infrastructure so well documented, and my staff trained so well, that six months later when management changed, I was let go, and a former Trading Floor Clerk was given my job.

    How do I stay connected…I try to attend as many professional seminars, meetings as possible. The problem here becomes the cost involved, both in real $$ and in time. It is my belief that our profession does not do a very good job of providing continuing education for our profession. I know that this is a concern for all professions in the global economy, but as ours is uniquely about information, and we are in the “information age”, it would seem that for us being ahead of the curve is paramount. I see more affordable opportunities in the academic and public arenas, than in corporate. Look at the Board Members of SLA. Most of them come from Academia. A few years ago, most of them came from the big name coporations. Most corporations no longer support professional growth opportunities for library staff, either in $$ or in time off to attend. I am watching the new I-school consortium to see if there will be more cross-over opportunites for graduates from different institutions.

    Well. I am taking a break from sending out job applications, and I have one with a deadline today.

     
  3. ian, 6. November 2006, 20:59

    -What has been the most surprising thing about your first five years? (This is another version of “What do you wish you had learned in library school, but didn’t?”) How did you cope or respond to this surprise?

    I was expecting a more stable profession than I found. I earned my degree five years ago. I’ve only had temporary jobs and internships since.

    I’ve had to be more mobile than I anticipated. I have moved 5 times to take these temporary jobs and internships. Twice halfway across the continent, twice halfway around the world.

    I was also expecting a profession that permitted its professionals to live halfway-decent but meager lifestyles. Instead, I have found that you have to be prepared to be poor. I have been forced to volunteer for months without pay (internships were my only available opportunities), and endure involuntary unemployment (three times), even after earning years of experience. I was willing to move. I applied to hundreds of positions. I received hundreds of rejection letters stating how impressed the library was with the candidate pool even for crummy jobs. And have had to move back in with my aged parents three times because I had no money and no library job.

     
  4. Linda, 8. November 2006, 10:20

    -What has been the most surprising thing about your first five years? The most surprising thing I’ve learned is that there are rural libraries! This was never discussed in library school. There’s a whole world out there of libraries that are existing on shoestrings.

    -In what ways have you changed, grown, or learned now that you have a bit more experience under your belt? Have your early career goals or intentions changed? My career goals have changed in that I’m thinking more about the management/human resources side of librarianship and when I was in library school the thought of being in charge of a library was something I was sure would never happen. It may still never happen but I have more of an interest in it now, and I’d welcome the challenge.

    -What’s the most effective way you’ve found to impact your workplace and the profession? Reading, studying, learning.

    -What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve found to impact your workplace and the profession? Reading, studying, learning–I have to do it at my own personal cost in time and money because it is not supported by my employer.

    -How do you stay connected to colleagues and peers – in your organization and beyond? I belong to professional organizations and I use WebJunction (that’s what helps me reach beyond).

     
  5. Chrystie, 8. November 2006, 11:43

    Thanks to all who posted here and sent in email. I appreciate it!!