Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries


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Two years. Nine years. It’s odd when my professional anniversaries line up.  Today marks two years in my current position, in Reno, at UNR. Sometime in the past two weeks marked 9 years since I began my first out-of-the-nest post-MLS professional position.

When I think back over those years, I’m surprised to see how much I’ve changed. I feel the same, I feel like I have the same energy and eagerness and sense of urgency and vision. But I have learned so many things, things which have allowed me to come into my strengths and influence in library land (and there are still plenty of areas where let’s just say my strengths have not yet been realized, due to growth yet to come)

I think the two skills learned over the years that have helped me accomplish goals are patience (so much more to learn here!) and strategic thinking.  I think it’s these two skillsets that established librarians wish fresh new librarians had? Or at least, I think it’s the absence of these two that I see when I feel myself growing a bun and clutching my pearls in the presence of new, amazing, exciting, energy.

I think back to my first position – a one semester visiting position at a very small liberal arts college — with a little awe. I was full of curiosity and opinions and eagerness. I had spent two and a half years doing professional level work in libraries, and felt comfortable that with my perceived role as a librarian. I hadn’t realized all the politics and administration that I had been shielded from.  It’s safe to say I was pretty naive. I was in truth absent any sense of history, or workplace politics. I have been in grad school for my entire adult life — and in grad school, hurt feelings or political treachery only have to be survived for the rest of the semester. After that, a new dynamic, every time. The realities of working with other people, for years and even decades, were opaque to me. I similarly lacked the vision to see more than 2 or 3 months away; all projects needed to be done now! I was hard-wired to semester-length time frames. It was unthinkable that most major projects might take that long to just line up the ducks!

And it wasn’t until deep into my second professional position, at a small public liberal arts college in New York, that I began to see. There were two major influences on my understanding of workplace dynamics, patience, and strategic thinking:

  1. The first was that I worked with a staff that had primarily worked together for close to two decades or more — and who also lived in this very tiny town togetherwith kids in schools, opinions on local politics, and ancient histories amongst them. Understanding the detente that they all lived within was my biggest challenge there. When everything in your life is tied into everything else in one way or another, patience, civility and distance are the most important traits a person can bring to the table. Even more important then any other qualities of work effectiveness. Very hard for this gal from massive suburbia to take in — small town living taught me a lot about how people make allowances for each other.
  2. The second was having a colleague who regularly spoke with me about how the decisions she was making were part of long term strategies. I really owe any strategic planning skills I possess at the project and desire level to Jenica Rogers.  She showed me the context I needed to grasp how things happened and changed in libraries. 

So I sit here now, nine years or 13 years in, I know have so much further to go, more to learn, more things I want to see happen. But I am also seeing groundwork come to fruition, I am seeing why planning backwards and implementing forwards works. And why history matters (you gotta know to change it or move around — or know who to avoid!). I am seeing seeds I planted 6 months in start to bear, and seeing things I wrote off but dropped thoughts about start to seem possible.

To go back to the pearl-clutcher in me, I want to get conscious on that. That’s a new and big goal for me.  I’ve been here two years — and we have 7 librarians who have been here less than that, and at least two openings coming fast down the pike. Some of the folks here less than two years are as established as I am, or more, in the profession. But a lot have all that amazing new energy and ideas and I want to find ways to nurture, support sustain, that — without becoming a brick  in the wall of “oh, that hasn’t worked before”

I hope I get to report successes on this front when I ponder 3 years here. 

 

 

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