Iâ€™m always hearing people say things like â€œI canâ€™t believe how fast [xxx] has goneâ€ or â€œItâ€™s that time already??â€ And Iâ€™m sometimes one of those people. In a few short days it will be June. That puts me only two and a half months from my one year library anniversary. In fact, at this exact time last year, I was interviewing for my job. Iâ€™m tempted to say that time has flown, and I canâ€™t believe that Iâ€™ve already survived two full semesters of being an academic librarian. But as I look back on the past year, in some ways it has seemed excruciatingly slow. Iâ€™ve made the leap into librarianship fairly well, all things considering: Iâ€™ve joined committees, volunteered for programs, taken a swing at professional writing (thanks, ACRLog!), and faithfully continued my professional development. Itâ€™s my actual job that has slowed me down at times. There have been so many things to learn and figure out, and at times it has seemed overwhelming at best.
As I was thinking about this today, I happened to open my College & Research Libraries journal, and I came across a very timely and relevant article: â€œAdjusting to the Workplace: Transitions Faced by New Academic Librariansâ€ by Joanne Oud (in the May 2008 volume, page 252). This article follows the experiences of librarians in their first years (three or less) as new academic librarians in Canada, and discusses things like pre-existing knowledge vs. reality in relation to issues such as job skills.
I found many of the comments from the librarians to be very familiar to my thought processes over the past year. One part of the study looked at differences from expectations prior to employment. Among the surprises, flexibility of duties and unstructured work days were frequently mentioned. For some, this was a good thing, for others, it was a struggle to know how best to fill up their â€œfreeâ€ time. Iâ€™ve felt both ways since starting my job, and, again, itâ€™s caused time to seemingly fly or drag. On the one hand, when I have projects to work on, I hardly look at the clock until quitting time. But other days, when things are a little slow, I have occasionally felt completely confused and at a loss as to what is expected of me. Luckily, Iâ€™m of the type that usually does more than is asked, and Iâ€™m not especially fond of just sitting around. So the â€œminutes ticking byâ€ days are, for the most part, few and far between.
The study also asked new librarians the open-ended question, â€œWhat was the hardest thing for you to learn?â€ The most common responses ranged from â€œhow to say no to assignments/projectsâ€ to â€œhow to express disagreement effectivelyâ€ to â€œgetting things done.â€ Iâ€™ve always had trouble with refusing things (especially if a person asks nicely), but I know this is something I should get better at, as there are only so many things I can pile on my plate. Likewise, I need to work on properly expressing myself when I disagree with someone or something (and doing so without apologizing profusely). I do think I have the â€œgetting things doneâ€ part down; thanks to my love of crossing things off the many to-do lists plastered around my desk.
Iâ€™d be interested in hearing comments by others who have read Oudâ€™s article. If youâ€™re a new librarian, do you agree with the comments in the study? If youâ€™ve been in the profession longer than 3 years, do you remember these types of issues from your first years? I suspect the answer, for both questions, will be a resounding â€œyes.â€