Tag Archives: career advice

First Year Reflections

This is my last post for ACRLog, and it’s a little hard to believe so much time has passed already. Not only is it the end of my term as a First Year Academic Librarian Experience writer for ACRLog, but last week marked the one year anniversary from when I started my current job. Looking back on the year, reflecting on what I’ve done and learned, and trying to sum it all up…well, it’s not that easy! I went from not really knowing what to do with my time, to feeling like there weren’t enough hours in the day (and thankfully settled somewhere in the middle). I’ve gone to local conferences in the Midwest and navigated ALA Midwinter and Annual for the first time. Focused on public servicecampus outreach, and library instruction, I’ve  learned so much about this school and community that was brand new to me a year ago. 

So what can I say about the past 365+ days? It’s way too much to try to sum up in one short post, but I’ll try to collect my thoughts into some “words of wisdom” that other early-career librarians can hopefully benefit from. Whether you’ve just started your first academic librarian job, have several years under your belt, or are in a job search, here’s the advice I would give:

Take your time. You probably have a lot of great ideas for things you want to do, but you don’t have to do them all right now. In fact, definitely don’t try to do them all at once! This seems to go against some common advice, such as “be open to trying new things” or “say yes to opportunities.” Absolutely, say yes to things! Go after opportunities and take on challenges, but be aware of taking on too much at the same time. Don’t test your limits to the point of breaking them; don’t let yourself turn great opportunities and challenges into burdens and struggles. In short, pace yourself.

Make friends. One of the greatest things about my job is that I am constantly learning from the people around me. By “make friends” I don’t mean to hang out with your co-workers on the weekends all the time, but remember that people usually want to help you out and want to see you succeed and do well. So don’t be afraid to ask for help, opinions, or mentorship from your colleagues! As a newer librarian, I not only find it valuable to learn from my colleagues’ years of experience, but the many different viewpoints and perspectives regardless of years in the profession. 

Look at the big picture. This is something I particularly have to keep in mind, as someone who tends to over-think, over-analyze, and get caught up in making every little detail *perfect* before I can move on. Take a step back and look at the big picture. What’s the main goal? What are you working towards? Does every little detail have to be perfect, or does it just have to get done, in order to move forward? Often I end up realizing that in perspective, something may not be as big of a deal as I’m making it out to be. This can apply to all sorts of situations.

Those are some general tips that helped me be successful in the past year, which presented many changes and new responsibilities. I have to say, I’m glad I volunteered to write this monthly blog post for ACRLog about my experiences in my first year as an academic librarian. It forced my to constantly reflect on my progress, goals, and ideas, and to sort out my thoughts to make them coherent. Now that I’m signing off, I hope I can keep up this habit of reflecting and writing!

Making the Most of It: Professional Development Between Jobs

Robin Brown is not one to let an opportunity slip past her. In addition to experience working as an editor, a librarian, and recently earning a master’s in history (with a history of technology slant – how cool is that?) she is now pinch-hitting at an academic library after a full-time position evaporated. In a comment to a previous post here, she had some ideas that were so inspirational and timely that I asked her to write a guest post. Thanks for sharing these strategies, Robin, and let’s see how others answer the two questions she poses. – Barbara Fister

Professional Development Between Jobs

by Robin Brown

I am an experienced academic reference and instruction librarian. I was released during a round of funding cuts on December 31. The first 5 months were easy because I needed to finish my history degree, including a thesis. Now that I have my second Masters, it gets a lot harder to stay on task. What follows are some ideas I’ve generated to keep moving forward while the job market warms up.

Publish. I’m fortunate that I have just finished several months of full time research, during which I made contacts that have led naturally to some publishing opportunities. I’m working on two different articles that are more less derived from my thesis. I’d like to have at least one ready in time for ALA. Continuing to write is not only about qualifying for a tenure track position, but also persisting in my self identification with the academic community.

Service. I connected with the Director of the New Jersey Historical Commission through my research. He has offered me a chance to do some research and grant writing on a volunteer basis. I am on the Professional Development Committee for NJLA. I also give service within my community. This is about keeping my people skills sharp and learning to do new things.

Keep reading. Two tangents in this category. One is to read library blogs whenever I have a minute, looking for new trends. Because one of my concentrations is in public affairs, I also read news sites regularly. The other tangent is the old fashioned stack of books that accumulated while I was in the end stages of my thesis. I read mostly history and public affairs. It’s actually been kind of weird to once again have permission to read widely. Years ago I read Reading and the Reference Librarian: The Importance to Library Service of Staff Reading Habits and it changed my whole approach to this area of public service.

Tinker. I am geeky enough that I like to play with new computer toys. I believe it is critical for libraries to continue to master technological trends if they are to stay relevant. High on my tinker list is screencasting software. One of my questions to the community is … what would you tinker with if you had the time?

Conferences. I went to NJLA the day after I turned in my thesis! Besides the way cool timing, it was a great opportunity to hear about what’s going on. I think the highlight for me was Marie Radford’s presentation on the Reference Revolution. I am going to ALA. I’m really looking forward to it as a wonderful opportunity to see friends I made in Anaheim last year, and some great opportunities to continue to learn.

1. Have I missed anything?
2. What would you do if you had the time?