Please welcome our new First Year Academic Librarian Experience blogger Ian McCullough, Physical Sciences Librarian at the University of Akron.
Librarianship seems like a career that many come to later, after some career missteps or dead ends. My career path falls into this broad category as I’ve switched from a relatively promising career in lab management into my current role as physical sciences librarian for the University of Akron. In my last job I received frequent praise, backed up with financial compensation. Funding was as secure as it gets in biomedical research (i.e. not grant funded) and a big promotion was being discussed. My users treated me with respect and genuine warmth.
So why did I switch careers? Some mundane reasons contributed, like years of irritation at chemicals eating holes in my clothing. But at heart I wanted more intellectual freedom. I have faculty status here and will get to do research and
pursue my intellectual curiosity. I still get to train users, which was the best part of my previous career. But also, looking at the next thirty years or so, I just couldn’t see myself doing facilities management into my old age. I’d like to say it was a surprise that so many equipment and facilities issues have surfaced this first month. But I’ve worked in academia for nine years and realize infrastructure problems are a fact of life.
My library has leaks. We have a brick exterior with some old mortar that allows water in during driving rain and a few weeks ago Akron enjoyed a torrential downpour. Leaks appeared over the computers, above some journals, along my window, in the bathroom, and in the halls. From my coworkers, I found this was the worst round of leaks in recent memory. We set up buckets, later called the physical plant, and have some new tiles coming. But the bottom line is that fixing the exterior would be incredibly expensive and they (A mysterious cabal of upper administrators? You got me.) may or may not want to erect a new building. So in the near term, we will have leaks.
At my first staff meeting there was some discussion of the leaks, and my boss asked whether I would have come if I had known about the leaks beforehand. “Yes” I answered, because it didn’t change anything. I used to deal with maintenance issues in my last job — some things can be fixed, some cannot and it’s always about budget. Over the long term, leaks can be patched, mortar tuck-pointed, books replaced, and buckets dumped. But intellectual freedom is not something I could get with a work order.