The Meaning of Life (As it Applies to a First-Year Academic Librarian)

The title of this post isn’t exactly true: I’m not sure I’ll ever really know the meaning of life. But more importantly: I can now officially call myself a second-year librarian. Today is the anniversary of my start date in the world of academic librarianship. Coincidentally, I’m also teaching my first instruction session of the semester today. I didn’t plan it that way, but it seems appropriate, does it not? As I’ve been preparing for this first class and the start of the new semester, I’ve been thinking back to the amazing and overwhelming amount of information I’ve compiled in my head (and file cabinets) over the past year. To take a cue from last year’s guest poster, Lauren Jensen, I’d like to provide a brief summary of the most important things I’ve learned, in hopes that it will inspire the new batch of first-year academic librarians:

• Never be afraid to reach out to colleagues. I’ve sent “cold” emails to several librarians in the past year, asking about an instructional tool they’ve created, or an article they’ve written. Every response has been welcoming and helpful!

• Don’t underestimate your students. It’s possible, when starting out, that I pegged many students as having an “I could care less” attitude. I’ve learned that it’s not that they don’t want to learn, they just need to be engaged and challenged. I’m still learning how to accomplish that!

• Try [fill in the blank] at least once! You’ll never know if an idea will work if you don’t give it a shot. This could relate to a new way of assessing information literacy skills or a new service for faculty. At the very least, you’ll learn that you’re very good at revising. 🙂

• Just because you’re interested in publishing, doesn’t mean you have to start out with an article or a book. Try blogging, writing for your alumni newsletter, or contributing book or product reviews for a journal. These are all things I’ve accomplished in the last year, and now an article doesn’t seem quite so daunting.

• Take advantage of free online professional development! While I’m lucky that my institution will reimburse me for professional development relating to my job, I know that’s not something I can go crazy with. Thanks to the folks at SirsiDynix Institute, WebJunction, the TLT Group, and even ACRL, I’ve been able to attend dozens of free web seminars. These opportunities have definitely increased my awareness and made me a better librarian.

Well, that about does it for my final post. It’s been wonderful having the opportunity to share my thoughts and run my ideas by the ACRLog readers during my first year. Your insights and encouragement have been much appreciated, and I am happy to say that I’ve learned a thing or two from your comments. I need to thank Steven Bell, and the other regular ACRLog contributors, for occasionally adjusting their posting routine to give us new librarians a chance to contribute. On that note, I’d also like to congratulate my fellow new colleagues on successfully completing their first years! It’s been great knowing there are others out there just like me, and that although things have been both challenging and rewarding during our first years in the field, we can feel confident knowing that there is an amazing network of supportive colleagues only a phone call or email away. Have a great year everyone!

5 thoughts on “The Meaning of Life (As it Applies to a First-Year Academic Librarian)”

  1. Thanks for the mention of the WJ Webinars. We’re glad the academic world finds them useful. If you have any suggestions for future topics, or would like to present (!) one yourself, please drop us a line via the form on the webinar page.

  2. Thank you, Melissa, for the insight and advice. I just completed my first week as a new hire and as an Instructional Services Librarian. I was absolutely blown away by the warmth generating from library people of all kinds. I can’t stress enough how great it is to have such a supportive network of librarians who strongly value collaboration. I guess I am also so blown away because I have not had, in all of my years as a student, such an amazing experience with collaboration. I probably was a bit apprehensive about asking for help; but it’s natural to consult other librarians 4 their expertise and has already been a source of much growth in just a week! I’m amazed by this culture of community within this profession and the sincere love for helping others that runs parallel to an equally strong culture of isolation and individualism.

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