Final Thoughts on My First Year

It’s already July, and I’m not really sure when that happened. Summer is starting to wind down and planning for the upcoming semester is in full swing. This is also my last post as an First Year Academic Librarian Experience (FYAL) blogger for ACRLog. I’ve had a great time writing posts, reflecting on my experiences as a new librarian, and meeting the wonderful people who make this blog possible. I highly recommend applying to write as an FYAL blogger to anyone who wants to give it a try. It’s fun, good writing practice, and a very supportive space.

Before I go, I’m using this post as an opportunity to reflect back on my first year, which includes the lessons and roadblocks I’ve run into along the way.

Relationships are the most important thing

If I tried to work through my first year as an academic librarian alone, it would have been a disaster. The relationships I formed with colleagues in my library, at the university, and with librarians outside of my workplace have been essential to both my career and my happiness. My colleagues have been supportive of my ideas, have advocated on my behalf during turbulent times, and are supportive of me as a person who has a life beyond work. Work is still work, but I’m genuinely excited to see my colleagues when I come in each week. This year would not have been the same without them. 

I wrote about my struggles with my faculty identity nine months ago, and while there are still challenges working with colleagues outside of the library, I’m amazed by the ways in which my relationships outside of the library have grown. I’ve met more people, have had a year to build trust and work together with faculty in my liaison area, and have opportunities to try new ideas with colleagues from all sorts of backgrounds. I am optimistic that my relationships will continue to grow and take me in directions I could never have conceived of a year ago. 

As for the relationships outside of work, I am grateful for my library friendships. Conferences have granted me the opportunity to meet really cool people doing amazing things all over the world. The local librarians in Colorado are a great bunch, and if you have the chance to hang out with them, you definitely should (come to a baseball game. You won’t regret it). The Colorado Association of Libraries New Professionals Interest Group (NPIG) has allowed me to connect with other, new librarians in both a professional and social capacity. Joining, and then leading, a group of new professionals has allowed me to meet people from all sorts of libraries and created opportunities to present at conferences.

Relationships and friendships are vital to my success and wellbeing. I wouldn’t be where I am without the smart and talented people surrounding me. 

You can’t avoid higher ed politics

As great as most (but definitely not all) of my relationships are in academia, there are some barriers that you just can’t get away from. The politics of higher ed might forever confuse me. I’ve found out that I can’t always get things done the way I want to. Outcomes and events are tied to university goals or priorities; a college has done something one way for 20 years, someone else wants to change it, and now no one is happy; there was a union once, so that’s why some policies are in place; a certain room is in the building because of a long deceased donor, and no, we don’t have access to it; there are endless committees, and councils are different than committees. It can be exhausting, so if you’re new and feeling overwhelmed by politics and hierarchies and decision-making processes, I feel you. I’m still figuring out how this all works too. The more I learn about university politics, the less I feel confident I know anything. Talk to me in a few years, and we’ll see where I’m at. 

Do the fun stuff

On a more positive note, I’ve had a great time participating in fun or unique activities on campus. I highly recommend attending events or doing activities that sound good. I recently learned that there are community garden plots on campus, and a lot of the summer faculty and staff grow their own gardens. I met the video team in the university marketing department because we played on a campus softball team together. I participated in a class that taught students how to assess and prescribe exercises to clients, so I got to hang out with students in a class and get free training (I’m surprised that this is the place where most students I run into know me from and as “the librarian who lifted weights with us in that class.”) Move-in day comes up in August, and I’m definitely getting involved with that again because it was fun to meet new students and their families. There’s opportunities to go on camping retreats, attend plays, and visit art galleries. This circles back to the idea that relationships are the most important aspect of librarianship to me. The fun opportunities are less formal ways to build relationships, and I have a good time doing them.

Try a bit of everything (but learn to say no sometimes)

In library school, I got involved with every organization, volunteer opportunity, and job I could get my hands on. This was a great way to put my name out there and build relationships. Not much has changed since then. I’m in several groups and committees both in the library and on campus. I’ve also joined groups, such as NPIG, that allow me to meet librarians across the state. There’s opportunities to collaborate on research, presentations, and workshops. I’ve said yes to a lot of things, and it’s helped me learn what I like and what I don’t like. At the same time, I’m getting to a point where I have to learn how to say no. I love being involved and busy during the day, but there’s a point when we have to step back and focus on the stuff we’ve already committed to. This is a reminder for all of us, myself included.

And so farewell

I’ll miss writing for this blog and using this space to process my own experiences and emotions; however, I’m excited to read future FYAL posts and learn from other, new professionals. I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone at ACRLog for your support. Thanks for checking in, providing feedback, and brainstorming ideas.

For anyone who wants to chat you can reach me on Twitter or through email. Best wishes to everyone as we enter a new, academic year! 

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