Editor’s Note: Please join us in welcoming Katie Kuipers, Assistant Professor and Affordability & Digital Initiatives Librarian at St. Cloud State University, as a new First Year Academic Librarian Experience blogger for the 2023-2024 year here at ACRLog.
I spent the weeks following graduation in May as I imagine many graduates do: desperately applying for jobs. With a Master of Library and Information Science degree in hand, I was eager to dive head-first into the world of professional librarianship. As each rejection letter came, however, my excitement dwindled. I decided to pivot my job search and focus on jobs that intrigued me rather than applying to any and every librarian job I found. Although I had no experience working in an academic library, I took a course in grad school about the issues in the academic libraries and conducted research on first generation students and the information literacy skills of first-year students. This led me to applying, interviewing, and accepting the job as the Affordability & Digital Initiatives Librarian at St. Cloud State University.
I packed my bags and excitedly moved from my home in North Dakota to St. Cloud, Minnesota. A few weeks before the semester began, I received an email from the Dean asking if I would be interested in co-teaching a course for the fall and teaching it on my own for the spring. Wanting to challenge myself, I replied that I could. At St. Cloud State University, academic librarians are also faculty members. Not only was I the Affordability & Digital Initiatives Librarian, but I was an Assistant Professor for the University Library as well. I had no idea what this would mean until I showed up for the new faculty orientation on campus.
New faculty orientation overwhelmed me. Suddenly, I was inundated with acronyms I was unfamiliar with like “P&T” (promotion and tenure) and “PDP” (professional development plan). While other new faculty were finalizing their syllabi and drafting their assignments for the semester, I was feeling massively underprepared and began developing imposter syndrome. I returned to campus the next day unsure of what lay ahead of me. After receiving my workload from the Dean, I had a clearer picture of what was expected of me; however, I was scared that I was in over my head. Along with teaching, I was tasked with creating affordability workshops, designing an online affordability course, and supporting faculty adopting, adapting, and creating OER, all of which was new to me.
Once I met my colleagues, I realized I had a wonderful support network right in front of me. Over the past couple weeks, they have caught me up to speed on the status of the Affordability Initiative at the university, explained numerous acronyms, shared their professional development plans from previous years, and checked in with me to see if I have any questions as I navigate my role. My co-professor generously offered to take the reins for the beginning half of the semester to allow me to observe her teaching style. We have been collaborating on discussion questions and class activities to ease me into the course. Along the way, I have been making notes to prepare myself for my own course next semester. The department chair has been instrumental in my adjustment to the position. She shares her teaching experiences and is patient with me as I learn how to tackle library instruction and research appointments, another aspect of my workload. Overall, the department has reassured me that everything will be okay. I will encounter bumps throughout the year, but that is to be expected of a librarian fresh out of grad school.
Even though I am only a few weeks into my position, I can see a lifelong career in academic librarianship. I enjoy getting to know my students and want to help them succeed. I am adapting to the workload and drafting ideas to implement throughout the year. Thanks to my colleagues, the imposter syndrome is starting to subdue, and I am feeling more confident in my position. Am I still scared? Absolutely… but in a good way.