Last week was the start of my second semester as a university librarian. Having barely surfaced from all the work associated with ALA Midwinter (and with still quite a few things on the to-do list I brought home), I could’ve used another month of calm before the current storm. But that is not the academic librarian’s life, I find!
The nice thing is that over the break I got to see a number of projects from the fall pay off. We launched a new library front page (no small thing!!) with a design that my colleagues and I spent many long hours drafting and revising. I attended my liaison college’s start-of-semester meeting and was pleased to realize — by running into them there — that I am succeeding in building relationships with faculty members in my departments. I put up my first exhibit, a tie-in to Focus the Nation (in which my campus is participating), with the generous help and contributions of several colleagues.
At the same time, I’m finding that the shine is off a little. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my job, but I’m starting to see more reality and less honeymoon in my library. I’ve had a few minor interpersonal conflicts to smooth out, and I’ve seen obstacles appear in the path of some projects or directions I want to pursue. Where before I had this big smile plastered on my face all the time, now the smiles come and go. Perhaps the contrast is more distinct after coming back from two days of Emerging Leaders activities in Philadelphia. That experience made me feel ready to take over the world, but of course the world is not particularly receptive to being taken over.
I’m not unique here, and I don’t claim to be. It’s not as if my experience is unusual; many people go through this sort of honeymoon-to-reality phase in work, in marriage, and in other types of relationships. We start out and everything’s new, exciting, full of promise. We project our hopes and ideals for the relationship onto the other person or organization, and over time slowly start to realize that what we imagined is simply not the truth — and it doesn’t have to be. It can be even more exciting to shed those honeymoon imaginings and get to know the reality behind them.
I was just reading a 2004 article in the Chronicle on this topic, and the columnist had a very savvy perspective:
My hiring honeymoon died fast, thank goodness. I found out that just because I was the center of attention for a few months did not mean that the program or the university would perpetually revolve around me. I found that when I bellyached less, and instead offered practical and measured solutions for real problems, administrators looked more favorably on the requests I did make. And I found that respect came to me from doing my best at everything I could do and admitting what I couldn’t do.
Between the lines in Mr. Perlmutter’s article I’m hearing a few reminders: first, to be a team player and to give as much as you take; second, to be rational instead of emotional; and third, to be patient. None of these things are always easy, but together they contribute to far deeper and more lasting relationships.
So come back to me, lottery-ticket feeling. Because I’ve hit the point now where I need to figure out how I fit into this organization, and how it fits me. As I move forward, I vow to keep those three reminders in mind. A honeymoon is a wonderful thing, but ultimately I’m committed to a long, happy marriage.