Every Year is Someone’s First Year in Academic Librarianship

With all of the changes in our work over the past year, I know I’m not the only one who’s spent lots of time recently thinking about both the pre-pandemic past as well as the always uncertain future. This historical turn has had the ACRLog blogteam thinking about the past and future of our First Year Academic Librarian Experience series, and we concluded that the slower summer months mark an opportune time for a retrospective FYAL post.

First initiated by ACRLoggers Marc Meola, Steven Bell, and Barbara Fister, the FYAL series began way back in the 2008-2009 academic year, with founding FYALers Olivia Nellums and Susanna Smith. Looking in on their terrific posts from that year it’s so interesting to see that while some things have changed, many, many other aspects of their time as early career librarians over a decade ago have stayed the same. Olivia’s post that touches on “other duties as assigned,” those times in our jobs when we’re doing work we never expected to do, seems especially resonant to me here in the second year of a global pandemic. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that the category of “other duties” has sometimes been even more time-consuming since last spring than our usual job responsibilities. I have similar feelings on re-reading Susanna’s consideration of the challenges of collection development with constrained budgets, especially for smaller libraries, a persistent issue even before we had to grapple with increased requests for ebooks as our physical spaces were made inaccessible last year.

After a short hiatus, the FYAL series restarted in the 2012-2013 academic year with FYALers Rebecca Halpern, Ian McCullough, and Kim Miller. Their first posts for the year also highlight themes in early-career academic librarianship that are evergreen: managing a career change (because one constant about academic librarianship is that almost everyone’s path to here is unique), working through the new job jitters (relevant at every stage of our careers, I think), and the transition from graduate school to a library position.

In subsequent years our 2-4 annual FYALers have blogged about a huge range of topics. Learning and getting comfortable with their new academic library job is a common theme, including the experience of some who are in a newly-created position, as was Lindsay O’Neill when she was hired as an instructional design librarian. Many of our FYAL bloggers have come from the instruction and reference side of the house, and we’ve heard from Ariana Santiago on the overlaps between outreach and instruction, and from Sarah Hare about bringing our whole selves into the classroom. On our regular blogteam we usually have fewer folx on the technical services side of the house, and I always appreciate hearing those perspectives on librarianship from our FYALers. Jason Dean shared his experiences as head of a cataloging unit, and Erin Miller took us through a few days in the life of an eresources librarian.

Conference wrapups and discussions about aspects of the research and writing process also make frequent appearances in the corpus of FYAL posts over the years, hardly a surprise since professional service and scholarship is required in many academic library positions. While certainly the biannual ACRL conference shows up in our ACRLog archives, we’ve also appreciated posts on other conferences of interest to academic librarians, including Zoe McLaughlin’s notes on the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color, and Nisha Mody’s thoughts on the annual meeting of the Medical Library Association. Many new academic librarians are in tenure-track positions, and Heidi Johnson shared her appreciation of the different aspects of her tenure-track role. Of course, research and writing isn’t the exclusive domain of those on the tenure track, and we heard from Abby Flanigan about her experiences getting started with scholarly writing. And one sure advantage that academic librarians have in our research process is our familiarity with the tools of the trade, as Lily Troia reminds us in her post discussing using Hypothes.is for web annotation

Our FYALers have also tackled more difficult topics while blogging with us. It can be hard to talk about rejection and failure, in any context and at any stage in our lives, and probably more so for folx who are new in their careers. I truly appreciated reading Quetzalli Barrientos’ post on rejection in librarianship, and Dylan Burns’ take on failure and when things don’t go as we hoped they would. Struggles with work-life balance are not unusual in the first year in a new position, and in higher education jobs more generally, and Chloe Horning reminds us to take opportunities for reflection and recalibration when possible. The stress of a new and demanding job can take a toll on our mental health, in our first year and beyond. I have so much gratitude for Callie Wiygul Branstiter’s post about the impacts of depression on our jobs, and Melissa DeWitt‘s sharing some of the ways she prioritizes her mental health; both posts are full of insightful truths for all of us, whether we’re in our first year or Nth year as academic librarians.

Our most recent FYALers have had the difficult challenges of the covid19 pandemic to grapple with along with all of the other aspects of their new careers. As the pandemic was beginning to shut everything down in North America last March, Yoonhee Lee walked us through her new normal during remote work. And while the pandemic reshaped our academic librarian workplaces and practices more than we could have anticipated, there are constants in our work and in our FYALers’ experiences too. Valerie Moore shared honestly about her thoughts as she progresses on the tenure track, while Kevin Adams reminds us that collaboration is and continues to be critical in our work, and offers some strategies for success when we collaborate.

Finally, I know I speak for the entire ACRLog blogteam when I express my heartfelt appreciation to Jen Jarson for wrangling our Where Are They Now? Former FYALs Reflect series. Thanks to Jen’s outreach there were 10 former FYALers who participated in this yearlong series during what ended up being the covid19 pandemic (the first post in the series was published on March 17, 2020). It was lovely to catch up with everyone who contributed a Where Are They Now? post, and to read their reflections on how their careers — both inside and outside academic libraries — have evolved.

It’s been so much fun for me to review our First Year Academic Librarian Experience series over the years, thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far! And if you’re starting your first year as an academic librarian we’d love to have you join us on ACRLog for next year as a FYAL blogger — keep an eye out for a call for applications to come later this summer.

Wrapping Up Our Collaboration (And Many Thanks)

Our collaboration with Hack Library School (HLS) ends today. The collaboration helped bring a lot of new voices to both of our blogs and, we think, fostered really invigorating and important conversations about librarianship.

We’d like to thank Hack Library School for agreeing to team up with us. We’d also like to thank all of the guest bloggers that wrote for both venues. We so appreciate the time you took to make us think. Thanks, too, to all of our regular ACRL and HLS bloggers. This collaboration was possible because of their willingness to interrupt the regular blogging schedule and, for many, write over the holidays.

Finally, thank YOU for reading, commenting, engaging, pushing back, and encouraging our writers. This collaboration wouldn’t have been a success without our many readers.

Thanks to Dylan Burns for putting up with my intense, Type A work style (which comes with many, many reminders). I’m so thankful that you took the lead on this! It’s been a pleasure to collaborate with you personally.

Stay tuned for our regular blogging schedule!

 

January 2016 Collaboration with Hack Library School

ACRLog will be kicking 2016 off in a new and exciting way! Last fall, the ACRLog administrators had a discussion about the need for more LIS student voices on the blog. During our discussion, we recognized that Hack Library School (HLS) is the premier blog for LIS student communication. We knew that we wanted to honor this while still highlighting student voices and concerns to the broad readership that ACRLog has. As a result, a rich partnership with Hack Library School was created. This month, Hack Library School and ACRLog will be cross-blogging and co-blogging. This means that HLS posts from students–posts that focus on students’ lens, perspectives, interests, and anxieties–will be featured throughout January. These important pieces will replace our regular blogging schedule. All of the posts we’ll feature are written or co-written by HLS bloggers, LIS students, or very new LIS professionals. In return, HLS will be featuring ACRLog writers and other guests throughout January. Our ACRLog team will be writing about issues that we think might be of interest to students. Occasionally a post will be published in both venues. Regardless of if you’re a student, new professional, or seasoned librarian, we encourage you to follow both blogs throughout the month.

This initiative is based off of the belief that student voices are valuable to the profession and to practicing librarians. We truly believe that if practicing librarians are not listening to LIS students, they are not listening to the future of this profession. Our collaboration is meant to be a rich and valuable cross-pollination of voices and perspectives. We’ll feature posts that are co-written by administrators and students, posts that enable new professionals to reflect on the challenges of the last year, and posts that give students space to critically examine barriers and opportunities within their LIS school experience.

On a very personal note, this topic is near and dear to my heart. I started blogging for ACRLog as a student last fall. It transformed my last year as a graduate student in so many ways. It was invaluable to share to my reflections as a student publicly with the profession and engage with professionals before I formally became one. I’m thrilled that we’re providing a space for others to do the same. I know that I was given the opportunity to blog for ACRLog as a student because of the blog’s current administrators. The same is true of this collaboration. There are many practicing librarians that make student voices a priority. Maura Smale and Jen Jarson are two of them. I can’t thank both of them enough for not only believing in students but prioritizing them.

We encourage you to engage with both spaces and push the boundaries of this experiment. We hope it shapes your own practice, regardless of where you are in your LIS journey.

For more information about Hack Library School, please see Micah Vandegrift’s (HLS Founder) Leadpipe article.

Ways To Engage With ACRL

Editor’s Note: ACRLog is hosting a team of ALA Emerging Leaders. Each month one of our Emerging Leaders will contribute a guest post, and each will focus on some aspect of gearing up for the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC. Next up in the series is a personal reflection on ACRL 101 from Hui-Fen Chang, Assistant Professor, Humanities & Social Sciences, Edmon Low Library, Oklahoma State University – Stillwater.

Hi, I’m one of the ALA Emerging Leaders for ACRL 101. As a new-to-the-profession librarian, I joined ACRL less than a year ago. So far I only have good things to say about the organization.I became a member because ACRL is the leading professional organizations for academic and research librarians. Through my involvement, and especially through my work with the Emerging Leaders program, I’ve become more aware of all of the practical and useful resources for professional development for academic librarians.

When I attended my first ALA Annual Conference last year in Chicago, I started out by going to the ACRL 101 & Membership Meeting where I was able to meet with the ACRL leaders and section representatives. I also found out about various ways to get involved in ACRL (like volunteering to serve on committees), and useful tips for making the most of the ALA Annual Conference. Overall it was a useful and informative orientation for me as a first-time ALA Annual attendee. It inspired me to select the ACRL 101 program within Emerging Leaders. I strongly recommend it to this year’s first timers at Annual 2010.

Between now and then though, if you’re at all like me, you’ll probably want to start planning how to get involved so you can make the most of your conference. In addition to blogs like this one, ACRL publications such as College and Research Libraries and College and Research Libraries News have helped me stay current with scholarly research and with issues germane to academic librarianship. With regard to getting personally involved, ACRL has 17 sections each with committees eager to add new members. In ACRL volunteers are always welcome to serve on committees. I really found committee work an excellent way to network and gain professional experience. I sent in my committee volunteer form, and the next thing I know I’m working with other academic librarians on the Instruction Section Research & Scholarship committee. Through committee work, I get to learn more about the structure of the organization, and how a committee functions and operates, not to mention that I actually get credit for contributing to national projects and publications.

What are some of the other resources worth noting?

* 7 interest groups and 42 discussion groups to join and network with librarians

* OnPoint Chats , blogs , wikis, Facebook and other interactive resources for librarians to communicate and share ideas 25 standards and guidelines on topics of academic librarianship such as information literacy and collection development

*A variety of online seminars, webcasts and courses like Instructional Design for Online Teaching and Learning, Creating Usable and Accessible Web Pages and Copyright and the Library

ACRL National Conference, March 30 – April 2, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There is still time to submit your proposal (by May 10, 2010)!

If you are new to ACRL and want to learn more about ACRL resources and ways to get involved, consider attending the ACRL 101 & Membership Meeting at ALA Annual. In addition, our group of Emerging Leaders is hosting three ACRL 101 mini-sessions for prospective ACRL members and first-time ALA Annual attendees in the ALA pavilion on June 26 and 27 (in the Exhibit Hall). Participants will get to meet with ACRL members and representatives, and to hear about these insiders’ experience with ACRL. It’s as useful and interesting for us to meet new people as it is for you, so we hope to see you there!

Who’s Counting Posts Anyway

Over the last few months at MPOW we searched far and wide for just the right book for an event to commemorate the addition of the 3 millionth book to our collection. You know how these things work. It isn’t really the 3 millionth book. It’s a ceremonial representation of the 3 millionth book. You’d hardly want to build a campus event around your actual 3 millionth book, especially if it was something from the “For Dummies” series or a graphic novel. So we obtained a rather distinguished rare book upon which to develop a nice campaign to publicize our great collection and all the hard work that goes into building a common intellectual resource for an academic community. I suspect that many academic librarians take a “who’s counting” attitude, and just focus on the work at hand without much routine thought about the size of the collection.

That’s how I’d describe my position on blog posts. Who’s counting? And until a few months ago I had no idea how many posts I’d written for ACRLog. But then one of our staff technical experts (ACRL spares no expense in supplying behind-the-scenes IT wizards to keep this blog operating at peak efficiency -right Kevin) said “Hey, we can add a side bar that gives the post count for each blogger.” I seem to recall it was there before I had a chance to chime in, but it certainly does offer a good way to quickly get to all the posts any one ACRLog blogger has written. If you should happen to have, oh, 20 or 30 hours where you have absolutely nothing to do and you want to read every post I’ve contributed to ACRLog, well, all I can say is here’s to better living through technology. But now that a running count of my posts was available I did take notice that I was closing in on number 400. Not that there’s anything particularly special about 400 posts. Now 500 posts might be special – some sort of landmark event – but like most bloggers if I get an idea for a post – well, why wait.

None of this is to suggest that quantity makes for a quality blog experience. I’d like to think that most of the posts have offered good quality – good ideas delivered with good writing – but a blogger will probably miss the mark more often than he or she hits it. I just try to keep writing, trying new or different things, and hoping they’ll work. So I thought this seemed like a reasonable time to take a look back at some old favorites – posts that I think did work. You may not agree:

Are You Where You Want To Be – some thoughts about career tracks; a rare post with a personal side to it

The Information Literacy Facade – maybe what we call it does make a difference

Debating the Future of the Reference Desk – this issue is still being discussed

Sense and Simplicity – the tension in our profession between simplicity and complexity – the “simplicity-complexity conundrum” is a topic I’ve returned to throughout the years

What It Really Means To Be A Faculty Member – what would a blog about academic librarianship be without posts about faculty status, tenure and academic freedom

What makes a post work? One good indicator would be comments – did readers care enough to share their thoughts with the blogger and other readers? We don’t get many comments at ACRLog, but those we do get are typically thoughtful and add to the conversation. Beyond that I’d like to think a post I write gets the reader thinking about things in a different way, perhaps seeing something that he or she didn’t see before. Most of all, I hope it’s something worth remembering. Of course no one is going to remember most of them – I sure don’t. But I know readers do because every now and then I’ll meet a librarian who will mention a post and tell me why it struck a chord with him or her – and chances are I’ll be asking myself if I actually wrote that post (or maybe it was Barbara and they think it was me – or it was some other blog all together). Of course it can help a blogger to say something challenging or controversial, but there’s no point in doing it just for the sake of playing the role of rebel or heretic.

Looking back, most of the posts seem to run together like a blur. Still I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to blog for ACRLog and share them all with you readers. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. I look forward to writing a few hundred more.