Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Librarian: 2/27/13

8 AM, on the nose: Arrive at work, shed purse and backpack. Take a brief look at my desk and contemplate suicide.

8:02 AM-Begin to check emails

8:08 AM-Set out sign for the day's program. Check supply of flyers. Beef up Staff Picks table. Beef up Book Display table. Clear out Council Agenda binder.


8:20 AM-Clear off desk space

8:25 AM--Thus commences the nebulous project "working on the program brochure." This entails consulting with my big desk calendar to see what my boss has written in, and writing a 75-100 word blurb for each event for the next quarter. This entails thinking of 20 different ways to describe a "fascinating lecture" or an "evening of artistic films". Also, this entails me nagging my boss and/or various performers for their information and press kits. Also, this entails adding each event to our Event Management Software, as well as our programming calendar.

9:40 AM--All Staff Meeting. Lasts about 5 minutes and is mainly just an update on what traffic to expect through the Library.

9:45 AM--Re-commence program work

10:30 AM--Morning breaktime. I struggle to finish Urban Tribes, by Ethan Watters.

10:45 AM--Re-commence program work

11:30 AM--Lunch. It's a rather political event. I came to it hungry and left it with indigestion.

12:50 PM--Re-commence program work. Spend the next four hours toggling back and forth between Word, Outlook, Excel, and Chrome.

3:45 PM--Briefly pause to officially request my time off for PLA in 2014.

4:50 PM--Done. Seriously, done with the first draft of the events! I email our graphic designer and allow myself to feel my own brains oozing out of my ears. I'm spent.

4:55 PM--Brain is still pickled. I turn to a decent end-of-the-day task: Books! I peruse EarlyWord, The New York Times Book Review, and our Library catalog.

6:02--Heading home.

All in all, a day high in productivity, but low in eventfulness. Still, not boring. And I'm ahead of schedule with the brochure!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This old dog just learned a new trick

"So where do you see yourself, career-wise, in five or ten years?"

I sat at the conference table, across from two kindly-faced women, and flashed what I hoped was my sweetest, most warm and winning smile. "Would it be too much to say that I want to become the next Nancy Pearl?" The two women smiled, and chuckled, as I had hoped they would; I also hoped they saw the bright hopes and ideas and drive that I felt brimming over in my eyes, my voice, my demeanor.

For those of you not in the know, Nancy Pearl is, like, a Librarian Rock Star. She's a voracious reader, a literary critic, an author, a readers' advisory pioneer, a radio personality, and a fierce advocate for libraries, books, and reading. If there were a war against libraries, you'd want Nancy Pearl to be the general of your army. She even has an action figure!

Well, I didn't look like Nancy Pearl then. (Or now, but the description I'm going to give of me then is a better one.) I was dressed in a brand-new suit I'd picked up at Ann Taylor Loft; the skirt was modest yet flirty; the jacket murderoulsy warm for April in the desert. My short red hair was not in a bun, by any stretch of the imagination. I was 27 years old, had been a librarian for less than a year, and was very eager to move up in the world.

The interview was a success, and eventually, months later (oh, local government) they offered me the job. I took it, and here I remain, to this day.

I'm not Nancy Pearl yet. Our director did start calling me the Book Maven, due to my voracious reading and eagerness to talk books, and while I happily took the title, I didn't really do anything to really become the Book Maven. I went to work, I put in long hours, I did the work and I did it well, but in no way was I forging or pioneering anything revolutionary about my career.

Fast forward almost six years. Sometimes, the biggest changes are the most unintentional kind. Late one afternoon, I briefly mentioned to my Director an idea I had for a book program--tying it into my personal reading goals of "125 in 365"--and he loved it. And then a patron vandalized the library, and the Director had to re-focus on directing, but I continued to mull over my idea. Potentially, it could make me a wee bit of a local celebrity. How cool would that be? And Director thinks that we could write an article about it and get it published.

Me, publishing something? For years, I shied away from the idea. Deadlines and pressure and publish or perish? Ugh. And yet, here I was, stumbling into it.

And why not other things, too? YouTube videos of book reviews. Blogging. Becoming more prolific on Good Reads. Trying to offer readers' advisory services and advice. Doing personalized book recommendations. Maybe starting to do book reviews for the trade publication. Sharing the awesome adventure that reading is, and getting other people to push their own boundaries and frontiers.

Just like that, I unintentionally stumbled on my answer to the question I hadn't realized I had been asking: How do I enhance and advance my career when there are no visible opportunities to  "move up"?

You make your own opportunities.

You learn that moving up and advancing are not necessarily the same thing, and you don't need to do one in order to do the other.

You find out what you love about your career, and you play to that love and strength.

You make your identity and your career happen. Your bosses will hopefully play to your strengths, and they might even mentor you, but it's up to you to push forward your career and your development, You become your own advocate, and your own mentor, and your own agent.

Seven years into my profession, and I feel like I'm about to start the best part of it.