Reflections on one year of librarianship

It has been just over a year since I began my first professional library job, and it has been a wonderful year for me professional and personally. I have stretched and molded and am still settling in to my own professional identity, but it feels so good to be in a place where I feel like I can do those things, and be supported by my coworkers to explore, engage, and learn. As I think back over the last year, there are a few things that stand out as experiences that will help me continue to shape myself and my career.

The first experience that stands out is attending and presenting at conferences. I attended 3 conferences, all different sizes and purposes. The first was ALA Annual in Las Vegas (VEGAS!). It was only my second year attending ALA, and my first trip to Vegas. It was great for all the right reasons: big presentations, small networking opportunities, and social gatherings. It was wonderful to attend the conference as a librarian and have this secret feeling that I was part of “the club.” I could introduce myself and my job, talk with others who are just as nerdy and excited as I am about teaching and libraries. I also got to meet Lois Lowry and have her sign my book. It. Was. Awesome. The one drawback to something like ALA is that the sheer size makes it easy to feel like you never have a real, deep connection with what’s going on.

My second conference experience was a smaller gathering, the Oregon and Washington chapters of ACRL’s combined conference. For two days, I saw the same people, we ate meals together and played games together, and I felt, again, like I was finally part of a group. This was also the first presentation I did as a librarian (I have presented a paper I’d written before, at a small, regional literature conference). I honestly did not believe that my proposal would be accepted, but I submitted it anyway. I take almost any opportunity that comes my way to submit presentation and poster proposal. The worst they’re going to say is no, and I get the experience of putting together abstracts, titles, etc., that could compel someone to say, “I’d like to hear more about that!” So I did a presentation about using concept maps in library instruction (PDF of the slides available on my Portfolio page). It was a 2-minute “shock talk” but I heard good comments afterward, and it gave me a little boost of confidence to keep going.

The final conference I attended was a one-day local conference on information literacy. Smaller still than the last, all the attendees could fit in one room. I did not present at this one, but again, had great conversations with people from all different backgrounds, giving me a lot of food for thought to take home with me.

All three of these experiences were valuable for me for various reasons. I’m glad I was able to experience three very unique conference formats, big (HUGE), medium, and small. I’ve met some wonderful colleagues, been challenged as a professional, and learned what makes a compelling talk, poster, small group discussion topic, etc., to apply to my own proposals.

The second experience was writing my first paper for publication. And I can say it went really well, as it has been accepted for publication in the fall. I was invited by one of my colleagues to collaborate on writing a paper about an assessment project he had worked on during a sabbatical. I was happy to assist in any way. It feels amazing to know something I helped write is going to be published, and the experience of going through the research, writing, and now revising process is so, so great. I am working on some outlines for potential papers now, and I feel like I am better prepared to tackle this, having had a great guide through my first experience.

The final experience is more personal, and that is the decision to move somewhere completely new. I am the definition of an introvert. So new situations, people, and places riddle me with anxiety. While I have worked hard to overcome my natural tendencies to avoid crowds and new situations, I am still a work in progress. Part of my job now is to be a liaison and outreach to various campus groups. That’s hard when your natural reaction to meeting new people is to not. And small talk? Nope. Not even. But moving to a town where I literally only knew the one person who was coming with me (the hubs), and had met, once, a few of my future colleagues while visiting for my interview, has presented me with a challenge. I had to re-establish relationships I took for granted (like a hair stylist, a dentist, a doctor), and I had to learn how to forge friendships (this is my biggest struggle, TBH). I am still learning how to do those things. How? I pay attention to the questions other people ask me or others when they’re just meeting. I default to things I can (and like to) talk about: my job, the library, the local farmers’ market, the weather. I have improved over the last year, and am more comfortable sitting down and talking to a complete stranger, but I still have a tendency to carry a book with me everywhere, in case I need something to occupy my untalkative self.

There are more, smaller experiences that have been wonderful this past year: supportive colleagues, finally feeling like I have found my fit in librarianship, Captain America 2 and Mockingjay Part 1 coming out, having my husband and dog with me under one roof again, and on and on. It’s been a good year. Here’s to the second year being even better.

Librarian, Teacher, Writer

I thought I’d start the festivities by sharing a bit about myself, what I do, what I like. Some of the stuff you can’t get from a CV or cover letter.

To start, I am a librarian. An instruction librarian, to be more precise. Which means, as I explain to my mother, that I teach people how to do research. I currently work at a university, and I absolutely love it. I knew the day I started college (back in August 2003) that if I could, I would never leave. The first question my mother-in-law asked me when I finished my MLS was, “So what’s your next degree?” We all had a good laugh, but the MLS was my second graduate degree. And if I’m honest, I would love for it to not be my last. For now, though, I am happy to be working at a large university, teaching classes, and working at the reference desk.

But all of that you probably could have surmised from my CV or cover letter. So what else is there? I find it strange that the standard answer to the question, “Who are you?” is to state one’s profession. Is a librarian who I am? Or it is merely what I do? In some cases, for those fortunate enough to do what they love for a living, I can reasonably believe that one’s profession is both who you are what you do. For me, I would argue that the “librarian” label is only part of who am.

So who am I? I’m a walking mess of contradictions, likes and dislikes, and confusing feelings, like most people. I adore my dog above all things (which my husband, bless his heart, can confirm); I love winter and food and my family; I took up cross-stitching in college and still love it. I once won a Scrabble tournament. There’s a Harry Potter poster on my office wall, and my only regret is I don’t have a Hunger Games poster next to it. But I do have an Avengers poster, so my geek label is firmly intact.

Most days, I tell myself I’m a writer, even though I’ve accomplished very little sustained writing in my life. I have as many as five partial novels saved at any point in time, bad teenage poetry in sticker-decorated notebooks, and this is probably the 5th blog I have started in my life time. (I’ll just go ahead and not count my Xanga from HS, okay?)

But, really, who am I? Just a litany of preferences? A summary of all of my experiences? I am not sure I have, or will ever have, an adequate response to that question. But here is the gist of what you may want to know about me and this blog:

I am passionate about education. I believe, with every fiber of whoever I am, that education is vital to individuals and to society. I also believe that education comes in many forms–so know that I am not only talking about a 4-year, college degree. And of the various skills or ideas that people can take away from education, I believe that information literacy is at the top of that list. There are critical habits of thinking and acting that information literate individuals engage in which go far beyond teaching students how to find an article in a database or how to Google more effectively.

With this blog, I plan to write about issues that matter to me. Trends in librarianship, trends in higher education, books that I have read or articles I recommend. There will probably also be entries popping up about things going on in my life, personal and professional, but I will always try to relate things back to my main foci: education and librarianship. Still want to take this crazy ride with me? You have been warned.