Today, as part of my ongoing series about being a librarian in today’s economy, my friend from library school, Lauren, stops by. Lauren is still in library school and is sharing her story about why she has chosen to postpone her graduation until December. Lauren has recently started blogging and her blog is awesome! If you missed the last two posts in the series, you can read them here and here.
I read a LOT of librarian blogs. My Google Reader fills up quickly every day with posts about the latest and greatest trends/news in a variety of libraries, about a variety of services (reference, cataloging, digitization, etc). I read everything from In the Library with the Lead Pipe, a blog with peer-reviewed type entries, to library_mofo, a LiveJournal community where librarians go to vent. When people ask me what my specialization or interest in library science is, I rattle off a laundry list.
Despite the fact that I do not have my heart set on one kind of library or type of position, I know without a doubt that I want to be a librarian. An information professional. The job title doesn’t really matter. I am absolutely certain that this is the profession I want participate in, contribute to, and go above and beyond for. The Annoyed Librarian would probably hate me. But I have read about and experienced the difficult patrons, the criticism/questioning of the profession and library school, and the “do we have a future?” scares. I’ve questioned the choice a few times. And I’m in it for the long haul.
In spite of being focused on that goal, and gaining experience in several different settings since I began library school in January 2009, I spent a lot of this past semester feeling depressed. When the majority of my incredibly talented, hardworking colleagues graduated in December 2009 without full-time jobs (not for lack of trying since September), I realized that my plans to graduate a semester early, in August 2010, might need adjusting. Since I have student jobs, I would have a significant lapse in income, even if I could get a local part-time job. I have a substantial amount of student loan debt. My parents were badly affected by the recession; without going into the details, suffice it to say that moving in with them would create a huge burden.
Thus, about halfway through the semester, I decided to postpone graduation until December 2010. However, shortly thereafter, I also decided I wasn’t going to let fear and depression take over. The job situation is bleak for everyone, but I knew I couldn’t give up before I even started.
While I knew I would have to work twice as hard as before, I chose to channel my fears into getting more involved and stepping out of my comfort zones. I have always been shy, and often let others take the lead in groups. But I realized that I had nothing to lose—in fact, I had much more to gain by working on myself and facing my fears. So I started small, and co-presented two posters at the Alabama Library Association conference. Then, I decided to take on a new leadership role, (UA student group president of SLA), determined not to make it just a line on my CV, but to seek out opportunities and programs that would benefit my fellow students (SLISers note: stay tuned for this, and hold me to it!). I wanted to go to both of the 2010 SLA and ALA national conferences to network with professionals while I could still afford the student rates. I took on three part-time summer jobs. I began the process of lining up a not-for-credit internship for the fall. I am finally starting the blog I always claimed I didn’t have the time or creativity for. While none of this guarantees me a job, I now have several librarians and professors willing to provide references for me, and that is at least one weight lifted off my shoulders.
I am not listing these things to brag on myself or deem myself superwoman. FAR from it! I am only one of many librarians-to-be out there trying to carve a path for myself. But this is how I am staying focused and preparing for that grueling job search. Every single one of these actions originated from tips my mentors gave me (the original tip: get a mentor… or several!), and I wanted to pass them along to those who are similarly discouraged. If it’s feasible for you, take advantage of being a student as long as possible (here’s a great article on this: http://liscareer.com/katopol_school.htm). Whether you work full-time or part-time, get involved however you can. Start small, and make changes in manageable increments. Go the extra mile when you have the opportunity.
The job situation is not going to get much better unless we advocate for libraries and find a way to demonstrate our worth to key decision-makers. That change has to come from the top, and is a subject for another post. But for now, there are many factors in finding a job that we have absolutely no control over. All we can really control is our level of involvement and commitment to our future profession, put ourselves out there, and hope for the best.
After months of tossing and turning, I’m finally able to go to sleep at night. I’m living in the present, not the future, knowing that I’m doing the best I can with what I have, and that has made all the difference.