We have our future planned out, but as they say, life has a way of happening to us while we were making other plans. Just when we think we have it all figured out, our experiences have a way of surprising us. In library school we all visualized what the future would hold, but reality may have taught us some new lessons. What do you wish you learned when you started library school that you know now as a professional librarian? For me, life as a children’s librarian (and now as a branch manager) has provided me with at least three major life lessons, and I’m sure the future will only bring more.
Change Your Perspective
When I began my first position as Youth Services Manager, I viewed children’s services as a department within the greater library system. In my mind, it was a critical part within library services, but it was separate and distinct from other departments. Now years, experiences, and a position later, I see youth services connected to each and every aspect of serving the public. I now understand how the influx of patrons attending children’s programming directly ties into circulation figures and our adult computer usage. Customers who visit the library first for assistance with their library accounts or their reference needs also often visit children’s services before they walk out the door. Opportunities for cross-training and collaboration with other departments helped me realize that while it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire library system to raise a young reader. Has your work experience changed how you view the role of youth services within your library system?
Criticize with Control
As children’s librarians and supervisors, we’re taught that evaluation is a central component of our professional work. I’ve been blessed to see staff give and receive constructive feedback that will only improve the final product or work performance. Unfortunately in our society, it’s a lot easier to tear something (or someone) apart than to provide constructive feedback that will actually improve whatever it is that we’re evaluating. If there is no thought to individual merit but simply a laundry list of criticisms, it is clear there’s a lack of critical thinking instead of constructive intent. Criticize with purpose, but most importantly, know when to stop.
Never Say Never
The third lesson I’ve learned is to be open to opportunities, no matter how unusual they may seem. I’m sure we’ve all known former classmates who were so confident in their specific career path when they were library school students, but their professional work has veered into a concentration they never expected. Being well-rounded is necessary, not only in library school but to make us more marketable in an uncertain job market. Being well-rounded is a necessity to thrive in our current library positions in the here and now as workloads change and responsibilities shift. I’ve learned to embrace those work assignments that initially appear outside my comfort zone. It’s those challenging (and rewarding) projects that could comprise the majority of my daily work a few years down the line. What insights have you gained about work and life since library school?