Dani and Kevin have both written posts regarding their first years in the profession that could have been cribbed from notes from my first year, had I the gumption and wherewithal to start a fantastic and thought-provoking blog. But I didn’t so here you have my reflections on Year Two, hijacking space on a blog created by two librarians I admire who did!
On (Keeping) My First Real Librarian Job
Now that I’m two years in, I am thinking more seriously about my upcoming third year review. Thankfully I was given a lot of good mentoring in graduate school, and good guidance in my job, so I’ve been building a body of scholarly and professional activities that will speak to my engagement as a librarian. However. The anxiety creeps in: I went to a national conference, but didn’t present. I presented at a local conference after my first year…but not in my second. Did I do enough my second year? And to all that noise I need to just say SHHHH. The only librarian shushing I condone.
Seriously, I think there is a negativity surrounding reviews that creates needless anxiety and in the end is counterproductive. I am trying to frame the review process as a point of accountability and a reminder to continue to push outside of my comfort zone. In the meantime, I have to work to not fall prey to comparing myself to others: colleagues in the same library with different roles, friends at different libraries doing interesting things, the Movers & Shakers list, and so forth.
Looking back over the two years, I see a strong thread of doing a lot of work outside the classroom in order to strengthen what I do within it.
My first year I tried to calm all the crazy voices in my head and adopt the mantra “learn, learn, learn.” I tried not to pressure myself too much to go above and beyond. I was responsible for the library’s instruction program, but I had to learn about its history, its campus partners, departments with who we had developed strong relationships, those in which the relationships were emerging, and those with whom we had no presence. I also spent a long time studying the curriculum, particularly the signature inquiry curriculum. And talking! I felt like I talked to so many people, all the time, about instruction, the library, their classes, the campus, the community, students, student leadership, building critical thinking, assessment, and on and on and on.
Oh yeah, and I taught a bunch, too. Seriously, there was a point in which I hunkered down and taught a bazillion classes, and then I emerged at the end of the semester a bit dazed, my brain full of ideas and possibilities. The combination of being willing to learn and follow established teaching patterns gave me the authority and experience in Year Two to propose tweaks and edits to assignments and help develop new library instruction arcs in classes.
The biggest change between my first and second years was moving from a place of feeling like I was scrambling to keep up while simultaneously trying to be convincing as an authority on research and information into actually being able to balance a crazy workload and being convinced myself of my authority. The relationship building I did in my first year helped me feel more engaged with my community and, especially with my small campus, helped me become integrated more quickly.
On the Profession and Professional Development
One thing I took for granted in library school is constantly feeling connected to the ‘profession’: hot trends, worrying developments, big news items regarding libraries, etc. I was surprised to find how quickly that faded as I became more entrenched in my campus community. I became more connected to teaching and learning trends, assessment and accreditation, and questions relating to the liberal arts. Suddenly I had to work a lot harder to stay connected to the profession. The listserv messages that I read fervently my first year piled up, as did my professional journals. My reading list grew longer, just as I began to get busier and busier on campus. The more embedded in my community I became, the less connected I felt to the larger library world. So, as Dani mentioned, I value conferences as a way to connect to other librarians and remind myself of the larger values that drew me into librarianship. I am really fortunate to have a boss who values professional development and encourages librarians and other library staff to seek out learning opportunities. Newly minted librarians everywhere: when you are job searching you should most definitely inquire about support for professional development when you interview.
My parting thought is this, and I have a feeling that Dani and Kevin would agree: engage in reflection on a routine basis. The invitation to write a blog post offered me a structured way to reflect on my experiences these past two years, but in general the exercise of thinking through what is working, what isn’t, and future steps will enrich your practice and help you stay balanced and focused.
Sarah Bankston is the Teaching and Learning Librarian for Oxford College of Emory University. She earned her MSLS at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2012, and she also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from North Carolina State University. She’s interested in exploring students’ mental models of research to uncover their misconceptions and preconceived notions, in order to figure out ways to make them dissatisfied enough with their misconceptions to dig deeper.