My take on Library Day in the Life.
Three weeks from now I will leave this job and become something else.
For the past three years I’ve been the Online Resources Consultant for the Washington State Library. In that time I’ve run statewide database trials, designed and built websites, and developed a statewide virtual reference cooperative to become a national model.
It’s the first job I got out of graduate school, the first job title of my professional career, and in just three weeks, on February 18th, I’m going to leave the job, drop the title, and move on.
The point of my saying this, I think, is to explain that while I could try and write a “life in the day” post about what my work is like on a daily basis, the fact is that these days are not like other days, that one day is not like the next and, in any case, no days have ever been much like the days before them. Not in this job, anyway.
So instead of a day in the life, I’d like to offer a brief retrospective of the past three years, with as much daily life in it as I can muster.
I started my career, as I believe most do, with a sense of wide-eyed wonder, or, at least, a smidgeon more hope and wonder than infuses most days. I think it took over a year before the cynicism snuck back in, and even then, it was manageable, maybe even productive.
I think the fact that every librarian has to go through two years of graduate school and is, at the end, called, in some variant, a Master of Information, creates a certain expectation about what the job entails. I learned a lot in graduate school and it helps me do my job every day, but I could have done this job without it, too. I’m not trying to disparage the degree, I support it, but I think that people are either librarians or they aren’t – it’s a secret code buried inside us, whether or not it ever becomes unlocked, and the degree supplements that, but it doesn’t create it.
I drive 8 miles to work one way. In the summers, sometimes, I ride my bicycle. When I had a motorcycle for awhile I would ride that. Going to and from work, the time that takes, is important. That’s when you realize, on the way to work, that you look forward to your job, that you have plans for the day. And that’s when you realize, on the way home, that you’re satisfied with what you do, even on those days when what you did was send a lot of emails and try and figure out schedules and quality control issues and your head hurts because you stared a computer screen for nearly 8 hours straight.
We launched a statewide downloadable audiobook project while I was here. I designed and built the website for it. In the meantime, though, I got hooked on downloadable audiobooks. It’s one of those little job perks, getting to learn about books, getting to play with technology, getting to see where the two intersect. In the past year I’ve listened to maybe 20 downloadable audiobooks, I’ve read another 10 ebooks, and I haven’t touched nearly that many physical books in the same amount of time.
I write a lot of email. I read a lot of email. There is a lot of email in the world. I’ve got folders in Outlook that have subfolders that have their own subfolders. It’s organize or die. And you can joke that well, I’m a librarian so of course I’m organized, but really, email seems to defy organization, and I know many who struggle. I get by, though I’m not the most organized, and it’s hard to approach email with the same sense of light-hearted wit that I employed when I first began here. Still, I try.
I examine processes and I try and improve them. This involves a lot of trial and error. Most things get worse before they get better. In trying to schedule what became more than 50 libraries and hundreds of librarians, I found Google Calendar to be the best tool. Sometimes solutions are surprising. I use Google Voice for my long distance calls to save the WSL a little money. It’s also a lot easier than remembering and inputting my special long distance code for every call so I get charged appropriately.
At this point I think that Google pretty much owns my life.
Being a librarian, up to this point, has been a lot different, and a lot cooler, than I thought it would be. I’ve written articles for various blogs and journals (nothing big, but still fun), I’ve been to conferences in San Diego and Monterey and Chicago and Denver and Seattle, and I’ve even presented at some. The community college librarians in WA had me present as keynote at their conference, and one of our public library systems asked me to present for their all staff in-service day. Those were some great high points.
I’ve visited more libraries in the last 3 years than I did in the previous 27 years. From university and community college libraries to branches of library systems and buildings that were the library system, I’ve visited at least 50 libraries and met literally hundreds of library staff. And all of them have been amazing.
It’s been an amazing 3 years – every day in the life of all 3 of them was different. Moving on to my next job, I expect that the only thing that will remain the same is that everything will be changing, all the time. And that’s okay. At this point, I’m used to it.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.