|"Moose" is a Creative Commons licensed photo by Sean Biehle.|
The whole point of pursuing the MLIS is to get a job in a library, right? But what do you do when that finally happens? What's the next step? This question was the crux of an email I received last week. I responded, but figured that there are probably others out there who might have the same questions (I know I did when I was a newbrarian), so I'm sharing my response - slightly edited - with you all.
Before I do that, though, I want to fill in a few details. My correspondent has been working in academic libraries prior to now, but always as a clerk/assistant/paraprofessional. The new job is at a small academic library where my correspondent will be responsible for (among other things) instruction, instructional technology, managing student workers, and working with faculty.
Now that you have an idea of where this started, here is how I responded:
The first thing you need to know is that your new library director and coworkers are aware of what experiences you do and don't have. So long as you didn't misrepresent your qualifications and/or background, you'll be fine. I've worked with brand new librarians before, and I expected a longer ramp up with them than with a more experienced individual. I can't imagine it will be much different for you. And if it is different, run.
My second piece of advice is to ask your new director for regular meetings, just so you can check in with each other. Ideally, I suggest weekly. Bi-weekly is okay if weekly won't work. Sometimes the hardest thing about a new job is understanding expectations and learning to read the situation, and regular meetings will alleviate a lot of that stress. Additionally, I suggest you take notes during these meetings, then type them up, and email the notes to your director, just to make sure you are both on the same page. (Closing in on a decade since I got my MLIS, I still do this after my monthly meetings with my director. It allows me to clarify any confusion immediately and to make sure I didn't miss anything.)
Third, ask to shadow other librarians (or even professors) to get a sense of how people teach there. [There are other skills where shadowing can help, too, such as handling the reference desk or collection development.] Don't be afraid to steal/borrow ideas and approaches to mix in with your own approach. Also, and I can't stress this enough, look both inside and outside of library science literature to learn how to handle info lit & instructional tech.
Fourth, don't be afraid to ask for help. It's one of the hardest skills to learn - figuring out when enough is enough and getting assistance - but it's more important than almost any skill you'll need to acquire as a newbrarian.
Finally, you'll have an advantage in your first year or so that you should use. You'll be able to see thing that others won't, and you need to realize that perspective is sometimes just as powerful as experience. Sometimes us oldbrarians have well thought out reasons for doing what we do, but sometimes it's because we never realized there were other possibilities. (I'd channel these observations through your director until you get the lay of the land.)
How about you? What other recommendations would you give a brand new librarian?