Thursday, August 31, 2017

Welcome to the Library, Now Put Together Your Career, by Amelia Rodriguez

I have a bad habit of letting other people’s opinions overshadow my own. I get so focused on not making a stir that I get swept along in what other people think or feel and lose myself in their ideas. This can clearly be seen by my choices in my undergraduate study. I changed majors three times and with each change came a new school. The first two majors were influenced by what other people thought would be good areas of study for me. My mom, ever the voice of reason, asked me what I wanted. She was also the one who guided me towards library school.

By a lot of accounts I’m rare for a librarian and one of those people who was like, “I love books. Being a librarian sounds fun.” I didn’t work in libraries as a teen; I don’t have family who worked in libraries; and I didn’t come into librarianship via another profession. Anytime I hear someone mention how these are good reasons to become a librarian not just a love of books/reading, I feel a little hurt because it's how I chose this profession.

Because of my tendency to listen to other’s opinions over my own feelings, I left myself open when I started school. We didn’t have to pick an area of study and could build our own curriculum as long as we took certain classes or so many in a given area of study. I took a variety of classes from archives to cataloging to digital libraries. When presented with the opportunity to work in one of the libraries on campus, I jumped at the chance to work the reference desk and teach library instruction. Lucky me: I found what I wanted to do with my degree!

I got a great first job in a small branch of my local county library system. I got to learn about all different aspects of the running of a library. I worked the circulation desk, re-shelved books, pulled holds, processed new books, ordered books, fixed books, and so many more things that I didn’t learn in library school. Three years ago the branch started to go through a period of transition and it seemed like it might be a good time to consider a transition for myself. A lot of my friends (both librarians and non-librarians) had already moved jobs a few times, advancing their careers and I got swept up in the idea of it all. I worked on my resume and reached out to some co-workers within the system to ask about being a reference.

One of those people was in the IT department. She asked if I wanted a change from the library system or just in job because there was a possibility of an internal move. I said I was happy with the system but felt like I needed something different. That sounded perfect to me, since it would give me time to decide what I really wanted next.

It was even more perfect because I had related experience. One of my duties at that time was to serve as the IT Liaison. I did small troubleshooting and updates for the IT Department, and my responsibilities grew over the years. As the liaison I learned how to do so much with a computer that when this possible opportunity became a reality, it was an easy transition. I’ve been in the IT department for a little over a year now and I’ve learned a lot. I’m in a really good place, too. It may have seemed like an easy transition but it was filled with anxiety and doubts. So many of them were based on things other people have said to me, about me, and just around me.

There was a manager who believed that people shouldn’t spend their whole careers in one job or with the same library or system. Over the last year I’ve learned more about some of the librarians at other branches, and just how wrong that manager was. A lot of them have spent a number of years working in this system. It was refreshing to learn that it was okay to stay put and keep a job for more than 2 or 3 years. Libraries are all about growth and change, and I’ve learned you can grow in the same place. There is so much focus on the larger picture of the profession but sometimes you need to look at your community and what they need. I can see that in my current position there is going to be growth. Further, with the variety of communities that our county system serves, there will always be opportunity for change. Being with the IT department puts me on the front lines of seeing the system through the growth spurts. It’s a good place to be.

Amelia Rodriguez is an IT librarian for the Mercer County Library System. In her free time she geeks out over a lot of things including Jane Austen, James Dean, and prison/cop shows. If you want to read tweets on these topics you can find her at @LitJrzyGrl


  1. I came into the profession in a same manner, I love books and learning and thought being a librarian would be tons of fun. My original degree is in international security, definitely not something you see in traditional librarians. But sadly I have found the experience to be a lot different than yours. Due to my lack of experience the only library job I could find after graduation was as a for-profit university librarian (though admittedly it probably didn't help that I needed a full-time, decent paying job due to having a family). 6 years later and it's a struggle to get hiring directors to look past that lack.

    1. I wish I could offer some sage advice about getting a hiring director to look past the lack of experience but I got lucky and my resume ended up on the desk of someone who was willing to take a chance on me. I'm very thankful that my first job with the county library system found me, because I was a few months out of school and wasn't getting anywhere in the job search. I was starting to think I'd have to go back to working for the State of NJ. I don't think I would have had it in me to have kept looking for a library job after making that decision. I give you a lot of credit for continuing to job hunt in the library field.