Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Letter from a Mid Career Librarian to Their Younger Self

I'm 46. Of course if I had a time machine it would be a Delorean.

Yes, this is another post making good on a months old promise

This isn't exactly what Nick Schiller asked for when he said, "Letter from a young librarian to her mid-career self," but he got me thinking. I know the whole premise of this blog is advice for younger librarians, but what specific things would I tell myself if I could build a time machine and talk to my younger self at different points of my life? So here's what I've come up with:

LIS Graduate School Jessica:
Your ideas about what classes and experiences would help you in the future are all dead on - especially the idea of taking advanced cataloging, even though you know you're going to be public services - with one exception. You'll wish you'd taken the research class instead of the management class, mostly because the management class was useless but also because you're going to become interested in research later in your career.

First Professional Position Jessica:
Absorb everything your first director has to tell you. Remember how you said to yourself, "oh, so that's what I'm going to be like in my forties"? You were 100% correct. You even became a director! But you'll only have her for 6 months, so value the time with her. Also, be as respectful of the paraprofessionals as possible. You'll have a few missteps with this, and you'll learn to be better, but you'll wish you learned sooner.

Grant Writer Jessica:
You're not as bad at this job as you think you are, and your boss is actually much much worse. Your personal life has exploded, sure, but you're going to be so much happier at the other end than you ever were before. And the best part? This job is going to send you back to libraries just in time for a fantastic job that is perfect for you and you're perfect for it.

Information Literacy Coordinator Jessica:
You did this job right. You were good at trusting yourself and building relationships. Maybe reach out to Dee in Student Life sooner? The one thing you'll wish you'd done differently is to make friends with coworkers more as you go through your time at that school. Sure, you have some friends from that part of your life - even now, years later - but there are so many other lovely people at this school. You'll try to connect with those people after you leave, and in some cases you'll be successful (yes, I'm looking at you, Demetria), but it would have been so much nicer if you could have had more in person memories with them.

Brand New Library Director Jessica:
It's not you; it's them. You are not crazy (except in the more typical anxiety way), that place is. The best part of this place is how much you'll learn about yourself and libraries and every every everything. Oh, and the friendships that you have going into this job are going to be your lifeline. For instance, that weird guy, Jake, who makes you laugh sometimes is going to end up feeling like family. The most important thing I wish I could tell you is that you will survive this time in your life, and you will move onto a job and a city you love so much that it feels like home within 6 months.

And, to round this out, here's a message to future Jessica:
The biggest thing that you've learned is that you've got this - whatever "this" might be. Trust yourself and your process, and be kind to yourself when you aren't able to live up to an impossible standard. You really are doing the best you know how in every moment.

So how about you? Do you have any specific advice for your past and future selves?

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