Monday, September 05, 2005

Three weeks later...

Wow. Where has the time gone? I started my new job on August 15th and already it is Labor Day. Where to begin?

First, my colleagues at my new job are absolutely wonderful people. They are warm and friendly. They are passionate about their chosen profession. If any of them read this blog, I want to thank them for tolerating my interruptions and persist questions over the past three weeks. They have been patient and helpful and always answered with a smile.

Second, I now possess a real degree of authority and decision-making responsibility. In my previous position, the librarians occasionally solicited my opinions about collection or IT issues. Now I am the one making decisions. For example, already on my first day my colleagues delegated to me the decision of whether or not to keep the previous edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music.

I am finding myself busier than ever. I arrive most days between 8 and 8:15am and often am still in my office long after 5pm. One night I was in until 11pm. Mind you, I am not complaining, but there always seems to be more things to do in a day than there are hours for. It will be challenging, therefore, to keep up with personal professional development activities, such as reading the professional journals and library blogs. My technical services professors warned us that once we started our first professional positions we would find that we have little time for such activities and simply time for reflection. Indeed, I am finding this to be the case. I will have to work harder to accomplish this.

Since my position is "instruction/reference librarian," a lot of my job is building relationships. For collection development and library instruction, I am the library's liasion to the departments of music, history, religion, and church professions, as well as the administrative offices of the campus pastors and the ELCA's local synod office, among others. I have spent a lot of time meeting people around campus, such as at the fall faculty workshop or in a department faculty meeting. I have mailed letters of introduction to all faculty in my departments, letting them know who I am and outlining my general responsibilities. I also included my business card and to the academic departments I mailed "profile" sheets with hopes to better learn my assigned faculty's research interests and teaching areas. I still have a lot more hands to shake, but all of those I have shaken so far have been those of friendly, interested, and interesting people.

Already I'm trying to get involved in the campus community. I contacted one of the campus pastors and volunteered to read one of the readings at the service on the second day of fall workshop. (I read from Isaiah.) The new band director and I connected at the new faculty orientation, and before I knew it, I was in a practice room getting my embrochure in shape to join the band for their opening convocation performance. It was a lot of fun playing in an ensemble again. It has been three years. I then attended the opening faculty recital. The energy and enthusiasm of the faculty performers and the students in the audience was impressive and inspiring.

These are some top-of-my-head thoughts. Hopefully in the weeks ahead I can share some more thoughtful, organized impressions. But what is most important to me is that I am having fun, loving what I am doing, and working with outstanding colleagues. I am learning a lot and hope to contribute to this learning community of which I am a member and in whose mission and purpose I strongly believe.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Wow, you have been busy, Alec. I love the idea of the profile sheets. Apart from the information you'll get, it tells the faculty in your departments that you really care about their needs. I also think you're quite right to join in the community - apart from there being intrinsic value in that, you will raise the profile of the library by being active on campus.

One of the choices a new graduate faces is deciding what sort of institution one wants to work at. If your interest is public librarianship, are you hoping to join a system that does a lot of outreach to varied populations (Queensborough in New York City comes to mind) or one that has a more staid and traditional role? If your interest is academic librarianship, do you want to steer your career toward more specialization in a large research library or work at a liberal arts or community college with undergraduates and a teaching mission? To some extent, what's available and the geographic limitations you might face may make some of those decisions for you (planning for two careers at the same time if you have a significant other can be very tricky, too) but there are real differences in the paths you might choose.

I went to research universities and didn't know much about liberal arts colleges. But I did know from being a work study student in both a main library and in branches I really liked getting to know the library users. (I worked in a main library, a music library and a physics-math-astronomy library. The last two had different subjects, but the same sense of connection.) So that probably influenced my decisions as I looked at job ads.

Of course, you can't always be terribly choosy, and sometimes a choice doesn't have everything you want - but offers surprises you never thought about. I recently read a memoir, Life on the Tenure Track by James M. Lang. It's probably more relevant to classroom teachers (he teaches English) but I loved the way he raised those "life decisions" issues. How much time can I spend on work without neglecting my family or my health? If I'm on every committe, when do I go to community events that nourish me? At the end of the day, is this small town a place where I want to stay? It doesn't have everything we want, but does it have enough and will we make adjustments? (A two-career issue there, too.)

Anyway, enough rambling for one morning. Good to hear from you, Alec. And I'm glad (though hardly surprised, knowing them) that you've found colleagues you will enjoy working with.