I’ve been fortunate to work as a librarian in libraries for most of my career. There have been three exceptions, and they corresponded with particular transitional moments in my life.
[If you’re curious about the three exceptions]
Now I’m seriously considering a job outside of libraries. This would be the first time I’ve deliberately left a library job to work in a position that is not library related.
I do this with some trepidation. Why am I considering something like this?
I feel that I’m approaching the point in my career and age where it’s going to start to become difficult to change careers. If I want to try something different, I should try it now, or it may not happen, and then I’ll be forever wondering about the path not taken.
I have a law degree, and although I find that it gives me a good grounding in the legal and tax research which I do in my current job, I’m not using that degree as much as I’d like to. I do feel frustrated sometimes, that I’m just helping people find information - and then they use it to make decisions and take actions. Being a generalist is great and necessary I think, but a part of me is craving to go really deep into a subject and be a part of that team which is actually using the information to make decisions.
I expect that I may need to work for 30 or so more years. Libraries are definitely changing - and they need to change to survive (I don’t think this idea is controversial any more). I’m realizing that a part of me loves the old school research role. That’s what I really enjoy - the thrill of the chase. I’m worried that this role may become more marginal in libraries. I see the former pillars of the profession - cataloguing, circulation and even reference - in decline, systems continuing to grow and new areas developing. Training is not really new for libraries, but if we do what needs to be done in this space, our training and our libraries may be unrecognizable from what we have today. A commitment to marketing and client management that is deadly serious and overriding. Developing new roles such as co-designing content for clients.
I want to develop a second string for my bow. Just in case libraries change in such a way that the work I really enjoy becomes less important in the future. In previous jobs I’ve locked horns with some librarians who hate how libraries have changed recently, but they don’t feel qualified to do anything else and so they’re just hanging in there until retirement, disengaged and completely miserable - and making their colleagues miserable. I really don’t want to be that sort of librarian in 20-30 years! So I want to be proactive and think about the actual work I’d like to be doing, rather than thinking “I have always been and will always be a librarian, and will go wherever that path takes me.”
It’s not definite yet that my career is changing in this direction, but I’ll know for sure soon. The librarian leaving the exploded library is not necessarily the end of this blog. Who knows, the change could give it a new lease of life.