Tag Archives: weeding

NextGen to Middle Manager

There’s been a collection management changing of the guard and I’m back at the Weirdo Zeros, as I like to call them: UFOs, conspiracy theory, “hidden knowledge,” THE BOOK.

It’s also the Dewey home for Library and Information Sciences, where I ran across these gems while weeding:

Look at them baby librarians! So scrubbed yet so alternative, so edgy and keen, so very someone’s idea of the aughts that look more like the nineties, mall goths and awkward lady neckties. These titles bookend my time in library school: The NextGen Librarian’s Survival Guide was published in 2006 and You Don’t Look Like a Librarian was released in 2009.

The internet kept happening to the profession, and those of us who more or less grew up with it were learning what it means to be a librarian while simultaneously being forewarned and dazzled by something called Library 2.0—as if it were something separate, or new. We didn’t need a Second Life, it was all one thing. Why were we being sold something we already owned?

I remember class conversations encouraging navel-gazing, to challenge and embody stereotypes because raise your hand if you have a tattoo. What?! It was so weird, at the time and looking back now. I can hypothesize that I and others in our twenties weren’t actually the audience for those conversations or the above two books. But I think that we were. It’s confounding and delightful all at once.

Especially considering that now I am this:

Toward the end of 2017 I competed for and was hired as a Librarian III at Austin Public Library. Yes, this announcement is way late in coming. It’s also rather odd I haven’t said peep about our award-winning gonzo-bananas new Central Library yet. Honestly, I am still processing—what happened and what is still happening. It’s breakneck, burnout busy. It’s an amazing facility but it’s been a rough transition, even now, 18 months on, still doing triage and scrambling for our sea legs.

As Librarian III, I stayed with the same team of 18, and in many ways continue to do my previous job: all of the same reference activities and serving as the now official instead of de facto Technology Liaison with our IT group. I am the lead trainer and Troubleshooter in Chief for my team, stress-testing all the tech bits and wrangling documentation so everyone stays up to speed.

I have three direct reports, two of whom I hired and trained. With the sprawling tasks of supervision plus filling in at public service points after losing several positions, I had to give up most outreach and a few projects, plus get better at saying No—less the relaying it than feeling bad I can’t take on more.

In fact, one my largest challenges opportunities has been learning to delegate, despite having an interview prep card all about it:

While delegation remains a bugbear, I am getting better. It’s rewarding to watch my team grow and thrive, to serve as a sounding board and mentor, to celebrate success and practice diplomacy when engineering better outcomes or delivering bad news. I feel a genuine commitment to support them as professionals, wherever their careers may lead them.

That authentic deep caring, that empathy and trust makes it hard to serve up the occasional crap sandwich. In the end, I might make a better leader than a manager. My main goal is to hang onto being a librarian, to stay close to the work that still challenges and inspires me and (shucks, I’ll say it) changes people’s lives.

All three books are on display in my cube. They are certainly no longer shelf worthy, but I can’t bear to box them up to send to the pulper. “A library is not an archive,” or so goes the weeder’s mantra, and I fully agree. But this trio feels akin to personal history, a mushy warm spot square in my saccharine heart.

public librarianship is go

Believe it or not, I’ve been working at Austin Public Library for nearly four months. For all our epic plans, day-to-day it’s a position of minutia, unraveling policy, battling torpid interfaces and remembering a million acronyms, passcodes and who’s who.

But it’s also a delightful realm of Real Live Collection Development, spending real money making a real difference updating my areas (Computers and Religion) to reflect community needs and cultivate curiosity. On top of that, weeding is a joy. Too long my preconceptions have been clouded by milquetoast librarians for whom deselection gives the vapors.

I could weed all day, especially when such treasures await:

 

Who knows how many times the collection had been shifted till at last stars aligned and mind and no mind met Arizona highways?

It seems crazy to say I’m still discovering what my job is. I have things I do—always! ever!—but figuring out where I fit has taken more finesse. I’m thankful to have the freedom to self-direct and -select the projects and priorities of interest to me.

I am on the Databases Team and the Internet Advisory Committee in tireless pursuit of intuitive user experience. I also developed a library class syllabus and am helping strong-arm our information guides. But the wheels of assimilation turn slowly, and weirdly. I’ve taken training for cybersecurity, active shooters and blood-borne pathogens but not the official module for how to use our catalog. I just hope I can take the class before I teach it, which I know I’ll be doing eventually.

Reference has become a completely different animal. Unlike the online, for-profit education world with 30 minute phone calls of intensive remedial information literacy, tech support, assignment interpretation and life coach cheerleadering, the public library phone call averages 30 seconds. And yet so many wonderful, off-the-wall questions, requests and misinformation about how things work.

I still encounter a handful of rude, frantic, mentally ill patrons, with the added tension of much of it in person, but it’s still leaps and bounds less nerve-wracking, and that goes for the rest of the job, too. I haven’t torn the velcroed head off Stress Kitty once.

 

And it’s fun. In June I volunteered at Yomicon (“reading con”), the annual manga cosplay event for teens. There were costume and art contests, geeky crafts, games, drawing workshops and more. I staffed the photo print station, arranging shots into fake photobooth strips, like so:

Horsehead was a hit and my efforts were well appreciated. In fact, I won an award:

 

Here’s what my nominator had to say:

Not even out of probation yet, and accolades already! Not bad. 😀