Jared Harmon is pursuing his MLS with a Technology Management Specialization at Indiana University Indianapolis. He also helps run an ILL consortium at the Indiana State Library and works the reference desk at the Indianapolis Public Library. Jared is interested in how technology is shaping our libraries, and he hopes to work with digital libraries and other library technologies to help evolve our profession.
It’s really hard to keep up with the overachievers. I know this because I used to be one. In college, I was constantly on the run. I was completing a double major while also participating in multiple extracurricular activities. A few months after graduating I was working a full-time job on the night shift at a TV station. All my side activities (and social life) basically ground to a halt (aside from my then-girlfriend, now-wife). Out in the real world it’s much harder to stay busy all the time, especially on a night shift. When you actually have to make money and maintain a livable dwelling, getting to a bunch of other things just becomes exhausting. A few years later I relocated with my wife, and, after some soul searching, existential couch-sitting, and an experiment with substitute babysitting teaching, I decided on the recommendation of a friend to check out library school. Now, I’ll be honest. Libraries never factored much into my life before I entered this Masters program. My aunt is a non-professional librarian at my small town’s library, but other than the occasional free movie rental or book loan, I never thought much of it. But I needed a purpose again, and the classes sounded interesting. So off I went, not really knowing what to expect.
Nearly two years later, I’m quickly reaching my spring 2012 graduation date, and I’m reflecting what I have learned and the decisions I have made. I’m starting to think about how I stack up against my peers. I know it’s not exactly a competition, but the job market sort of is, right? Anyway, my latent overachiever within is beating me over the head constantly with the successes and opportunities of my schoolmates and colleagues. Sure, I’m happy for those of us that make good. I’m seeing all these super-competent and successful librarians attending every single conference, giving presentations, and getting to do all kinds of generally cool librariany things. I’m wondering how I’m ever going to get there.
Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t exactly been slacking. I started volunteering for the Digitial Initiatives Librarian at the Indiana State Library doing metadata work and also at the Indianapolis Public Library pulling items and processing holds before I even started library school. I eventually got actual jobs at both libraries, and to this day I work full time at the State Library doing ILL work and on a substitute basis in adult reference (formerly in circulation) for IPL. I decided to go for the 9 extra credit hours to get the Technology Management Specialization tacked on to my MLS. I got involved in my school’s student organization, and I now lead our book club and serve as an officer. I went to ALA last year, and I joined two NMRT committees. I almost got to speak at ILF. I have an interview for a technology fellowship next month. I know this is starting to sound like a cover letter, and I’m not bragging. This is all just to say that I’m still suffering from an inferiority complex. Despite all my experience, I worry it’s not the right kind of experience or that I’m not getting the professional opportunities I’d like to get.
I’m writing this for two reasons. First, I can’t be the only person that feels this way. I thought getting this out there might help us all have some kind of collective therapy experience and realize we’re all okay. Second, Christmas break has left me with little to do, and this has only amplified my unease about my school present and professional future. I feel like I should be doing something or I’ll fall behind. My newfound sense of peace with taking it easy once in a while that I gained after leaving college is at war with my inner overachiever. Also, I’m bored. Okay, so it’s three reasons.
So, what should you take from this post?
- I guess that you shouldn’t necessarily measure your own worth by comparing yourself to others. There will always be somebody more awesome than you. You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggonit, the library world likes you.
- You shouldn’t feel like you have to always be doing something to advance your career. Stop and reflect on why you got into your library program. It’s probably because you care about the field or you love some aspect of it. Think about what you can do to make it better.
- Don’t take this to mean that I’m suggesting you settle or back off on your goals. Go for it, just don’t do it for the wrong reasons.