4 Things That Will Never Happen When You Become a Librarian

So here it is my final blog post for Hack Library School. As I type these words on the keyboard, my eyes are flooded with tears…of joy! It means that by now you have another set of awesome writers who are sharing wonderful insight to a new generation of LIS students.

A quick recap for those who wondered whatever happened to the girl who flunked an LIS course. I turned my grades around, SIGNIFICANTLY, and graduated from Florida State University’s Master of Science in Library and Information Studies in December 2014. In March 2015, I was promoted to Systems Librarian for a large healthcare system. It’s a good thing I wrote about medical librarianship, because it’s come in quite handy! I’ve managed to get involved in some great projects including the digitization of nursing yearbooks with FSU alum, Keila Zayas-Ruiz. I’m also re-designing our library’s website and currently implementing our first ever discovery tool. But, for every great and exciting thing that happens as a librarian, there are also some not-so-great, not-so-pretty, I-just-broke-something kind of moments that we ALL go through, whether we admit it or not.

In keeping with our tradition of sage LIS advice, here are 4 things that will never happen when you step into the role of LIBRARIAN:

1. You will never get it right the first time

Our Docline software known as QuickDOC had stopped functioning properly. I wasn’t sure why it suddenly broke other than assuming Murphy’s Law was playing a mean trick on a newbie librarian. However, at around that time, I was tinkering with Access to see if there was a better, more affordable way to track interlibrary loan requests that we received from Docline. I speculate that it is possible I may have altered the program when I migrated certain tables from the QuickDOC files to my Access files.

How to resolve this?

Become accountable when things go wrong and don’t be afraid to seek assistance from senior librarians. When the program broke, I freaked. I was unfamiliar with troubleshooting software and could not think as clearly as I needed to. One librarian suggested a simple solution – uninstall and reinstall the program. After coordinating with the IT department and having them do just that, the issue was resolved. I didn’t give up on the problem. I became accountable for what happened, I followed up and I was grateful for the solution that was provided to me.

2. You will never be perfect

When I graduated from FSU, I also received a graduate certificate in Information Architecture. Are my skills on par to a software engineer? Absolutely not! Do I have an understanding of HTML and CSS? Yes, yes I do. So I was super excited when I was given the opportunity to re-design our current site using the new LibGuides 2.0 platform. I’ve been working on it since I began in March and I’m set to debut it in October for National Medical Librarians Month, but I’ve hesitated with showcasing the site even in beta form. I think, “It’s not perfect,” or “this doesn’t look right,” “people will see that I know nothing about web design.” I have a talent for setting myself up to discredit my abilities and think unmerited awful thoughts.

How to resolve this?

Realize that the things you do will never be perfect. Instead, think simple steps, simple solutions. Make sure it works, but don’t tweak each finite detail to the point that you fear showing others the final product.  Get the needle moving and set up deadlines for projects and assignments. Have someone take a look at what you are doing. Be open to constructive criticism, have it tested and broken by your favorite usability testers. Then present it and move on to the next project.

3. You will never know everything in your domain

When I started as a Systems Librarian, I had taken two semesters of web design, one semester of information architecture, one semester of usability studies, one semester of cataloging, and managed to create one small institutional repository using Omeka. None of this fully prepared me for what awaited me in this role: speaking to vendors, reviewing budgets, collection development strategies, reviewing statistical reports, comparison shopping discovery platforms, etc.

How to resolve this?

Read up on the products and resources you offer to your users, whether you are the one responsible for maintaining them or just helping them navigate the interface and content. Be sure to attend webinars provided by the vendors. I took a few webinars to learn more about LibGuides 2.0. Also, read the tech support resource sites of those products, you’ll be surprised by how much more you learn when others report common issues when using that system. I also like to stay ahead of STEM publisher trends and enjoy reading this website that keeps me up to date.

4. You will never be your predecessor

This is a tough one to discuss, but we need to talk about it, as professionally as possible. Some of you currently work in libraries and work alongside librarians. Like every profession, you will encounter individuals who work well with you and others who…simply don’t. It can be a difference in personalities, fear that once you graduate you’re aiming for their position, etc. The reasons for workplace friction among paraprofessionals and professionals in the same field are endless. Having said that, when a position becomes available because that individual has moved on to other opportunities, you may be a likely candidate for their former role.

That’s what happened to me. I admired my predecessor for her tenacious ability to get things done. Not only that, but she did her job well and had great insight on upcoming library trends. She kept us current and on our toes, but I had a difficult time with her, so much so, that when I finally took over her position, I was fearful of being recognized as a poor substitute.

How to resolve this?

First, recognize that comparing yourself is the wrong approach when you move up to becoming a librarian. I can’t compare myself to the president of ALA much less to my predecessor. We’re in different life stages, personalities, work ethic standards and library knowledge. I have to tell myself that each and every day. Second, compare yourself to your job description. Are you arriving to work on time? Are you professionally dressed? Are you helping your users get what they need? Are you helping your colleagues? Are you getting assignments done on time? Those are the questions you should ask to measure your worth as a librarian. Remember you are not your predecessor; instead create your own legacy.

So that’s my advice for you. Some things will NEVER happen when you become a librarian. But, you do have the ability to be the best children’s librarian, public librarian, school librarian, library administrator, academic librarian, medical librarian, or corporate librarian you can be. This profession’s future is only as good as its members and the impact their legacy has on their users.

“P’alante mi gente” / Onward my brethren

Ciao for now,

Aidy Silva-Ortiz, MSLIS, CAC

6 replies

  1. Thanks for this, Aidy! Comparing myself to others is something I still do, all the time, even though I know how bad it is for me. Keeping the job description in mind and thinking beyond emulating my predecessor is much much healthier. Gonna try to focus more on creating my own legacy when I land my first professional position, that’s for sure.

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  2. Hi Liz, I’m glad you enjoyed the post and found the advice useful :-). I wish I could list so much more, but sometimes the best form of advice is self experience. Best of luck on landing your first professional role. It will be a very exciting time, believe me 🙂

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  3. I’m glad to hear about your new job and projects! I like your advice about not being perfect or knowing everything. There are constantly new things to learn and I think too often library students have imposter syndrome or even just feel like if they don’t know everything, that means they don’t know anything. Hopefully, people might feel more confident.

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    • Thank you Camille! I can’t agree with you more. I suffered from imposter syndrome when I started in this role and I sank to really low depths because of unecessary self-criticism. It’s a momentary obstacle that we all face as new librarians. With time and experience it does pass. Congrats on your HLS post with Grace, hope all is going well with you at FSU!

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