The Anatomy of Compromise – Late Stage MLIS Musings

This week marks the beginning of my new library assistant position at an academic library and, in essence, my first legitimate librarian job. On the plus side, this will not only get me that valuable legitimate librarianship experience, but also make for another reference, thus completing my pursued trifecta of library work references. On the minus, I will be taking a marked pay cut as the result of balancing hours between this new position and my old non-library work. When this is compounded with my taking a full course load this semester (mandated by the weirdness that is my program’s end stage portfolio requirement), it is easy to see the five months ahead as dark and full of unknown terrors. However, what I can see for certain is that I am not alone.

Having worked throughout the entirety of my MLIS doings, I am more than familiar with the onerous, running-in-place feeling that is balancing work and school and life. When considering the inordinate number of articles related to library school burnout that I have stumbled over in recent months, it sometimes feels as if fate is reaching out and giving me one last chance to correct my hubris of superhuman capabilities before it is too late. However, despite the multitude of cautionary readings, I have seen that much more that talk about the difficulty of finding work post-MLIS program when experience is lacking and loans are overwhelming. So, the ultimate solution, really, is one simple thing: be rich. For the rest of us, our own, individually tailored solutions revolve around one principle in particular: compromise.

Until now, I had compromised my acquisition of library experience for the sake of being able to pay my way forward, both in terms of tuition as well as rent and associated living expenses. With less than two semesters left until graduation and my last oversized tuition payment complete (shelling out for one last class in summer will be nothing compared to paying for the upcoming three classes in spring), it was time to make a decision about how prepared I wanted to be when the assignments were done and the job search began. This choice was a long time coming: when I applied for my upcoming assistant position, I fully expected to get little more than experience with the interview process, which, as espoused by multiple colleagues during my previous internship, is nothing to turn up one’s librarian nose at. After getting the offer, I seriously considered rejecting it on the grounds that accepting it would mean switch from consistently being in the black at the end of the month to getting into the red. It took mere hours for me to affirmatively email back to my now current employers, but the amount of compromise that I made with my work capacity, bank account, and future was immense; and I will not truly know whether I made the right decision until the semester begins and I am in the thick of it once more.

I am not the first person who has compromised the stability of their present for the sake of their future, and, especially in the field of librarianship, I will not be the last. It is especially easy for an online MLIS student like me to feel as if I am reinventing the wheel by taking occupational risks such as this; but I imagine there is a healthy amount of readers of this article who cannot only commiserate with my ongoing career of compromise, but have recently taken a similar risk. The solution to it all might simply be to remove the need for compromise when the stakes involve choosing whether to pay rent now or ensure one can pay rent in the future; but until then, letting each other know that one is not alone seems like it would do some good. Just as I did not know whether I would get the applied-for job when I wrote my last article, I have no real idea of what will happen (or what I will be writing about) until this time of month rolls around again. The best I can do is remind myself that this will not be the first time I have taken this many classes alongside this many hours of work, and even that ugly commute that comes with this new position will prepare me for similar, and borderline inevitable, library job-related treks in the future. In short: compromise, and ideally with very little melancholy.

Feel free to share your own experiences with such compromise in the comments, as often what it takes to commit to a necessary risk is to see the fruits of the future in the form of other people.

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