When I first started working with interlibrary loan, back around 2014, I received an email reply from one of the students I’d found an article for. “Thank you very much for your assistance,” he wrote. “This is the first time that I have had to use interlibrary loan services, and both your professionalism and patience made it a very pleasant experience.” It was really nice! So nice, in fact, that I felt bad letting it disappear into the ether of my inbox. So I printed it out.
Then, of course, I had to figure out what to do with that piece of paper. I keep all my interlibrary loan-assorted paperwork in file folders in one of my desk drawers, and I happened to have an extra, empty file folder. So I stuck it in there. Maybe a few months later, a library I’d lent one of our books to sent it back with a ‘We appreciate you!’ note attached. I put that in the file folder with the first email, and decided to keep it going. Now, almost eight years later, I have a file folder of all sorts of thank you notes! (Of course, external motivation is all well and good, but harder to quantify and no less important is the pride I feel in myself when I know I’ve done a good job. Once, after successfully sourcing a particularly difficult ILL, I wrote myself a thank-you note. It’s important to appreciate the little things.)
I flip through my folder every once in a while, if I’m having a tough day or realize it’s been a while since I’ve looked at it. It’s good to be reminded of the positive things I’ve accomplished at this job the last nine years I’ve been here – even if (or maybe especially because) I don’t always remember the details. (What item had that first student been looking for back in 2014? Darned if I know!) Procedures change and coworkers come and go and sometimes (a lot of the time) I can only focus on getting through one day at a time. I try to leave the bad days behind me and not ruminate on them – but what about the good days? How can I help myself remember those?
I was thinking about this question while writing my final paper for the class I’m taking this semester, Research Methods in Library and Information Science. We are putting together a research paper on a topic in academic libraries, and one of the required sections is ‘Qualifications.’ I wrote about how I am qualified to write this paper because of the coursework I’ve taken, the professors I’ve worked with, the educational and work background that I have…and, oh, yeah, last year I was on a Resource Sharing Working Group for the California Community Colleges LSP program. I typed that out (looking up acronyms as I went) and realized…I don’t think I’ve recorded that anywhere else. I’d gone to meetings and liaised with other library professionals and…well, it was a pandemic year and we were working half in the library and half at home and things were weird and I guess it just sort of slipped my mind. I didn’t have it written down on my résumé or CV, or anywhere else that I could find. If it hadn’t popped into my brain while I was writing this paper, that thing I’d achieved might have slipped my mind forever.
This is particularly troubling because my MLIS program is one that includes a culminating project, in my case an e-portfolio. Our final semester in the program (whenever that might be) is spent offering evidence and writing about how we’ve achieved each of the fourteen things we’re supposed to have learned in library school. I’m not at that point yet, but when I am, I might want to mention that Resource Sharing Working Group. To do that, though, I’d need have documented when and where it happened, and remember that I did.
Even if you’re not in a program that requires a culminating project, however, there’s still value to recording the things you’ve accomplished. It definitely makes résumé and CV writing easier, and, if you ever happen to end up going into academia, it’s good practice for putting your tenure application together.
So, what are some takeaways?
–Create your own thank-you folder, digital or paper, for work, school, or both. Receive a nice note from a group project member, professor, or coworker? Put it in!
–Keeping a running résumé and/or CV. You’re not going to include everything you’ve ever done for every job you apply for, but keep them all handy in one document so you can mix and match as needed.
–Backup your course projects and assignments at the end of every semester. Even if you’re not in a culminating project program, it’s still a good idea to keep the papers you’ve written and projects you’ve done. You might need them for a job interview, or just to jog your memory about what you learned in those two (or four, or six) years you spent in the trenches getting your degree. And if you are doing a culminating project, HLS has got you covered with plenty of tips and tricks!
Is this helpful as you’re wrapping up the calendar year? Anything else you’d like to add? Share in the comments below!
Lauren Bauer is a student in San José State University’s MLIS program and the associate editor of Hack Library School. She works with ILL and course reserves at a community college in Los Angeles and would like to work as an academic librarian after graduation (whenever that may be).