Lots of New

So, I’m just about to finish my first month at my new job, which means it’s time for a bit of an update. First, I still adore it. My time has been full of a lot of the more mechanical bits of the job (imaging computers to get them ready for the school year), but it’s a great way to learn a lot very quickly, so I don’t mind a bit.

But, as I’ve been describing to people, there’s a whole lot of New in my life. New place to live, new-to-me car (very different in driving feel from my previous one), all the bits about figuring out grocery shopping and where to get other things that make life work better. And of course, lots of New in the job. So I thought it might be nice to write about some of the changes.

I’m currently working 7:30am to 4pm, the same basic schedule (give or take half an hour) from my previous job. (It may change down the road, depending on whether we all decide it’d be useful to have technical help a bit later in the day.)

It is a change from being unemployed, of course, but I found I slid back into getting up and making it to work very easily.

Being the responsible adult:
A fair part of my former job was simply being a responsible adult in the physical space of the library and making sure that teenagers did not do foolish things or have problems.

And, as well, just being there to help with printer issues, copier issues, “Can I borrow the stapler” issues, and so on, which took up a lot of my time (it was very rare I’d get more than 5-10 minutes in a row without a question of some kind. Awesome in some ways, but it was challenging to do detailed work involving concentration the way I’d like.)

This one’s totally different. First, college students don’t need the same kind of oversight. But more than that, my desk is in an office on the third floor. It’s open to people coming in (and there’s back and forth from other library staff, occasional people with questions, and next week, there’ll be work study students around more). But it’s also really common for me to go 30 minutes at a time without anyone needing my attention.

That part is really nifty (and I’m loving how I can focus on things in much greater depth than I’m used to being able to do at work) but it’s taking a little adjustment, because part of me still assumes there’ll be someone along with a question any moment, all the time.

The other part is that I can go and take a break (15 minutes morning and afternoon) when I feel like it, without worrying about coverage – I just need to worry about anything on my schedule, which is easy. Since the UMF campus is quite compact, 15 minutes is plenty of time to wander over to the student union, or even downtown to grab coffee or something to drink (or just plain take a nice walk around the block…) and I’m gradually exploring the options.

I’m also more prone to actually taking breaks, since I can actually get outside the library. At my former job, your real choice was the staff room, which was prone to people going “Oh, yes, I mean to ask you…” which lead to some great conversations, but not necessarily an actual break.

Finally, I’m getting used to working with other librarians. At my former job, it was me and my boss, and then me and my assistant (with other librarians on other campuses, but where we didn’t get to see each other in person.) Here, I can wander into my boss’s office, or down to someone else’s office, and ask a question, and get a variety of opinions from other librarians and skilled library staff. I like that a lot (it was one of the things I was hoping for in my job hunt, and I’m delighted to say it’s as wonderful as I thought it’d be.)

What I’m actually doing:
What’s different is actually what I’m not doing.

All my previous experience was, well, doing a little bit of everything – having to juggle front desk duty with deeper reference questions with getting some cataloging done, with managing the website, with having a homeroom of advisees with campus-wide projects and meetings. Plus circulation, and some shelving, interlibrary loan, and display design. There were always more things to think about, and a wide range of tasks that needed attention.

This job is a lot more focused. I’ll eventually be picking up some reference slots (evenings sometime this semester, and regular daytime shifts next semester) but they’re only a fraction of the job. The access services desk – with multiple staff and a cast of student workers – handle all the “Where’s the bathroom” and “Can I use a stapler” stuff – plus circulation, interlibrary loan, and referring reference questions to whoever’s on reference duty.

My job is mostly to make the technology happy, and help people to use it in a bunch of ways. (Some of which I’m doing now, some of which we’ll be working on designing in the coming months, like some ongoing training tools for students and staff.) And right now, there’s a lot of learning how things work.

So, I keep sort of pausing and going “Oh, wait, I don’t need to worry about that thing getting done” – both because it’s not my job, and because it very clearly is getting done quite well by other people. That’s all sorts of fun, but again, is taking a little adjustment. It’s funny how we accumulate this list of things in our brain to worry about, isn’t it?

New library!
Of course, another big change is in the physical space. My previous library was 11,000 books (and about 15,000 total items). Over the course of ten years there, I handled each item at least 5 times (due to inventory, even if it didn’t circulate.) That gave me a kind of amazing familiarity with the collection: I could walk directly to a wide range of books on the shelf, and hand them to whoever was looking for them.

Now, I’m in a much larger library, both in terms of physical space (four floors, seven staircases, and a bunch of different office and work spaces.) I have some collection development responsibilities that I’m really excited about, but they’re for sections of the collection – the collection is too large for any one person to hold in their head at once (11,000 items, you pretty much can, given enough time and a little double checking.)

I’m taking some time to figure out how to get familiar with the actual items: one of the things I want to do next week is start exploring the parts of the collection I’m now doing development for, to get a better feel for what’s there, and what gaps might be worth talking about.

(I’m also adapting to being in a Library of Congress library, rather than one using Dewey. I’m obviously familiar with LOC, but not the way that 10 years working with Dewey made me, so I still have to think about where things are, as opposed to just knowing.)

Communication methods:
At my old job – as is true in a lot of schools – phones didn’t ring through to classrooms during the day. And while mine was set to ring, it was in the library office, and for the last year I was there, I was mostly out at the main library desk, not near the phone. Most conversations happened either by tracking someone down in person (pretty easy, since teachers had a known schedule, and most didn’t share their rooms), or by email.

At my new job, there’s a lot more phone-calling, and a fair bit of email. I’m still trying to find my own personal best balance for that. (I am not, by nature, amazingly fond of phones, but I’m adapting.)

I’m also pleasantly delighted by the part where when it’s the end of the day, people go home. I still half-expect there to be emails in my inbox first thing in the morning for things I need to deal with that morning, that people sent at 10 or 11pm at night. It’s nice that that’s pretty rare.

I keep catching myself falling into what several of my Minnesota friends refer to as Scandesotan – an indirect and very understated speech approach that’s got some interesting quirks. (If you’ve ever listened to Prairie Home Companion, you’ve heard lots of it, but here’s another set of examples, from my friend Elise.)

I am not a native Scandesotan speaker obviously, but I grew up with an English father, and a mother who’d grown up in the UK, and there’s a lot of similarities in how emotional content, in particular, gets expressed. And of course, twelve years in Minnesota got me a lot more fluent in the patterns – I found myself dropping into those speech patterns a lot more in my last two years there.

Anyway. New England approaches to conversations run quite a bit more direct than Scandesotan ones, and I’m still adjusting back to that. I suspect I will be for a while, but that’s ok. It’s good fun.

Weirdly, this is mostly the easy one. I don’t know about you, but while I like going to interesting restaurants occasionally, and so on – really, most of the time, I want to go do my thing at work, come home, and pet the cat and read/write/do stuff online.

Where I’m living, the stuff I actually need (several grocery options, some reasonably priced places to eat with good food if I really don’t want to cook, even a movie theatre) is all very nearby.

It’s sort of like living in my former neighborhood – except for the part where everything outside the neighborhood is now 50+ minutes away. (The distance to larger towns in any direction). So, when I feel like something different, I’ve been picking a direction and exploring. (This weekend, I’m aiming down towards Sabbath Day Lake for the Shaker home and museum there.) I also plan to actually make it to the local movie theatre this weekend.

Other little things:
The weather – even with Irene hitting last week – has been much more my taste than Minnesota (which was still in the grips of the really icky hot and humid weather when I left.) Even though it’s only just turned September, it’s noticeably cooler here in the mornings (50s) so I’m still getting used to grabbing an extra layer on my way out the door even though it’ll be in the 70s when I come home. I’m also getting used to how to set the window fan so it’s refreshing but not freezing when I wake up.

And of course, the scenery is utterly gorgeous. I picked up a nasty stomach bug last week that set back my plans for more casual hiking, but I’m pretty much back at the stage where exertion is appealing again, so I plan to do more. That 50 minute drive to any larger town is really gorgeous, too – pleasant backroad highways with interesting things going by and some lovely views.

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1 comment to Lots of New

  • I enjoyed reading about your new job. When I finally get a job, I hope it’s as good a fit as the yours seems to be for you.

    I discovered your blog a few weeks ago (I think through a link on Ask a Manager to your interviewing posts), and immediately liked your content and writing style.

    Glad you’re feeling better. Leaf season is a beautiful time to be hiking.
    Jill recently posted..Tell Us About a Time You Made a Mistake

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

More about my job and a day in the life

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