Thursday 9 May 2024

Still on the radar

It's been quite some time since I last blogged back in June 2023. At the time, I was two months away from the end of a fixed-term contract and due to the rising cost of living, I was compelled to start looking for a better-paid job - which I found, and now I'm doing web publishing and content editing for a museum.

On paper it's a good opportunity to tick off some extra things in my resume, and it feels like a nice privilege to be going to work in a heritage building every day I'm in the office, but it's also unglamorous work - often socially isolating, repetitive and easy to lose perspective of why I want to be on this particular career path.

This week, I'm quite conscious of the fact that the ALIA National Conference is on in Adelaide, which quite a few familiar faces amongst delegates and keynote speakers. I also regularly try to stay across many of the issues in the library sector, which are not incongruous with the issues for other cultural agencies in the GLAMR sector.

But it feels different now. When I was hired as a Librarian, these were principles that I felt professionally obliged to engage with as part of my job. What's more, when I was a 'big-L' Librarian, it felt like there was a 'choose your own adventure' set of intertwined future Librarian pathways. And certainly with many library organisations, if you come on board at an entry-level position, you can often just move your way up to the top over time. Now that I've stepped off that multiverse of career paths, I feel much less stability as a professional with a reliable career path. Sometimes that feels liberating, but often it's just scary and chaotic - like I'm taking a suite of skills and experiences accrued over 20 years and then fake it until I've make it.

A couple of years ago, in a job interview, one of the panelists asked me: 'Do I miss libraries?'

To be frank, there's a lot that I don't miss about libraries - but also, many of those factors also exist in other cultural organisations, so maybe it was never about libraries in the first place. When I took that big step out of my professional comfort zone, a little over two years ago, my aim was to try to learn how to do things better by seeing how it was done in other sectors. A professional circuit-breaker.

However, when all is said and done, libraries are still what I know best. I do miss Being A Librarian - working with collections and ideas, curating and describing them, helping people connect with them, and communicating the value that they bring to their community.

As I start to consider my next career move (I still have a few months left in my current role), I need to keep reminding myself of my career priorities. My last move was determined by economic situation at the time, but now that things are hopefully stabilising again, I need to find ways to remind myself of what motivates me professionally, and how to stay connected to my professional values.

I'm not necessarily 'bibliotheque bound' - but as a way of reminding myself of what's important, libraries are still on the radar.