2016 a year of contrasts

So taking up the @AusGLAMBlogs challenge gives me a chance to reflect on 2016… What did I learn?

I learned a lot in 2016 but the first half of the year was hugely difficult and I can’t yet fully reflect on this with any objectivity. So suffice to say, I learned the difference between endurance and resilience. And that standing up for what you believe in, regardless of the opposition, is right and worth it even if that comes at a personal cost, although I wouldn’t recommend this path for everyone.

On a brighter note 2016 also brought some amazing opportunities and opened my eyes to new possibilities.

VALA
I went to all three days and it was probably the single best thing I’ve ever done in my career so far, and that was before sampling all the icecream flavours available on the last afternoon. I know conferences are expensive and sometimes out of reach for organisations but even if you have to pay for yourself to go, I’d highly recommend that you DO IT! You’ll meet other GLAM professionals and hear about stuff you would never have thought of like GlamMapping trove. It will expand your mind as a professional beyond I’m a public or academic librarian and see librarianship in a wider context. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand all the content either – some of the tech stuff was just way beyond me but you can always ask or tweet and someone will explain. There were way too many papers of interest for me to list them all but I absolutely loved these three.

Take a risk
Sometimes you just have to take a career risk. I left a full time permanent job at a small library for an amazing maternity leave position at a larger library. I did it for lots of reasons: I needed a change, I always wanted to see if I was any good at tech, more opportunities for career advancement.  So far it’s paid off, I work with people I like, in an organisation that is trying to make a real difference in their community. But as much as I’m loving it, what do I do when my contract expires? Library jobs are hard to come by, and with much adulting happening in my life, it’s hard not to be a little bit worried about the next step.

Everyone should get a turn being the tech librarian
I love being the IT librarian at my branch and have found problem solving, applying knowledge and trial and error solutions to fix stuff kind of works for me. It’s super satisfying when you make the thing that wasn’t working, work again. It’s also six levels of frustrating when things mysteriously revert to previous settings after you have changed them or in fixing something you break something else. But that’s tech for you.
I think everyone should have a go at this sort of role, your knowledge of technology and systems increases, you also become really great at problem solving, negotiating and working with people who have a different skill set. It also changes how you look at tech and makes you think about what changes in systems, processes or new initiatives you could introduce to make our life and our patrons lives so much easier.

I need to work and hang with people who get me
When things are tough professionally you need a support network, friends, peers, mentors who will give you advice, listen to you whinge and have your back. If your really lucky you’ll get to work with some of your people, which is as awesome as it sounds. Particularly if these people are open minded, supportive and don’t mind if you say what you think. Getting to work with people who get you makes everything easier.
But your support network are not just there for the tough times, they are also a great resource when you need new ideas, to help challenge your thinking, extend your practice or just throw ideas around with. Cultivate friendships with a range of people, at your level, at your workplace, people in management, people who have lived it and are prepared to tell you, even sometimes what you don’t want to hear. You also need to be a mentor, and be all those things to people too.

Change is slow
You become a librarian, you’re full of enthusiasm, you want to change stuff… It doesn’t take long to realise change is painstakingly slow. There are millions of reasons for this. Sometimes people just don’t get it, often it’s a lot more complicated. Pick your battles, I can say from experience trying to change everything and all at once has consequences. Be strategic, work out what your situation is, think through your argument, and be prepared to play the long game. It won’t happen over night but it will happen. Maybe.

So that’s me, that’s my 2016… It was exhausting and remarkable. It was full of change and angst and I learned heaps, even if some of those lessons made me slightly less shiny than when I started it.

If there is one final takeaway from 2016 is that you have to be determined, you have to believe in the ideals of what we do and to pursue that, doggedly if needs be, because what we do is important, and can transform lives and communities. We make a difference and that makes the world just a slightly better place.