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5 Thoughts for New Librarians

May 17, 2010

It is graduation season. Many graduates have just recently tossed their mortarboards into the air, and others will be joining them over the next few weeks. Among them all are those who will be entering the library profession, having earned a masters degree in library science. They are librarians–the newest among the clan.

Last week I was able to find time to read through the May 2010 issue of College & Research Libraries News. In it is an article by Rene Tanner entitled “Making the Most of Your Career: Advice for New Academic Librarians.” Reading this article turned my thoughts to a member of my library staff who was one of those individuals graduating this month with her M.L.I.S. degree. She joined our library staff in January 2006, and I remember very vividly that day back in 2007 when she approached me to let me know that she wanted to pursue a masters degree in library science. It has been a joy mentoring her and watching her learn new skills and develop her own take on what it means to be a librarian. And now, after three years of taking classes part-time while holding down her job at our library, she has completed her studies and officially claimed the right and privilege of being called a librarian. I look forward to the contributions that she will bring to the job as she accepts new responsibilities and challenges.

While there are wiser, more seasoned veteran librarians than me, I would like to offer a few words–5 thoughts–to the newest members of our profession.

1. Celebrate your accomplishments. You have devoted many hours to a graduate library science program. You have gathered wisdom from lectures, broadened your concept of what it means to be an information handler, collaborated with fellow students, tackled issues facing the profession, written your reflections about those issues, learned new skill sets, and shaped your dreams about how you can contribute to the work of libraries. You have come a long way. The real work lies ahead, but for now enjoy what you have accomplished.

2. Find your place. A public library. A college campus library. A K-12 school library. A law library or some other special library. A non-traditional library setting. You may or may not already know the setting where you feel you can most thrive. If so, congratulations. You have subdued half the battle already. If not, be patient, explore the options, talk with veteran librarians, and take note of how you feel about the profession in various settings. The same holds true not only for the setting, but also for the various roles within those settings. Study to learn those jobs/areas within the library where your skill set–your talents–make the greatest contributions and where you feel the most fulfilled at the end of the day.

3. Join the fray. When you land your first library job out of graduate school, remember that you will be joining a group of folks and a library with a history and a mission that is well underway. I guess what I am trying to say is: Acknowledge your role among the many and join in the team effort to provide and promote library resources and services.

4. Sing new songs. While it is important to recognize and work with the existing makeup of a library and its staff, don’t be afraid to bring your abilities and ideas to the table–no matter how new or untraditional they may seem. Be respectful, but be a contributor. Learn and join in with the tunes that are well-known among that library’s staff, but sing your new songs as well. You just may find others humming your new tunes or asking you to teach the song to them.

5. Bring the passion. Right now, do you feel the excitement that comes at the beginning of a journey? Do you have the passion? It is my hope that you are teeming with ideas and energy that will breathe new life into libraries. In a profession that can be underpaid and overlooked, never doubt the value of what you can offer as a librarian. Hold the banner high. With a well-placed passion and professional enthusiasm, you can encourage those around you and make a difference.

To all the recent library school graduates out there, I offer my heart-felt congratulations and my excitement in knowing that there continue to be those who hear and heed the call. Welcome to the ranks, fellow librarians!

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