When you start a new job, there are always moments when you wonder, “what am i doing?” It can be somewhat frustrating to be hemmed in by corporate policy (there’s little room for innovation working in a fast food restaurant, for example) or to experience a steep learning curve of what’s expected or to feel like an outsider because everyone (just like when you go to a new school) already knows each other and has their own clique. Starting a new job in a school brings on all of that, and then some.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been feeling my way, setting priorities for the work we (the library department) need to do. Part of the problem is, as in many libraries, the inertia of longevity. I know – I’ve been there! You create rules for collection development, with a goal of deaccessioning fiction (for example) that hasn’t circulated in 3-5 years, but then you get to that point and think, “but I loved this book… maybe if I did a better job of promoting it?” Etc..
Several years ago I was on an accreditation evaluation committee at a school whose founding Head had left after several decades. The Head of our committee pointed out that longevity in Heads wasn’t always a good idea, that (in his opinion) after 8-10 years you “remake the mistakes you made when you first started.” Now, I’m not sure about that, but I do think there’s a comfort level that comes with a long tenure that may make people change averse. So when you’re the new kid, the one without the attachments or the history, you see all the possibilities and are chomping at the bit to get started.
The problem right now isn’t a lack of willingness, it’s time and manpower (peoplepower?) and strategic thinking. What I’m thinking now is what’s best to work on this year, and what’s best to put off for a year or two. Staffing is important because we’re down a person – what structure would be best for the library, and how can the current staff be part of that structure now while we wait to hire for next year? Collection development (print and digital) is critical, largely because that will help us create a reading culture and improve our research capabilities, as well as allow us to rethink space usage. My goal of working on a strategic plan, based in part on the past accreditation report and a recent library study, can wait until we have the full staffing we need. My other goal of improving programming will be a slow crawl, doing as much as we can this year (engaging students with our social media presence and contests) to create awareness, but beyond that we’ll wait for a year. Reaching out to my new colleagues, showing them possibilities and ways we can really partner with them is an obvious priority.
Ambitious, right? Well, it is only early October. Stay tuned for updates and how it’s all going – things may change.