libraries, work

Getting used to work

Man. I went out to a branch early this morning in order to take a shift as a Library Clerk. I didn’t totally realize until I got there that it was an Opening position, and that I didn’t know what Clerks did prior to opening. Or, at least, I hadn’t done it before, myself. Oops.

I have filled Clerk positions (basically Circulation), but not the Opening or Closing variants of that. (My actual position is Library Assistant, but I have the ability to sub in a couple of other categories.)

About two hours in, I get summoned to a different branch. That means I have to call someone to get me and shuttle me to that other branch. I agree because I’m starting to know the people at the branch where I’m needed, we’re overstaffed where I’m at, and I realize I wasn’t mentally prepared for a Clerk job plus two back-to-back Storytimes flooding the library with patrons.

Not that I dislike Storytimes; they’re just a bit chaotic. The setting itself was unfamiliar to me; I’ve only served at that branch one or two times, before. Plus, I don’t really know the patrons that well.

So…it isn’t really a secret that I, probably like many others, have been getting a little frustrated with the unpredictability with which being a Substitute is disposed. I’ve been trying to manage it by picking my time slots and work sites early, but then that gets upset when there are surprise critical staff shortages elsewhere in the system, and I get called to fill them and have no way to get there other than calling someone else.

I don’t really blame the people who have to reassign me, but I’m learning how to respond and set myself up so that they understand that I need a day off, when I need a day off. Even when I don’t have important plans. The issue I had been having is being called on (often woken up) every day I hadn’t agreed to work, and being asked to come in to work that day. You can imagine, it’s kind of frustrating. That’s not to mention being woken up at 7 AM, five out of every seven days in November, because I didn’t change the default setting for robo-calls from the system.

At least they’re offering to pay me, right?

So after lunch (which I took in the car), I get to work and print out a form so I can get compensated for my travel. It is, in comparison to where I just came from, very quiet. Towards the end I start dealing with boredom, and looking up authors I know about from PBS. If I read the books, I can review the books, and that counts as work, right? It’s not like I’m reading at the desk, I’m just collecting the things so I won’t have to go and look the things up again after I’m off.

Am I getting too comfortable?

I know that the people there must be very fatigued; there has been some kind of (biological) virus circulating. It has affected at least two sites I’ve been to. They actually really did need me at the second site, but it was freakin’ quiet towards the end of my shift. Like, “stare at the computer screen,” quiet. Like, “do some library-related research,” quiet.

I’m concerned that I’m putting too much effort into my book reviews. I’m actually reading the books. Like we all expect Librarians to do; just like we have expected everyone working in a Library to be a Librarian (before we work there, ourselves). But there’s no way for any one person to have encyclopedic knowledge; or perhaps, if they do, that should really be recognized, because it’s a rarity.

Someone notified me about the, “Reader’s Bill of Rights,” which I looked up and appreciated, especially for, “the right to not finish.” I kind of wish I had done that with my last book, so I wouldn’t have wasted my precious moments of life bound to a book that wasn’t what it was advertised to be.

The good point, though, is that now I know to pay attention to Dewey classification, as well as topicality. I don’t expect you to know what I mean by that, because I don’t have the specific meaning of that specific (and complex) Dewey number. But there’s a difference in focus between a book on water quality that is in the 300s (which I know best for the social sciences), as versus the 600s (which is known for medicine). The drawback to using an electronic copy, in our present system, is that the Dewey number is not in the item record. A person has to bridge back to the paper copy to find it.

Anyhow, it’s over. I don’t have to read it again. And I can go through all my other library books to see which ones I’ll actually want to read (next). I have found some interesting stuff…not all of it apocalyptic.

LIS, technology

The “fun” part of work?

Seeing my Vocational counselor recently got me to realize that while I’m aiming for an entry-level Librarian position (professional), or a Library Assistant position (paraprofessional), my intent at the beginning of all of this was to go into either Cataloging or Web Design.

Because of issues with Cataloging which I’m now familiar with as persistent and known cultural problems (particularly within DDC and LCC, the two major classification systems in U.S. libraries [at least if BISAC hasn’t crept up and taken more ground from DDC than I know]), but which struck me out of the blue as a cultural minority student, I switched out of Cataloging early on to focus on Digital Services. Particularly, I wanted to learn coding in a situation where I wouldn’t have to worry about being stigmatized or harassed or seen as a non-person because of being female.

While I didn’t go all the way into the Web Programming path…I can see that the latter was what I have been thinking of, when I think of needing to know current versions of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, JQuery, PHP, MySQL (not to mention mastering command-line interfaces), etc.

Maybe it’s not so bad; I mean, I can understand a lot now that I couldn’t, before. My current LCC course builds on a lot that I was introduced to in Library School (like MARC encoding), that I wouldn’t understand otherwise. It’s similar with my Metadata knowledge and the database stuff I had to go through. The last was really difficult, but I now at least have had an introduction to it.

I’m thinking and hoping that the Master’s program was intended just to be an introduction to the current terrain…and not that it was meant to make me fully capable of engaging with it on my own (because I don’t feel ready to do that, yet). I also need to remember, though, that in the real world, teamwork happens. I probably will not need to know everything, myself.

At least, I hope not.

Tonight, I’ve been catching up on Social Media — maybe, “catching up on,” isn’t the right phrase — maybe, “using,” Social Media (as versus, “not using,”) is closer to the reality. While I was in classes, I basically put social interaction outside of family, school, work, a couple of groups, and blogging, to the side; and otherwise limited my interaction. Now that I’m out, there is this emphasis on, “networking,” and I’m realizing how many ties with people I’ve made over the years (although in a lot of cases, they’re rusty ties).

I’ve also been checking in on the Career Center for my alma mater. I think I underestimate myself, my network, and my strengths. Somehow it isn’t surprising: I have a tendency to set very high standards for myself (not to mention that I have a tendency to doubt I can reach them). The major drawback to this in my case is that if I think I have no chance at success, I have a tendency to avoid engagement.

I mean, on one level, that’s really a survival strategy — it’s way harder to get through a class when you’re lost, especially when you’re part of a team (and the team isn’t helping you, and you feel like the slackers who mooched off you in high school, but you really don’t know what you’re doing). On another level, that type of thinking keeps me from trying things that I might be able to do but am afraid I can’t (like taking Project Management or Cybersecurity, both things I know I need to know, but which I am leery of taking in a University setting where my GPA is on the line).

I seem to remember hearing something like this from several years ago, coming out of MIT…how students were punished for failing, when they should be supported for risk-taking — and students who played it safe and took easy classes (resulting in high GPAs) were lauded.

During my time in the Master’s program, I tried to take a middle road and not do something that seemed too easy. It’s part of why I went for a tech-oriented path: I figured that I should learn something moderately difficult, instead of something I could puzzle through on my own.

Of course, going for entry-level Librarian jobs…that isn’t so tech-heavy. It leans more into Customer Service, Psychology, and Politics…

…which, of course, are also difficult, just in a different way. Majorly, they are difficult in ways that have to do with people. Which…isn’t where I thought I’d end up. But without knowledge of a solid Programming language, at this point, and without Cataloging knowledge…or experience in the field (or even really knowledge of the field), I’m at a disadvantage.

Hmm. That means get to know the field! Right? Fill in those knowledge gaps!

And remember that an entry-level Librarian job is just entry-level. It’s not forever.

career, LIS, personal, technology, work

It seems I can’t avoid talking about work.

Well, today was fun. It’s been so long since anything bad has happened to me in particular that I’ve begun to get good with working Circulation. Even shelving has been good. It’s really invaluable to be working with the people I’m working with, and to know I have options. Plus, I’m only working about half-time. Even though I’m not at this point doing any eight-hour days, it’s kind of like a game to see how long and in what ways I can maintain my stamina.

I’m not sure if I’m calming down, now that I don’t have a GPA on the line…actually, that’s probably a lot of it! The stress that I have now is more, “life stress,” (that is, “soon-to-be-money-stress,”) as versus, “school stress.” However, in a good situation, I would still have to wait an average of six months before getting a first job as an Information Professional.

I think I would likely have less stress now, had I planned for this phase of my life better, starting a decade or two ago. There are things I realize in retrospect that I could have done differently — like taking a work-study position at my undergraduate University library, or taking a light job in an Academic Library in addition to the Public Library job, or shadowing Cataloging staff and seeking out connections, or maintaining contacts with other students on IM or LinkedIn.

However, it’s relatively obvious to me, when stepping back to observe the entire situation, that I started out in a relatively structurally disadvantaged position (due to uncontrollable historical, combined with current, circumstances). To some extent this has been alleviated by vocational services focusing on equity, which is the reason why I’m in a career now…but I don’t even think that they really encouraged me to take on extra work, or to get into the working world as an intern, while I was still a student.

The latter would have been basically expected of me, but I didn’t have a great hint of this until looking into the Career Center at the end of my program. Trouble is, I believe I was meant to look into the Career Center, possibly before my program even began.

I’m not sure what more there is to say about that, at least that wouldn’t be oversharing.

Right now I can see a few different paths before me. One is being a Reference & User Services Librarian in a Public Library. I have a relatively good idea of what work in this position is like. The second path is becoming a Cataloging Librarian, which is something that my co-workers say I might be well-suited to because of my attention to detail. The third path is becoming a Web Developer or Web Designer.

These three paths have differing skill sets. Particularly, as a Reference Librarian, I would need to work on creating library programs, and work on my customer service and information search skills. As a Cataloger, I would need to work on my Descriptive and Subject Access Cataloging and Metadata encoding and parsing skills. As a Web Developer, there are several more technologies I would need to know with which I would need to acquire a working skill: at least JavaScript, PHP, Drupal, and SQL.

Basically, Reference Librarianship is the nearest possibility to me, but that is likely because general entry-level “Librarian” jobs seem to often be Public Service positions. Metadata Librarianship or Cataloging Librarianship is a little more distant, mostly because I was aiming for a track which, I see now, prepared me for Web Design and Development. Web Development is farthest off, and not something I can adequately do in the immediate future. It is, however, something I have a good start on, and can develop.

Right now, I’m in the middle of the MARC 21 unit in my class. It’s good information, though mostly review to me. The big deal about is is that to work as a Cataloger, one basically has to have a knowledge of Subject Access Cataloging (determining content and assigning descriptors and call numbers), Descriptive Cataloging (describing an item), FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records), MARC 21, Authority Records, and at least Dublin Core, if not other metadata schema like TEI or MODS.

But…it kind of sounds like I know a good deal about that, already. Come Fall, I should be done with my four-course, post-Master’s (a.k.a. Professional Development) run, and may actually be set up with the knowledge to start (or continue) in a job that requires Cataloging. If I had a job that pulled enough money, I would also be able to make up any deficits with additional training. Because a lot of this work is being outsourced, I would likely want to look into the people working in Technical Services, and their contacts who work for companies which serve libraries.

Web Development needs ongoing focus and training. Comparatively, it’s easier for me at this point to look forward to Cataloging or User Services! The big thing is that learning for this path never ends and, from my current perspective, seems as though no amount of study may ever be wholly sufficient. Moreso than with the other two paths, this path contains a moving target. I initially got into this because I wanted to make websites; however, is the effort worth the product? I’m not certain, especially as I have had a major downtick in my drive to publish online, recently.

Yeah, I guess…that’s a big thing.

The other thing is the fact that I have realized I’m a relatively versatile person with a lot of interests, who likes challenging themselves…which…well. It doesn’t really rule out too much. Maybe I could get a job as a Technical Assistant while working as a Page somewhere else, just get my foot in the door to Tech Services and Cataloging?

Yeah…maybe this entry won’t make sense to most people…