Business, career, craft, libraries, money

Making a living

It has been about 7 months since I earned my MLIS. I’m also now in the last of four short courses I’ve signed up for, in hopes of bolstering my Cataloging abilities.

The short version of the outcome of this is that I now know not to become a Cataloger in an Academic Library setting — at this point in my life, at least. I think that the way my mind makes sense of topics is not in line with the way Library of Congress Classification (LCC) works. Of course, not doing as well as I could have, could also be related to either carelessness or lack of familiarity with both the examples, and the Schedules. I believe there is a lot of truth in the latter.

Also, taking classes online kind of precludes collaborative learning, and asking questions as they arise. The good thing is that I now know what to expect, and I realize we were doing the hardest questions we could have done — the hard way. And…there was only one right answer to most of these problems, due to the fact that the test was using a True/False algorithm. Therefore, these questions weren’t weighted heavily, and I got out with a relatively decent grade.

The other good thing is that all the material required to reference as regards LCC is available freely, online. I also have copies of our texts and bibliography, so I have a base from which to explore further, if I want to. Which…I’m not sure about.

I’m pretty sure I want to get back to language learning, and my tech courses.

Last night I was up making lace, instead of working on anything that required intellectual effort. There is something to be said for figuring things out based on the space they take up, the direction in which they’re being held, their method of construction, and solving physical problems with fine motor skills. I just looked up the term, “haptic reasoning (‘haptic’, meaning, ‘relating to touch’),” which is closest to what I would call it, but I don’t think anyone else calls it that. :)

I should also note that I believe, at this point, that skilled manual labor (particularly where it comes to crafts) is one of those things that isn’t highly rewarded in the current U.S. economy. But I’m not sure about that assertion. (“Believing,” is not “knowing.”) I currently live in an area with one of the highest costs of living in the world (where a lot of people are being priced out and forced to disperse)…so I suppose it may be possible to do this as something other than a hobby, and survive, in other places.

Though I have an inkling that a lot of the stuff I do has been afforded (in the sense of “being an affordance,” or a choice made possible by the structure of the system) because of communal ways of life in the past. That could be in marriage and family relations; that could be working as part of a tribe. But if you’re dealing with capitalism and an individualistic society…where you’re totally depending on yourself to feed, clothe, house, and care for yourself…and what you want to do is craft, I don’t presently see it as a great situation.

Then again…I haven’t tried selling my beadwork on a massive scale, yet. But even if I did, as I mentioned; this is expensive to get into, it’s expensive in terms of time (looking at opportunity cost, or the cost of doing one thing when you could be doing another). Design work is probably the biggest use of time I have, as regards this — not construction, even though construction is an integral part of design for me. There’s also record-keeping and research, and materials acquisition…and the fact that small-business owners can spend upwards of 80 hours a week, establishing and running their businesses and markets.

Then, there’s reaching a broader audience than possible with craft fairs (the fair circuit requires a lot of travel), by going online. I had been looking at venues such as Etsy, and Amazon Handmade. Amazon takes 15% off the top of all sales (or did, the last time I checked), which is basically a really big chunk of the maker’s profit (which, as best I can remember, may be supposed to be all of it), and will drive up the cost of production and distribution.

Etsy is more in line with what I do, but the thing about Etsy is that price competition from overseas labor (where countries are working with labor or land economies, as versus information economies) also can drive sales prices down. That means that it may not be possible for someone living in an information economy to make enough money to make a decent living off of skilled manual labor, because prices are being undercut by companies based in places with lower costs of living.

Right now, I’m trying to temper the handcrafting work with information work. If I can be my own Web Developer, and in turn also develop websites for others, there’s some chance of success. The drawback, then, is being responsible for everything, including the chance that one’s systems and databases may be attacked — and most companies which experience data breaches, it is said, go out of business. That’s after having invested into their own companies. It’s a lot of risk, not to mention a reason to incorporate (which allows one to keep their own personal assets, even if their company folds).

There are a few (hypothetical) ways out of this that I can see: one is to sell designs, rather than selling finished jewelry, so one can focus on the design process exclusively, instead of materials acquisition and construction (which can get tedious). Another is to do this work as a hobby on the side while one brings in primary income via another means (as I’m trying to do with Librarianship, and/or eventually Web Development). The third is to marry and have one’s spouse bring in the primary income, leaving one free to work (I’m not betting on this). The fourth is to live with a group (of family, friends, housemates, etc.) and meet financial requirements (rent, etc.) cooperatively, which I’ve known a lot of people to do (and which is an option on the table).

What I’ve been hoping to do is to deal with the Librarianship as my primary mode of income, and work my interest in crafts into my job. This will, at least, allow people who can’t afford to get deeply into — say — beadwork, to be able to get a respite from the grind.

So in any case…right now I’m looking at working more with people, in a Public Library setting, more than working as a Cataloger. Because of this, it makes sense to learn (or solidify) a second language, and to deal more closely with honing my interpersonal interaction skills. To further the Technical Services angle, I can try and get back to my Web Programming courses…at least, after this next course ends.

I think it will be a relief.