Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What the Future Holds

I started a new job a little over a year and a half ago.  It was a step up, career-wise: a bigger library and all the things that come with that (budget, collection, staff, etc.)  I have loved every minute of the time I've worked here.  I've learned so much and experienced things I would never have experienced in a smaller library.  Let me be clear: I have no plans to do anything different, career-wise, any time soon.  I've got a ways to go in my current position.  There is still a lot to learn and experience.  I'm just starting to hit my stride, so I'm not interested in making a change for a while.

That said, I do sometimes wonder what the future holds.  I'm ambitious by nature and never want to become bored or burned out.  I'm only 37 years old, so I'll realistically be working for twenty more years, minimum.  It is reasonable to think that there's at least one more move in my career.  That move does not have to be "up," but it does have to come with new challenges and it has to excite me.

I went to a workshop recently called "Financial Fitness for Libraries."  It was very intense; information that Directors, Business Managers, and other Department Heads should be aware of.  As it turns out, I was the only person in the entire room who was not either a Director, a Business Manager/Financial Director, or Trustee.  I was the only Reference Librarian there (which I didn't cop to...maybe others were there and didn't either?)  They talked about fraud prevention, avoiding auditing errors, the Federal Standards Labor Act, and budget forecasting, among other serious topics.  I went into this program with an open mind and a good attitude.  These are topics I need to learn and that I want to learn.

As the day went on, though, I realized just how out of my league I was.  Since the majority of the attendees were already aware of these topics, if not completely confident with them, a lot of terms were not carefully defined.  The whole day was very tightly scheduled, and they moved very quickly from one topic to the next. I found myself frantically searching Google for definitions just to keep up.  Words and phrases I did know started to blur because they were being used in context I didn't understand.  Suddenly a fund balance wasn't a fund balance.  Bond issues weren't bond issues.  I got very frustrated.  I started to lose my focus.

I did learn things that I can use in my job.  Budget forecasting is a useful idea for things I'm involved in like collection budgets and staffing.  Also, internal controls to prevent fraud apply to every department.  Since I'm in charge of scheduling for the reference staff, I definitely need to be aware of FSLA rules.

What I really learned that day was what the future probably holds for me.  Not only was I out of my league and frustrated, but I was honestly just not that interested.  I was bored.  In the past, the workshops and conferences I've attended have excited me and inspired me.  For example, the Computers in Libraries conference is filled with ideas that I find fascinating (QR codes, augmented reality, and content management systems).  For another example, MLA's Fantastic Fiction program always helps me perform readers advisory.  I love talking with librarians about reference tools and techniques, collection management, and ways to incorporate technology into reference service.  I am so passionate about these topics that I often present about them at conferences.  I won't be presenting sessions on library finance any time soon - or ever, if I'm being honest.

I understand that library finance is important.  Crucial, even.  Someone has to love those topics.  Someone has to care deeply, with passion, so that the library is fiscally sound.  I care that our library is fiscally sound, and will do my part to make sure my department plays by the rules set by those in charge, but I can not imagine spending my days thinking about and working on library finance issues.  I make sure our collection budgets are balanced.  I make sure our staff is available at the times we need them, without going over the staffing budget.  I'm interested in these things.  It's that bigger picture of bond issues and millages and fund balances that don't thrill me.

So, what does the future hold?  Something in the realm of patron services, technology, collection management, and reference.  And I'm happy about that.

1 comment:

  1. Hear, hear! I made a similar move about five years ago, and I have since realized that I really, really like being a middle manager. It's not something that you hear people say very often, but I feel like it's a good fit for me, and I have realized that I really don't, at this point anyway, want to be a director - for all the reasons you pointed out above. I think a lot of folks see it as a stepping stone sort of position, but I don't think it has to be.