It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Book I, Chapter 1, of Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities.
Dickens is not one of my favourite authors and I never quite made it to the end (or quite honestly, past the beginning) of The Tale of Two Cities, so it may seem odd that this Dickens quote would pop into my mind so quickly and so easily capture the emotional turmoil [honestly, this is no understatement] of the last year of my professional life. This time last year I was writing up my handover notes to leave a job and a place I loved working (you’re already probably asking why it was I left then!) to go to a place that was new, challenging and, on the face of it, a very exciting opportunity.
I was an Information Assistant (Digital Collections). I dreamed big about the big wide world of copyright and implementing vast earth-shattering changes and being the next Chris Morrison or Jane Secker… In true Motown style, I wanted to be the third Supreme in their Higher Education copyright powerhouse. I’d been in my post a while, I had developed the service, I was actively trying to enhance it further and I was seeking to move up the proverbial greasy pole. I have since discussed with my other half that I am a “go getter”, that things I want I will strive for and I do tend to dive into things if I think it will get me what I want. In this case, a job came up that offered what I was looking for. As a new role it offered me the scope to shape from the outset how the role would develop and what the service would be, and there was the inevitable lure of a healthy pay increase.
In the end I found myself stuck, a wee cog in a giant corporation squashed into one large open plan office hosting 180 people. I felt lost. I am not a shy person, but I felt awkward making tea in the communal kitchen, I felt like I had to find the shortest route to the loo possible and then there was the awkward walking past my library colleagues’ desks and nodding awkwardly a greeting of hi which was 95% of the time ignored. There were no students visible and there was little or no contact with academics. I lacked people. I lacked autonomy: I had to ask permission to buy a $50 e-book that was a core course for a HUGE course (no idea why it hadn’t been bought before!) To boot, I was no longer in a “library” as I knew it. I thought it wouldn’t bother me, not being with physical books, with students, with other librarians, but it did really rather bother me! I was lucky though and sat in a small side office from the main open plan office with some really friendly & chatty publishers, which saved me from isolation on a daily basis.
In short, the commute, the job, the office, the institution just wasn’t a good fit. I was totally unhappy. It came back to me on the long, dark & cold commutes into work over last winter of how I had sobbed in bed prior to taking the new job, asking my boyfriend whether I was doing the right thing… I think in the end I had to leave a job I loved to know and appreciate what was important to me and what I wanted from my career. I wanted to interact with people, to feel like I was doing something that would help those people, that I had a purpose, was useful & made a difference.
As the wet winter merged into a soggy spring, I was lucky that in my total misery I saw a job advert pop up back where I had been working advertising two vacancies for Information Consultants (ahem ‘subject librarians’ for us oldies). I was going to go for it. Then I wasn’t. Then I emailed the boss of that post, who I knew and she positively encouraged me to give it a go. Still I didn’t fill out the form. Then I filled out a bit of it. Then I stopped. The deadline was upon me. I realised I was worried what people would think of me for going back to work there, or at least trying for a job that was way above what I had been doing. I thought they might think me an upstart. Or couldn’t handle a role outside of the College, in the ‘real world’. Or a million other bad things. But then I thought: this is my pride getting in the way. This was the job I had wanted forever and that many aspiring, trainee librarians would jump at the chance. I should go for it and no one really would think that ill of me if I did. And even if they did, what did it really matter? Would I feel any worse than I did already? No. So I filled it in. Got the interview.
(I will blog more about the interview process when I feel more up to it. It wasn’t a smooth process, but I learnt so much through it that I really think it should be shared. Right now though, it is a bit tender and I don’t think I would do it much justice.)
Anyway back to the point: I GOT THE JOB. I am 7 months in and I still occasionally have wee waves of panic as to whether I can do it, but largely this is drowned out by lovely academic interactions and teaching where students give great feedback. I also have a hugely supportive team and back in a warm & welcoming environment. These are things that cannot be underestimated. Who thought ten years ago that I would be giving lectures to 180+ students and running training sessions on referencing and search strategies?! Times have changed from when I was a shy & mute girl at school and public speaking was a complete leg-locking fear. These are most definitely better times!
So this post may explain the gap in my blogging and I hope that this blog can be resurrected to chronicle my goings on in the world of libraries and trying to complete my librarianship studies (fingers crossed)
Anyway, my final thought for this post… I rather liked the term “lucked out” that I have used for the title of this blog post, as it can be seen negatively as if my luck has run out just when I need it most or positively as I have totally just landed the job of my dreams. And quite literally both applications of the phrase “lucked out” have applied to me in the last year. Thankfully, I am currently cruising on the crest of the total upside of this phrase: I am truly lucked out and pretty ecstatic to be where I am now, in a career I love, in the role I have longed for, and enjoying it as much as a pig in mud, or a librarian in an perfectly ordered library.