By Meredith Farkas | March 19, 2008
In spite of the fact that I’ve had one of those all-day sinus headaches, I’m walking on a cloud. Starting April 1, I’m going to be the Head of Instructional Initiatives here at Norwich, which means that I will lead and coordinate all instruction (and most assessment) work at the library. I’m also going to have supervisory responsibilities. What’s so crazy is that nearly every job I was interested in elsewhere was just like this. I am so passionate about instruction and it’ll be good to have someone coordinating instruction who is focused both on in-person and virtual instruction. I know instruction is the thing my Director is most passionate about as well, so I really appreciate her faith in me in offering me such an important leadership position. I am really excited about the new opportunities and possibilities that will come with this promotion!
This means that we’ll be hiring a new Distance Learning Librarian who will be reporting to me. I assume we’ll get an ad out pretty quickly and I’ll point to it on my blog as soon as it’s out. I’m so excited at the thought of getting someone in here with great new ideas and a technology skill-set that complements my own. This has really been a perfect first job where I’ve had the opportunity to do a little bit of everything. For someone who has lots of interests and really wants to explore many different areas of academic librarianship (both public services and tech stuff), you could hardly find a better job.
A lot of people have told me that since I’m ambitious I should go work at an ARL. I’m starting to realize that either I don’t know what ambitious means or that ambitious means different things to different people. I think of myself as an ambitious person, but my career goal is not to be the head of an ARL library. I may end up one, but it’s not a goal. I want to blaze trails. I want to do or create new things. I want to constantly be challenged in my job, to know that I am constantly improving services to patrons, and to constantly be moving forward. I want to love my job and to love the people I work with. I don’t speak and write and teach to advance my career. I do it because I really enjoy it. I want to be a manager, not because I want to move up any ladder, but because I really like mentoring and motivating people. Maybe I’ll end up a Director one day, maybe not. Maybe I’ll be a consultant working for myself. Maybe I’ll get a PhD and teach at a library school. Really, as long as I’m earning a decent wage, I’m doing work I love, and I’m in an environment I fit into, I’m golden.
I’ve felt that pull towards other people’s definitions of what an ambitious person like myself “should” do. A major ARL tried to recruit me a while back, and I was so enchanted by the idea of working in an environment like that with really smart people and lots of resources and a tenure track where I could spend one day a week doing research. But I figured out during the interview that I belong in a small library, at least for now. I really like smaller academic libraries. I like that we can make decisions quickly. I like that I get to do a bit of everything. Small doesn’t mean small-minded. We have an incredibly open-minded and change-oriented staff here. Sure, there are times I wish we had more resources and more hands, but it’s rare that I can’t find some way to do the things I want to do, even if it’s not the way I’d ideally like to do it. My personality fits well into an environment like this.
And then there’s the place. I love it here. I’m reading a book called The Geography of Bliss (excellent book, BTW), which explores concepts of happiness in different parts of the world. The people you live around, the environment you’re in… it makes such a tremendous difference. I’d go crazy in a city. I can’t stand strip mall suburbia. Adam and I are really happy here; I feel a peace I’ve never felt anywhere else. I know some people are happy to travel from place to place every few years until they move up to the position they want, but I’m all about the place I live. I’m sure I won’t live in Vermont forever, but I plan to do my best to situate my career in Vermont-esque places.
There is no one way to be ambitious in this profession, and everyone will pursue their career ambitions in different ways. We should all choose the paths that make us most happy. For some, that may be the road to becoming a University Librarian at an ARL. For others, it’ll be staying in the same library all their lives with colleagues they really love being around. I, like most of us, fall somewhere in between. Find the ladder that you want to climb and if it doesn’t go straight up, that’s ok as long as it makes you happy.
It’s been a difficult winter for me for so many reasons. It’s nice to have something to really look forward to in Spring.