By Meredith Farkas | February 1, 2011
I’m one of those people who has a hard time waiting for people’s birthday to give them presents. Whenever I try to surprise my husband with something, I always end up telling him about it early. I can keep other people’s secrets, but I’m terrible at keeping my own. So I’ve felt like the cork in a bottle of champagne trying to wait until it was totally official to tell my friends and colleagues my good news.
The news is that I’m moving on to a new job in a new library in a new state on the other side of the country. EEK! Starting in late April, I will be the Head of Instructional Services at Portland State University in Oregon. I’ll be working with a terrific team of liaison librarians to provide instruction to a student population that is almost 10 times the size of Norwich! There are some unique instructional challenges at PSU that really attracted me to the position, and I got the sense during the interview that the time was right for creating meaningful change in instructional services there. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with such a change-oriented, user-focused and dedicated group of professionals and I’m looking forward to the new challenges this position will bring. Being on the tenure track should be… interesting… but I’ve had a lot of research and article ideas percolating in my head for years that I’ll finally have the impetus to pursue.
The moving part I am looking forward to far less. While the whole family is really excited about moving to Portland (ok, Adam and I are; Reed at 22 months, doesn’t have a clue what’s coming), it’s going to be difficult to leave Vermont and the logistics of moving across the country with a toddler are just miserable. I’m even letting my husband pick out our rental home in the middle of February since someone has to stay home with the little guy. For a control freak like me, this whole moving thing is a major exercise in letting go. I know living in Portland is going to afford my son so many opportunities he simply wouldn’t have had in Vermont and it’ll be fun to live in a place with a renowned restaurant scene, lots of parks, major cultural opportunities, and 15 Targets (the closest one to us now is over 100 miles away!). Vermont is a wonderful place, but the career opportunities here are extremely limited and I knew that if I didn’t leave Vermont now, I’d have to leave at some point in the future. Better to go when Reed’s not even two than when he gets into school and gets attached to friends and his life here. Portland seems like a good place for Reed to grow up. Having a child has had a huge impact on my career trajectory and choices — how could it not?
I was extremely lucky to start my career at Norwich (especially since my dream job was to be a distance learning librarian and who gets their dream job their first time out???). I’ve gotten experience in so many aspects of librarianship (public services, distance learning, curriculum development, budgeting, supervision, collection development, working closely with faculty, outreach, systems, emerging tech, committee work, statistics gathering and analysis, project management, etc.). It’s been great to have a Director across the hall whose door is open to me anytime. It’s been refreshing to work at a place where staff are so open to change and where the biggest barrier to getting things done is often your own energy and time. I think working in a small library is perfect for a first job, because you get to do a bit of everything and really figure out where you want your career to go in the long-run. I dreaded teaching when I got into the profession; now it’s my favorite part of my work. I never thought I’d want to be an administrator; now it’s my long-term goal. At a larger institution, the distance learning librarian my never get to teach face-to-face classes; I was thrown head-first into it. And thank goodness for that! Working at a small place made me more flexible, collegial and focused on what’s best for the library/patrons rather than on the cool projects I wanted to do. I wouldn’t be the person I am today professionally if it weren’t for my experiences at Norwich. For so many reasons, moving on will be bittersweet for me.
So Portland (and Oregon) librarians, I can’t wait to connect with you! I already know of some really cool librarians in Portland and in the Oregon State University system, so I couldn’t be more excited about contributing to the profession at a local level and making friends with some fantastic librarians. Adam and I never really thought we’d live on the West Coast, and we don’t have any family out there, so the idea of moving to an unfamiliar city far away from our previous life is quite daunting. I’ve had second thoughts about such a big move a hundred times over the past month, but I feel in my gut that this is going to be the right place for us.
I’m looking forward to heading out in early April toward the beautiful Willamette River Valley. Hopefully we won’t shoot any bison, break a wagon wheel, or get typhoid along the way.