I was about halfway through my Masters of Social Work program when I realized that I did not want to be a social worker. It’s not that I don’t love working with people (I do. Very much), but being a therapist never came naturally to me. Most of the time I just felt as if I was doing a bad impersonation of a psychotherapist. And while I suppose I could have left the program mid-way through, I didn’t. For one reason, I didn’t have a better idea of what to do with my life. For another reason, I didn’t want to be a “quitter” (which in hindsight probably would have been the much more intelligent thing to do). And finally, I thought that eventually I’d become more comfortable in the role. So I stuck with it. I graduated and worked as a psychotherapist for two years. Two years of staying up nights worrying about my clients. Two years of feeling painfully uncomfortable in the role I was playing every weekday. Two years of plotting my escape from a field where almost everyone I knew wanted to change careers but couldn’t/didn’t for various reasons (spouses, kids, homes, student loans, etc.). Four of my former colleagues have also since left the field. At the time, I was single and debt-free, so it was easy to contemplate a career change. And when I thought about what I’d like to do, the only thing that made any sense to me was becomming a librarian.
When I decided to go to library school, I was terrified that I would also find that librarianship was not the field for me. I thought perhaps I was just a chronically dissatisfied person and I wouldn’t be happy in any career. I decided to get a job my a local library while I went to school so I could figure out whether or not I was cut out to be a librarian. Working as a Library Assistant in Adult Services at a public library is not a glamorous job, but I really enjoyed it. I loved working with patrons — from showing them where a book was, to setting them up with an email account, to calling them when their hold came in. The help I could give patrons was real and concrete, even if it wasn’t always life-changing. And while plenty of patrons were irate and difficult, it didn’t bother me so much because I felt confident in what I was doing. It just felt right.
I’m now about 4 weeks into my first professional position. I’ve taught bibliographic instruction classes, have worked a few reference shifts, and have started on the huge website redesign project I will be undertaking. And I’ve loved every minute of it. I love helping people with their research. I love trying to make it easier for people to find things on our website. I love working with all of the people associated with the distance learning programs at Norwich, even though it can sometimes be difficult to coordinate our efforts. And no, it’s not perfect. It’s not like in my fantasy where everyone oohs and ahhs about every idea I have and there are teams of workers to implement my amazing ideas. (Sigh) There are only so many hours in the day — not nearly enough to do all the things I’d like to. And while the administration is supportive, I don’t exactly have carte blanche (nor should I). I really like the people I work with and I love the work I’m doing and will be doing. And I’ve had a few successes already. I wrote up a proposal for providing IM Reference and it looks like we’re going to start a pilot IM Reference service in the Spring Semester. I’ve got my very own copy of Captivate for creating gorgeous tutorials. And in general, the people I work with at the library seem very open to change and to new ideas. It’s a great environment.
What I keep noticing is that there is none of that discomfort I felt in my old social work jobs. When I think about work I don’t get a heavy, queasy feeling like I used to. I actually look forward to going to work and I don’t find myself watching the clock (unless it’s particularly slow at the ref desk). Instead of dread, I’m filled with ideas and excitement. I didn’t know I could feel so light.
In short, I feel like a librarian. This job, this career, this profession… it fits.
This sounds so familiar! For the longest time I thought I wanted to be a music therapist. I quit when I realized that my favorite assignment was compiling a folk music discography for clinicians, not, you know, actually learning the music.
Speaking of which, knowing when to quit is so important. I recommend “The Quit” by Evan Harris.
Hi Meredith, I’m glad that your new job is such a good fit. I’m a former Vermonter myself and know that you will love the area. A favor: is there any way you might e-mail me your IM proposal (or some variant)? We are trying to do the same here at Georgia State and need all the weapons we can get our hands on. Merci!
I spent 4 years as a grad student in zoology before I realized that what I most enjoyed about zoology was the teaching (laboratory TA) and the library research. Several agonizing meetings later, I turned in my resignation and set my sights on librarianship. (That’s an incredibly simplified version of what took a couple of years.)
I’ll admit that one of the great appeals of librarianship was the thought of getting an actual job after the degree (instead of years of post-docs), but I, too, found the “fit” to be perfect. In what other career can I assist in the research of hundreds of researchers, without every standing in a laboratory (and washing glassware) myself? And your laboratory animals never get that light in their eyes when you hand them the answer you’ve been looking for. (Occasionally their cells light up, with luminescent tagging and such, but not their eyes.)
Good luck in the new job, and may you never lose the “fit”.
I’ve just obtained my first position as a librarian this week, having spent some time in public relations, law firms, and a ton of less focused positions. I’m glad you’re enjoying “living the dream” and I’m looking forward to the same. Best of luck to you.
I’ve seen your name a lot lately as I’m a WebJunction user and love your Wiki (still haven’t figured that technology out so well…). I felt this immediate connection to you and couldn’t quite figure out why. Well, now I know, my degree is in Social Work. I worked in the field for 8 years out of college and felt JUST LIKE YOU. Such misery. I discovered my niche in Training and ended up working for private industry training on a geodemographic marketing software. I got tired of traveling and answered an ad almost 2 years ago to be the Training Coordinator of our Library System here in Lancaster County (www.lancasterlibraries.org) WOW, I love libraries and librarians now. So I can’t decide to pursue a master’s in Training and Development or LIS, but it’s nice to know there’s a kindred spirit out there. I’ve added you to my aggregator and look forward to following you…