New Moon on Monday

It’s been a month since I started my new position as an Information Specialist (great title, right?), a month to get used to this change and settle in to a new routine. I’m very happy to report that I don’t just like my new job, I love it. The staff at the branch have really welcomed me and made me feel at home. The general vibe at the branch is laid back and cheerful. Everyone helps everyone else out, so that I’m sometimes performing adult reference, sometimes teen or children’s reference, sometimes circulation–and that’s often in the same day. I get a lot of face-time with patrons, but I’m also encouraged to take breaks when I need them and work away from the public when I need time to myself. I usually sit at the information desk, but I’m also encouraged to get up and walk around as much as I need to, which is good for my ADD brain. The branch manager met with me yesterday to check in with me and see how I’m getting along. I’m very open with her about my ADD, anxiety and depression. We talked about my various duties and agreed that it’s important I don’t get bored, but it’s better to err on the side of me being bored every so often than overwhelm me with too much to do. I have a difficult time saying no to things, partly because I want to make people happy and partly because I have very little sense of when I’m overextending myself, so it’s really good that she recognizes a need to keep me from taking too much on. She also encourages my strengths, which I get to use much more than I did in Web Content.

At the same time, I’ve noticed that the front page of our library website, which was my responsibility when I was in Web Content, is looking much, much better now. The promotional images are very engaging and dynamic, and content changes frequently throughout the week. It’s clear that web content was just not the right thing for me to be doing, and while I recognize I made positive contributions to the Web Content Team, I think they’re doing much better work without me. That further confirms I made the right move. It makes me very happy indeed.

A year ago, I wrote about how I was losing my interest in libraries. After a month working public service full-time, I’m rediscovering why I loved working in libraries in the first place. It’s a lovely feeling.

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A Sea Change in the Library

Now it can be told:

I posted about looking for a new job, after being diagnosed with ADD and coming to understand why I’ve struggled so much with my job and felt like it was such a bad fit for me. I started to look outside the box I’d put myself in, but at the same time, I recognized that I really like libraries, I like working with the public, and staying in my library system would be easier than trying to find a brand-new job.

Well, thanks to some excellent, understanding HR people, I’m being shifted in the library system from web content to working reference at one of our branches. Because of the nature of the job, the duties won’t really need to be adjusted much to accommodate my ADD. I’ll be working with the public more, moving around more (rather than sitting at a desk for hours at a time, staring at a monitor), and I won’t have to juggle multiple long-term projects with variable deadlines. In some ways, it’s not going to be a dramatic change, since I’ve been doing reference work for a while now in addition to my web duties (and it’s something I’ve done many times before). But being able to just focus on what’s in front of me, rather than constantly worrying about deadlines and time management, will be a huge shift in terms of mental and emotional energy, anxiety, and depression. To say I’m relieved and excited is a bit of an understatement. I’ve been struggling for the past five years. I suddenly feel…free. Free to really focus my time and energy on writing and play. Free to enjoy my time away from work, rather than worrying about everything I haven’t gotten done.

I’ll be in training this week, then officially switching to my new position and workplace next week. It’s the dawn of a new age!

Crossing the Bridge of Fire

As I read more about ADD (a name I’m coming to really dislike, but that’s a whole nother discussion) and look at my life with a new clarity of vision, I come to better understand mistakes I’ve made and wrong paths I’ve wandered down. After years of struggling with my job as a web content developer, I went to my supervisor last week and told her this job and I are not a good fit and I’ll be actively looking for a new job. This position demands a level of focus, attention to detail, and long-term organization that I just can’t achieve. I’ve tried for a long time to “get better” at my job, feeling all the while like the proverbial square peg in a round hole, and cursing myself for not being able to get organized and focused enough to make a real difference. I’m leaving a lot out, but suffice to say, this wasn’t a snap decision nor an uninformed one.

So I’m looking for a new gig, and not necessarily one in libraries. I’m trying to smash my preconceived notions about what I can and can’t do, job-wise. It’s not easy, though, having spent decades seeing myself one way and no looking at myself in a whole new way. I need advice, feedback, input. But I don’t need it from anyone or everyone. If you don’t understand how ADD works or how I perform at my best, I don’t need to hear from you, no matter how good your intentions or how much you care about me. I’ve gotten a lot of bad advice from good people over the years, and this is not the time for that.

If you understand ADD, if you know what my particular strengths and weaknesses are, please let me know if you’re willing to help me look for a new job. And if you don’t know about this jazz but you love me and care about my future, please wish me luck as I try to sort this stuff out.

ADDENDUM: Over on Twitter, my friend Gareth suggested that it would be much easier to help me if I could say how much I need to make at minimum. He’s right, of course, but…well, I hadn’t actually figured that out yet. I’ll get to work on that.

Enter, Stage Left

I’m teaching a class on e-readers for library staff this afternoon. Although when I say “teach,” I mean I lead and facilitate discussion, presenting some basic information, riffing off of major topics.

I love presenting and leading discussions, but every time I do it, I get terrible stage fright before hand. Once the presentation starts, I forget all about my anxiety, but before hand, it’s pretty potent stuff.

Which means right now, my heart is racing and I’m really on edge. I want to cry, run away from everything, and curl up into a ball on the floor. At the same time, I know that once the class starts, I’ll have a really good time and I’ll be too involved in what’s going on to be scared. But damn, it’s really annoying while the stage fright is going on.

I’ve read that Henry Fonda threw up from stage fright before every performance. I know there are other performers who experience terrible anxiety before they perform. I know I’m not alone in this. Which is good to know.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to do some more deep breathing before my class begins.

The Road Taken, So Far

I have a confession to make. It’s been bubbling beneath the surface for at least a year or two. I’ve talked to close friends and family about it. It’s probably been in the subtext of this blog (and Twitter and other places on the internet) for a while, but I haven’t come right out and said it. Now I’m going to come right out and say it:

I’m not really interested in libraries anymore.

I’m not saying I don’t like my job. On the contrary, it’s good, solid work that’s frequently fun. And I work with a whole lot of really amazing people who brighten my life. The job is very, very good.

I’m also not saying I don’t like libraries as institutions anymore. I love being in libraries and I think libraries are a crucial part of a free, civilized society.

But I’ve lost all of my interest in thinking about and discussing large library issues. I don’t want to blog about libraries or read articles about libraries or present at professional conferences about libraries. I’m bored with all of that. I want to go to work, do my job, then leave and think about other things. I like my library job, but…

…but I don’t really feel like a librarian anymore. I really like my job, but it doesn’t feel like a career to me. It isn’t who I am.

I went to grad school to get my MLIS because at the time, I didn’t think there was any other way for me to have a career. I was tired of working retail, which is what I mostly did before I got into libraries. I didn’t think there was any way I’d be able to make money by writing or otherwise being a geek. Libraries seemed like the best bet.

Has that changed? In a sense, no. I haven’t really made any money any other way, so I don’t know that there’s any way besides libraries to support myself. But I do know that I’ve got more faith in myself now. I believe that I can work hard and get my writing (prose, poetry, reviews, etc) out there. And I think it may be possible for me to even make a living at it. Basically, librarianship was my fallback, because trusting myself and actually working hard to be what I dreamed of being was too hard. It’s getting easier now. But as it gets easier, as I learn to trust myself and believe in myself, I find myself getting more and more disinterested in librarianship.

Professionally, this may not be the best thing to post. But I want to be honest with myself and the people around me. I feel like I’m at a crossroads right now, and the path I want to take moves me away from librarianship. I still value all of the friends I’ve made in Libraryland and I’m not going to be quitting my job any time soon. But in a certain sense, I’m moving on.

Busman’s Holiday

I’ve taken this entire week off from work as vacation time. I’m using this week to recharge my batteries and relax a bit, but I’m also taking this time to clean my living space and start getting ready for my move to Lawrence, KS. And I’m mostly using this week to get myself more organized, both professionally and personally. Using Getting Things Done as my guide, I’m working on getting everything in my life more organized and structured, to free up my mind and energy, to make sure I don’t fall behind on bills and projects (like I have already). I’ve also talked to a few friends about writing collaborations that look promising and fun.

I’ve posted about some rough times lately, but the future is looking brighter to me. I’m excited about the days, months and years to come.

But first, I need to get back to my working vacation.

Laboring Under Misconceptions

I’m sure I have been guilty on occasion of complaining, “I didn’t go to library school to do this!” I know I’ve heard coworkers say something similar. This being something that at the time seemed trivial and simple, nothing like what we studied in grad school: clearing printer jams, unclogging toilets, sorting donated books, cleaning up vomit, chasing horny teenagers out of secluded bookstacks, and so on and so on. I went to library school and studied reference materials, collection management, cataloging, theories of information. I got a Master’s degree, for crying out loud! Surely such tasks as these are beneath me, right?

Well, here’s the thing. I went to library school to make libraries my career. And sometimes library work is clearing printer jams, unclogging toilets, sorting books, cleaning up vomit and harrassing horny teenagers. That work isn’t beneath me, it’s all part of the job, regardless of how much student loan debt I’ve racked up, regardless of what letters I have after my name. The abstract ideals and ethics of librarianship are all well and good, but if printers are jammed, toilets are overflowing and there’s puke on the floor, nobody gives a good goddamn about successful reference transactions.

And this is beyond libraries. Whatever job you have, whatever amount of schooling you have, work sometimes involves crawling around in dust and grime, cleaning up other people’s messes, doing repetitive and boring work, doing work that, in all honesty, a trained chimp could do. It’s all important. None of it is trivial. And if you think some work is really beneath you…well, I’d say you need your diaper changed and a new bottle of warm milk, because you’re clearing not mature enough to handle adult labor. You’re insulting the good people who regularly do such work. To riff off of Oscar Wilde, some of us are looking at the stars, but we are all in the gutter. And we all need to do our part to keep the gutter clean.