Friday, September 26, 2008

Follow your passion

As I mentioned yesterday, I decided by the time I was in grade 12 that my future lied in the library world.

To be honest, I fell into the world quite by accident - I found lunchtimes at school fairly boring and often felt like a burden to those around me. There weren't really that many clubs I was interested in joining, and often I ended up sauntering towards the school library to spend at least part of my hour.

I started volunteering in the library towards the end of year 8*. There were several students I knew that were also volunteering, so between us, we helped the school librarian during some of the busiest times of the day.

The following year the library went through several changes, and we saw three librarians come and two go. Most staff and students probably didn't see that much of a change - the faces changed, but to those of us who were actually working, there were a lot of changes behind the scenes. Different staff liked doing things differently.

When Mrs. L. joined the school in September 1998, we faced more change. However, knowing that she was planning to be there for the forseeable future (and she's still there now!), I was personally ready to embrace whatever changes she wanted to implement - because in my eyes, I felt that the more changes there were in the same period of the time, the more static things would stay in the future.

So here's what I learnt back in those days, and what can possibly be applied to any jobs in the future:

  • Be passionate.

    If you love what you're doing, and you enjoy getting up to go to work every day, it will show in your work.

  • Enjoy learning.

    If you think as soon as you're out of school/college/university your learning stops, you're wrong. You have to embrace change and be ready and willing to adapt when necessary. When your boss chooses you to work on a brand new project, grab it with both hands and be willing to do the best job that you possibly can. Your work will be remembered in the long run! Don't be afraid to look back on the past: there have been occasions when something has been vaguely familiar, and then I've gone back to look through notes - I studied it at college. I did it at the position in the library.

  • Ask "What else is there I can do?"

    Go up and beyond your job duties. If you're finished working on something, ask a supervisor if there's something new you can try your hand at. This shows your employer that you're ready and willing. You can gain knowledge and experience regarding something that you didn't expect to do. At the age of 15 I was cataloguing books very basically using templates - not MARC, and it would be another four years before I would really understand the theory behind cataloguing. You may only scratch the surface of a topic, but in the future that basic knowledge might help you go a long way.

  • Embrace change.

    While most of us like things to stay the same, it's impossible for everything to remain static. In every library, there's something different. Different library software - I've used Heritage, Microcat, Winnebago, Athena, to name a few (there's definitely three I've not mentioned!) - have different emphases. While one programme might have something you love about it, the next one might have something that you could possibly not live without in the future.

Are you wondering if living in the library world is something for you? Volunteer! It's a great way to learn the basic library practises that are rudimentary to every library. Okay, you might spend just the few weeks shelving materials away, but that's the only way you're going to learn how the collection is shelved. Don't think for one minute that all libraries are the same - because they're not. Even volunteering for a couple of hours a week frees up the librarian's time to work on other duties - not only are you learning on the job, but you're going to be a great help to them. Actually, the more you work solely on one task, the more likely you're going to get the opportunity to do a different task so that you're not just concentrating on one skill. There's no point in going to college or university for two or three years to get a education in library training to find out it's not for you - get a taste for it before hand!

Remember that the library world is constantly changing. Skills you have in one job may not be necessary in the next. Already I can see what I'm taking away from each position I've been fortunate to work in, and there's something different, and something else that I can follow on with.

* I went to school in England until I left in year 11 in June 2000. I was in grade 11 and 12 in Canada. Just so you know what period of time I'm talking about, and where I was at the time.

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