I want to be in the room where it happens

I know, I caved, I had to put a Hamilton quote in here some time. Especially as it’s been nearly a year since I saw the musical!

As I’m approaching the end of my Librarianship Postgraduate Diploma I wanted to write a blog post on what I want to do next, what kinds of jobs I’m looking out for, and how I want to progress my career.

My last lectures are Thursday 16th May and my last deadline is Monday 3rd June. After this my 2 year librarianship course will be done and I’ll be a “qualified” librarian.

(I say “qualified” as I kind of hate this nonsense and no magical Beauty and the Beast transformation will happen once I complete the course.)

I’ve been thinking more and more about what I want from work – from a job – and this has changed so much over time. This has changed drastically from what I wanted 5 years ago and actually I’m surprised by what I wanted last year compared to now.

I’ve been putting less and less pressure on myself to do everything and be everything. I’ll admit, throughout my twenties, I really did want a job that took over my life. I wanted to be what I thought dedicated meant, put in the extra hours, kill myself through commuting, work anywhere, do anything, working late and working weekends. I thought if I kept working harder and harder I’d get promotions, better jobs, I’d climb the ladder somewhere.

Now, that work life balance everyone talks about? I want that.

My recent Subscriptions and Eresources job is the first job I’ve had where I’ve really just done the job. I don’t feel bad for leaving at 4.30pm because I’ve done my hours for the day. I haven’t worked late to seem like I’m so unbelievably dedicated. I haven’t taken on everything under the sun to seem like a “good” employee. I also have managed to say no when things aren’t possible (23 year old me would have sat in silence and stressed about the solution to some unsolvable problem!) And you know what? The world hasn’t collapsed. I’m still employed. And I’ve actually had really nice feedback from my manager about what I am doing. It’s freeing to not feel so “young” and like I have to prove myself constantly.

To explain the title of this blog post a little more I saw Helen recently who is the Scholarly Comms Specialist at JISC. We were at an event that I had been invited to by my line manager for the journal work I’m doing at the moment. I’ve met Helen at a few events and she’s always fantastic to talk to about what’s going on and new developments. I found out Helen had been taking part in, and hosting for JISC, events all about practice based research. This is an area I really want to work in more. My personal work interests lie in arts based practice research, but of course practice based research stretches beyond art to music, dance, theatre and many more areas. I was hanging onto Helen’s every word about where she’d been and what she’d been doing. Then when I left all I could think is “Why aren’t I in these rooms? Having these conversations? This is something I want to be part of!” But right now I don’t have the job or the support to allow me to do that. I’m gonna work on getting in that room, but conversations and developments are already happening without me…. How do I get in?

It’ll be a waiting game in some respects looking for my next position. I don’t want to keep jumping from pillar to post and working in jobs that don’t really fulfil me or my aims.

If I could have a “dream” job here are some of the things I’d want:

– Flexible working hours
– Good location
– Nice offices, staff rooms, bathrooms, places to eat and drink (thinking about the very base level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – without the sex!)
– No more open plan offices (pet peeve of mine)
– No uniforms – wear what makes you comfortable!
– Not stuck at a desk all day every day
– Ability to work from home some/the majority of the time
– 35 hour work week or – the dream – a 4 day week?
– Good annual leave allowance
– Somewhere dedicated to equality and diversity (for reals! Not a tick box)
– A good Continuing Professional Development budget
– Good pension contributions/schemes
– Opportunities to join a union
– Opportunities to volunteer with charities

And all of the above for ALL staff… not just “professionals” or those with higher pay packets.

– Working some how, somewhere, in the arts or relating to the arts
– Working with, alongside, for, creative people
– Working to progress, implement, enhance Open Access in a scholarly (HE?) or non-scholarly environments
– Research Impact Officer or Research Support Officer (something in this area!)
– A position either with a lot of growth or a clear progression pathway
– A fast paced environment, needing to learn new things, always developing
– Freedom to do/try new things that are outside of my key role
– Places I’ve thought about working for: IKEA, WGSN, Riba, Bridgeman Images, architects, design firms, JISC, galleries, museums, arts charities or organisations e.g. Arts Council or Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRC] .

All of the above is just my personal ‘ideals’. Obviously I’d be lucky to get a fraction of this in any role, but that makes me kind of sad. Of course I’d make compromises depending on the job. For example, if the most amazing job came up to work in a gallery or museum, working with art and information, there’d be other things I’d sacrifice to do that. If I got to work in another library context, but maybe it wasn’t closely tied to my interests, I’d be looking at working hours, holiday, location etc. because I’d want to fill the rest of my time with things I enjoy and truly care about.

Not to go all” sob story” on anyone, because it’s not really, but these past two years studying and working have been hard. And one of the things I’ve found most difficult is the periods I’ve had of weeks and weeks stretching out before me that are just work and study. Waking up and having nothing to look forward to as every hour is filled with something I don’t enjoy and something I don’t really want to do. It’s bleak.

It sounds like I want a lot I know- and I do. I want a fulfilling job that I’m interested in and care about that makes me happy. I’ve fallen into working with repositories and Open Access and making information and research openly accessible is something I actually care about.

But, even though I’m harping on about rooms I want to be in, and jobs I want to do, I know there are rooms out there I don’t even know exist. I don’t want to shut myself off from potentially amazing opportunities that might fall outside of my ideals. Before starting my Business Intelligence module I was thinking about working in information in law firms and businesses. In my head that would be amazingly interesting and fast paced field to be a part of.

One big thing I haven’t mentioned yet is money. I have some figures in my head on what I’d like to aim for, but again if a perfect job appeared there would be so many variables I’d negotiate and pay would be one of those variables. The dream job for less money than you hoped for? Okay. A not dream job, but with money to let you live your best life? Okay. A job that you don’t like, that doesn’t pay very well so you have no time, money, resources to do anything that makes you happy? No.

In all honesty I feel more disillusioned with libraries now than I did before starting my course. I don’t really know what I want to do or where I want to go. I’d love to work in an arts focused Scholarly Comms post, but one of those isn’t going to magically appear. I don’t even know if I really want to work in libraries anymore. Or not in the stereotypical sense. I’ve had library jobs I haven’t liked and there are big problems in the sector, including higher education more widely (which I’d really like to break out of at some point), like issues with race, gender, sexism, class, power, and so many other issues, and I know these will be everywhere – lurking in every sector. Not that I want to run out of libraries screaming, I do want to make things better – for everyone… but I guess some of my experiences have left me feeling so dejected that I don’t know how to come back from them.

Maybe I’ve watched Ali Wong’s stand up “Baby Cobra” too many times… but I keep thinking this over and over….

Work feels like such a joke sometimes… but we keep trying and we keep going.

Right now I’m keeping an eye on all my vacancy emails that flood in every day. I check pages of places I want to work now and then – just to see.

I have all these “grand” ideas of what I want to do and what the “right” job for me is, but I still feel really lost.

2 thoughts on “I want to be in the room where it happens

  1. Elle Ann

    This is a really great post and really relatable. Your ‘context’ list could be part of a manifesto for satisfying library work! You deserve all the things you are striving for and if they don’t magically appear I reckon you’ll make things happen yourself. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Elle, thanks so much for reading and your kind words! I feel like all jobs need my context list and probably even more things I couldn’t think of at the time. Thanks so much for all your positive words – lets hope all us library workers get where we want! xx


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