Joining the “dark” side

Had a great time looking for the perfect Kylo Ren stretching his hand out photo… honestly do a google there’s some funny crops. FYI this isn’t a post about Star Wars btw. This is a post about my new job in… Academic Publishing.

Kylo Ren (from s+Star Wars) standing, reaching his hand out, as fire falls from the sky.
Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Last Jedi , 2017

So some of you might have been confused about my most recent blog post Exiting the Library and this post about a new job.

Back in September I got offered a job in a university that wasn’t in a library. It was to be a project assistant across a range of projects that covered the entire university. I was pretty excited about this – a new area, new transferable skills, new work.

Sadly, it was not the job for me. There, frankly, wasn’t enough work to do and I found out a bit later on it was quite a new job with only one person in it before me and I’m not sure how much the role had been thought out. I left in January/February after giving it a 6 months-ish try and I don’t think they’re re-recruiting for this role – to my knowledge. I felt really sad about leaving this job as I thought it was going to be THE job. But alas you have to realise when things aren’t working out.

I’d applied for a few different roles in a few different areas. After applying around I eventually I got offered, and accepted, a job at an academic publishers.

I didn’t set out to drastically avoid libraries completely, but nothing was coming up that I wanted to do. I knew I wanted, in some way shape or form, to get back to what I enjoyed; scholarly comms, open access, research. I also wanted to work somewhere with progression opportunities. I’ve worked in universities for a little while now and they haven’t, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, really met my criteria for what I want from a job. There’s definitely a lack of progression, maybe just in librarianship, maybe across the board. I know many more people who move institutions to progress than progressing where they already work.

I spoke to a member of staff at the publishers I now work for across LinkedIn asking if she felt I could apply for something there. I didn’t think I’d have the skills. I thought it would be too competitive and I wouldn’t stand even a tiny chance, but after talking to my now colleague she convinced me to apply and answered so many of the questions I had about how to apply for a role like this – my first private sector role.

I’ve worked for, predominately, public sector institutions (museums, archives, galleries, libraries) and universities so had no idea what to expect. However, my 500 word statement, CV and my half an hour interview (with no tests!) must have gone well as I got the job.

I’ve been in my role as Publishing Assistant now for about 2 and a half months. It’s suiting me so much better. There’s lots more work, it’s faster paced, it’s interesting, it’s challenging – all round it’s great!

I’m enjoying being in a position that allows me to work closely with academics again as I work across a portfolio of journals assisting a publisher and across a range of books.

A typical day for me can include liaising with my publisher and a journal editor about a call for papers and adding this to our website. I can be adding new editorial board members to our many systems, conducting research into specific areas, updating webpages with information and sharing news items like conferences and training events linked to our journals.

I can also be talking to our graphic designers about book cover designs, composing the back cover blurb for books (I know! This feels like too much responsibility haha) sorting out contracts, royalties, looking for reviewers for our books.

I assist with around 22 journals and 60+ books at any one time.

It’s a really varied, dynamic and fast paced role and so far I’ve enjoyed it so much more than a lot of jobs I’ve had previously.

I’ve been able to use my knowledge gained in acquisitions, subscriptions and e-resources, and in Schol Comms roles. All this knowledge about how journals work and get published, academic research, and some knowledge of open access book publishing and university presses all helped me get this new job.

I know some of you are reading this like.. “Okay… cool… so what’s the catch?”

Well there’s a few differences from jobs I’ve worked before. Nowhere is perfect and everywhere has similar limitations and foibles.

When I started in my new job so many people wanted my perspective from the librarian side of things. Acquisitions, subscriptions and e-resources as well as wanting to know about my work with repositories, Schol Comms and Open Access.

This was really nice to have so many people want to talk to me about the things I’m so interested in, but as a lot of us library people know the kind of jobs we do and our various skills sometimes can be visualised differently.

I’ve been able to chat about some of my skills mentioned above, but no one has asked me about other areas of librarianship, like information organisation, knowledge management, data input… some of you might think so what? Big deal! But the whole entering data properly into systems, ensuring reports can be ran, understanding the consequences of not organising your information correctly… is also my jam!

I’ve attempted in some situations to introduce this knowledge. Stuff like file naming conventions, data entry and issues of duplication… but it hasn’t always gotten across the way I’d liked… or the importance of it hasn’t gotten across. Need to figure out a way to work on this and I’m kind of excited to have been put on a project group for streamlining some work processes that will hopefully include stuff like this so wish me luck!

So yeah I’ve definitely been welcomed as a librarian, but I’m not sure I’ve sold my full skill set yet.

Oh and other stuff that’s different from my previous job…

Well I drive to work now. Not great for the environment, but I actually love the little 30-50 min drive I do and as someone who’s been getting public transport for the majority of my life… driving is great! I love being able to leave for work when I want and get there on time on a morning. I love having my own space and not having to fight for room on a train or have some creep brushing up against me. I love being able to take everything I need with me (laptop, handbag, lunch, gym kit, etc) without feeling like a little pit pony.

We’re very lucky that my partner inherited a Nissan so we didn’t have to buy a car and so far running it hasn’t been too costly.

One of the attractive things about my last job was the salary… To get started in Publishing I’ve had to take roughly a £5k pay cut. I’ve moved sectors, I’m not a pro in the area so I fully expected this.

It’s not been too bad getting used to a lower salary. I wasn’t in my old role long enough to get comfortable with the amount I was earning and I saved a lot of it. I think the only annoying thing about this is just how much spare cash I had to save, to enjoy, to do fun things with. I’m very lucky that I don’t feel too affected by my Publishing Assistant wage as it’s so similar to a lot of the library jobs I’ve had previously. Also linking back to the issues I faced with progressing at universities I know there’s a number of opportunities to progress where I am now in both position and salary.

Additionally, even though I’ve not been in this job that long I can say that the money hasn’t been so bad when compared to the fact I really enjoy my job now, I have a fantastic and supportive line manager (truly the best I have had in a very long time) and I enjoy working with my colleagues, our company promotes flexible working so that’s been great, the office where I work is lovely and we get quite a few perks and benefits. There’s so many pros compared to my last job and other’s I’ve had. I feel very very lucky to have gotten this job.

You’ve maybe got to this part of the blog post and have either forgotten about my Kylo Ren intro or been like “What has Kylo Ren got to do with any of this?!”

Well I was actually a bit worried to join an academic publisher. I have a lot of friends and connections in the library world and I really did think the community would disown me! If you’re involved with either sector you’ll be aware of the, often, tense relationship between libraries and academic publishers. I’m not going to cover that here, but all I can say is the library folk I have spoken to about this have been very interested, receptive and lovely about it. So thanks for not banishing me library world! The people I have spoken to about my issues in libraries are usually facing the same ones. Lack of progression, toxic work environments, etc… so they get it.

Lets see what this new job brings!

4 thoughts on “Joining the “dark” side

  1. Congratulations on the new role. Glad you are enjoying it. I really miss my drive to work, getting the train sucks! I’d love to hear a little more about the application and interview process.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Amy! I can definitely tell you more about the application and interview. Let me know what ever way is best to contact you (or we can DM on Twitter?) I almost feel like there’s not much to tell! But can answer any questions:)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Twitter DMs is probably the best – thanks 🙂 The thought of an interview with an publisher just seems a little scary to me. I guess it’s with it being a commercial role which seems quite unfamiliar now I’ve been in libraries over 5 years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was really worried too, but honestly it felt better than a lot of university interviews I had! There were some questions I wasn’t entirely prepared for (but with hindsight should have been!) but it was just kind of a regular interview!


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