It has been just over a year since I began my first professional library job, and it has been a wonderful year for me professional and personally. I have stretched and molded and am still settling in to my own professional identity, but it feels so good to be in a place where I feel like I can do those things, and be supported by my coworkers to explore, engage, and learn. As I think back over the last year, there are a few things that stand out as experiences that will help me continue to shape myself and my career.
The first experience that stands out is attending and presenting at conferences. I attended 3 conferences, all different sizes and purposes. The first was ALA Annual in Las Vegas (VEGAS!). It was only my second year attending ALA, and my first trip to Vegas. It was great for all the right reasons: big presentations, small networking opportunities, and social gatherings. It was wonderful to attend the conference as a librarian and have this secret feeling that I was part of “the club.” I could introduce myself and my job, talk with others who are just as nerdy and excited as I am about teaching and libraries. I also got to meet Lois Lowry and have her sign my book. It. Was. Awesome. The one drawback to something like ALA is that the sheer size makes it easy to feel like you never have a real, deep connection with what’s going on.
My second conference experience was a smaller gathering, the Oregon and Washington chapters of ACRL’s combined conference. For two days, I saw the same people, we ate meals together and played games together, and I felt, again, like I was finally part of a group. This was also the first presentation I did as a librarian (I have presented a paper I’d written before, at a small, regional literature conference). I honestly did not believe that my proposal would be accepted, but I submitted it anyway. I take almost any opportunity that comes my way to submit presentation and poster proposal. The worst they’re going to say is no, and I get the experience of putting together abstracts, titles, etc., that could compel someone to say, “I’d like to hear more about that!” So I did a presentation about using concept maps in library instruction (PDF of the slides available on my Portfolio page). It was a 2-minute “shock talk” but I heard good comments afterward, and it gave me a little boost of confidence to keep going.
The final conference I attended was a one-day local conference on information literacy. Smaller still than the last, all the attendees could fit in one room. I did not present at this one, but again, had great conversations with people from all different backgrounds, giving me a lot of food for thought to take home with me.
All three of these experiences were valuable for me for various reasons. I’m glad I was able to experience three very unique conference formats, big (HUGE), medium, and small. I’ve met some wonderful colleagues, been challenged as a professional, and learned what makes a compelling talk, poster, small group discussion topic, etc., to apply to my own proposals.
The second experience was writing my first paper for publication. And I can say it went really well, as it has been accepted for publication in the fall. I was invited by one of my colleagues to collaborate on writing a paper about an assessment project he had worked on during a sabbatical. I was happy to assist in any way. It feels amazing to know something I helped write is going to be published, and the experience of going through the research, writing, and now revising process is so, so great. I am working on some outlines for potential papers now, and I feel like I am better prepared to tackle this, having had a great guide through my first experience.
The final experience is more personal, and that is the decision to move somewhere completely new. I am the definition of an introvert. So new situations, people, and places riddle me with anxiety. While I have worked hard to overcome my natural tendencies to avoid crowds and new situations, I am still a work in progress. Part of my job now is to be a liaison and outreach to various campus groups. That’s hard when your natural reaction to meeting new people is to not. And small talk? Nope. Not even. But moving to a town where I literally only knew the one person who was coming with me (the hubs), and had met, once, a few of my future colleagues while visiting for my interview, has presented me with a challenge. I had to re-establish relationships I took for granted (like a hair stylist, a dentist, a doctor), and I had to learn how to forge friendships (this is my biggest struggle, TBH). I am still learning how to do those things. How? I pay attention to the questions other people ask me or others when they’re just meeting. I default to things I can (and like to) talk about: my job, the library, the local farmers’ market, the weather. I have improved over the last year, and am more comfortable sitting down and talking to a complete stranger, but I still have a tendency to carry a book with me everywhere, in case I need something to occupy my untalkative self.
There are more, smaller experiences that have been wonderful this past year: supportive colleagues, finally feeling like I have found my fit in librarianship, Captain America 2 and Mockingjay Part 1 coming out, having my husband and dog with me under one roof again, and on and on. It’s been a good year. Here’s to the second year being even better.