Sunday, April 15, 2007

One week down - hopefully many more to go

This job rocks!

After the first week in the new job, I'm really, really excited about it. I got home on Friday and spend about an hour ranting at my partner about how much fun I was having, and how much I was enjoying it.

Which is kind of weird, cos I haven't done much of my job yet.

My job is, in a nutshell, to sell the Library to academics at the University. First random point: it's fascinating how funny librarians are about the concept of selling. They're scared of it - there were various points over the last week when people said things along the lines of "sell - well, not like sell, but, you know what I mean". Librarians are really scared of being seen as ruthless and competative. Ambition seems to be another dirty word in library land - people have been shocked when I've been upfront about being ambitious. These things are normal in other industries (I believe there are even people that specialise in selling - fancy that!) but because we're an industry that has been dominated by public service and by collaboration, we're not quite comfortable with these concepts.

But I don't have a problem with it. You can sell, and market, without losing your soul - it just depends what you're selling and how you're selling it.

Which brings me to the Library I've just joined. I don't have a problem selling the new model they've developed. I think it's reasonable. I know, I know, I've heard mostly from those that created the model, but I'm not unaware of the arguments on the other side (I do have some friends in academia at UNSW) and I think the arguments against this model are unrealistic and at times border on the sentimental.

One of the attitudes I can't stand (because it is so potentially damaging) is the concept that a library or a library service should be kept just because it's nice, or traditional, or for the sake of some nebulous "good". The reason this argument frustrates me so much is because it's dangerous - it leaves the library in a week position, because one day someone is going to come along and demand that the library prove its worth, and if it can't do that - there'll be one less library. I've already averted this situation once. Libraries, despite not being profit centres, aren't charities.

This does relate to my job - give me a moment! See, what they've done is try and assess how effective things like a reference desk really were. And they found that they had a whole bunch of degree-qualified well paid librarians who were answering simple directional questions - "where's the bathroom?" and "where are the journals kept?" It's not hard to see what's wrong with that picture.

Personally, I would find that situation really depressing. There were many times in my old job when I was in the basement, getting really dusty and filthy, hauling boxes and books around, thinking "I did a degree for this?" I want to do difficult work, I want to feel like it was worth the effort.

And it looks like I've hit pay dirt. There are many aspects of this job that I can write about, and will over the next few weeks and months. The big moment will be when I make my first "call" - i.e. have my first meeting with an academic. There are a couple on my (very long) list that I know already, and might start with them, and I'll be sure to write about it when I do. For the moment, this post has gotten awfully long...

Oh, before I go - we've been given our first task, which is to give a presentation to the team on Tuesday as if we were talking to a group of academics - like a roleplaying thing. I'll be talking about ARROW, the University's research repository. I suspect I'll be spending much of tomorrow preparing.


Jo said...

Great blog Alyson. Your new job sounds like a an exciting challenge. Congrats!!

Liz said...

Enjoying reading about your progress and thoughts - hope the preso went well!
And I'm learning more about what our Outreach people are doing too!