Monday, August 24, 2009

Public vs. Academic

This is a question I've been thinking a lot about recently. As I mentioned, I am in the middle of a massive job search, and a large part of that search is deciding where to apply. I am not tied to any geographic area - and in fact I'm pretty excited by the opportunity to move somewhere new. (I'm the kind of person who loves seeing new places and meeting the people who live there. I like adventure.) In my case, the question is more about what kind of institution I want to work at.

My previous experience is limited to academic libraries. It's what I originally planned to do when I went to library school, and it's even what my concentration was in. I love the challenge of academia (in this case referring to research libraries) - the deep research, the esoteric topics, the strange collections. That's the academic culture I came from. I love to teach, and in fact considered becoming a teacher for quite some time. That love of teaching is the reason why I think working in a community college would be particularly interesting. All of the CC librarians I've met have been involved closely with teaching students and hands on services. That appeals to the people person in me. Heck, I've even applied to a few school library positions. I really enjoy working with kids and like I said, I did consider becoming a teacher for quite a while.

But I've applied to a number of public library jobs (and am interviewing for some as well). A major reason why I love public libraries is because they provide services to everyone, regardless of background, age, and income. I'm passionate about freedom of information - it's what makes our country great. And while public library work can be more challenging (you deal with people who have nowhere else to go, or who have personal problems), it can also be incredibly rewarding. And I would get to do programming! I love being crafty and planning things, so I would have so much fun planning different programs for library patrons.

I find my own flexibility in what type of librarian I want to be rather interesting because many of my classmates had a very specific place and/or type of position they want. I think part of it is my personality - I'm flexible and love challenges, and each one of these positions offers a different type of challenge. And part of it is me being realistic. I have applied for more jobs than any of my classmates (somewhere approaching a hundred at this point...maybe over?...I've lost count). I'm fully aware of the effect of the economy on libraries across the country, and I know that many of the places I'm applying are possibly in the middle of a hiring freeze, even though they are publicizing openings. I come to the profession with a fair bit of part time experience (five years), but without any real professional experience. (I went to graduate school directly after I finished my B.A. - slightly unusual, but I knew this was what I wanted to do.) I'm competing with people who have significantly more experience, so I have to be flexible regarding where I work.

In the end, I know that I will be happy no matter where I end up. I'm so lucky to be receiving the interviews I am at some really incredible institutions (public and academic). And I'm thankful that a number of institutions are giving me a chance - even without an extensive professional background.

No comments: