by Laura Woods, Europe Chapter, Legal and Leadership & Management Divisions
I’m still a fairly new librarian, but thinking about how much I’ve learned just over the past four years makes my head spin! I would never have guessed, when I applied for my first library job, just what a fast-moving career I was entering. To me, being Future Ready means continually learning and adapting to new challenges.
If you’re at the start of your career, and the above sounds like a daunting prospect, here’s a few things I’ve learned that I wish I’d known when I was starting out:
1. Develop a network
Librarians are helpful people, so get to know as many as you can! Have a look for SLA chapters in your area, and just turn up and start talking to people. If there’s not much local to you, or if you’re more comfortable chatting online, try joining an online network like LISNPN (the LIS New Professionals Network) to get to know other people in the same position as you. Whether you do it online or off, building a network of fellow information professionals gives you an invaluable source of support, advice, and friendship. I’m a natural introvert with a dislike of asking people for help, so when I started off as a librarian my instinct was to keep my head down and get on with things by myself. It wasn’t until I started getting to know people within SLA and other professional bodies, and getting involved with committee work that meant I had to ask other people for help and advice, that I realised that a) no one was going to think less of me for needing help; and b) sometimes other people needed my help too! Developing a network is about building reciprocal relationships, and offering help as well as asking for it. It’s easy to assume that as a new professional you have nothing useful to offer those with more experience, but you will have skills and insights that other people lack – even if you don’t know it yet!
2. Say yes to everything you can
There are tons of awards and sponsorships available for LIS students and new professionals. I first became involved with SLA when I received an Early Career Conference Award from SLA Europe, co-sponsored by the Leadership and Management Division. However, I very nearly didn’t apply for that award – mainly because I thought that there would be so much competition, I wouldn’t stand a chance! I applied anyway, on the basis that it was worth a try, and was thrilled when I won. The lesson I learned from that was never to rule myself out of anything. Sure, there was a lot of competition, but if I hadn’t applied, I definitely wouldn’t have won. I’ve tried to carry that over into every other area of my professional life: I never say no to something, and thus count myself out of the running, unless I have a very good reason for not saying yes.
3. Everything is worth learning about
When I was at library school, there was a module on libraries in different sectors. Each week, a guest speaker from a different sector would come in to talk about their job and opportunities in their sector. I was pretty certain at that point that I wanted to work in law libraries, so while I was keen to attend the week a law firm librarian was the guest speaker, I didn’t have much enthusiasm for the rest of the module. However, after attending the first couple of lectures and realising that there were so many career paths in librarianship that I’d never even heard of, let alone considered, I was so glad to have the opportunity to hear from and talk to people in those many and varied jobs. As it turns out, I have stayed in law libraries since graduating; however, I still take every opportunity I can to learn about aspects of librarianship that have nothing to do with my current role. I take the view that even if I do stay in law libraries for the rest of my career, having a broader view of the profession as a whole, the issues librarians in other sectors face and how they deal with them, can only improve my own knowledge and strategic thinking, and thus improve my future readiness.
Those are just a few ways I’ve learned to be future ready; what would you add?
Laura Woods graduated from City University London with an MSc in Library and Information Studies in January 2010, and is currently working as an Information Services Adviser at Addleshaw Goddard LLP. She has been involved with SLA Europe since winning one of the Early Career Conference Awards in 2009, and attending the 2009 Annual Conference in Washington DC. Laura blogs about her professional development activities at Organising Chaos, and you can find her on Twitter as @WoodsieGirl. She is interested in networking with her peers, particularly fellow new professionals, and in innovative ways to promote library services and the information profession.