The NEWLIB-L list also had a little flurry of discussion recently about library internships, and a couple of people mentioned their success in simply approaching libraries at which they were interested in interning. (This, of course, often works better at smaller, less bureaucratic institutions — and when a prospective intern has a very specific picture of what they can offer an organization, what projects they could work on, and what they want to accomplish.)
This is a profession in which we do have the power to make things happen — and in which we need to take charge of our own careers and our own development from the very beginning. Too many of us wait for our libraries to send us to conferences, to give us the skills and knowledge we need to advance, when in many cases we’re lucky if our libraries are proactive enough to even give us the skills and knowledge we need for our current jobs. We can’t sit back and assume that good things will happen and that our career paths will plot themselves out in a nice linear fashion for us.
G. Kim Dority writes about this in Rethinking Information Work, which is a good read for both new professionals and mid-career librarians figuring out what to do next. But, as a starting point, we need to take some of the energy we devote to promoting our institutions and devote it to promoting ourselves. Play the “where do you see yourself in five years” interview game — but this time, answer honestly, since you’re talking to yourself. Make a mental picture, whether you see yourself in management, whether you see yourself publishing a book, whether you see yourself moving to a different field.
Now, what do you need to get there? What steps can you take? What classes do you need to attend? How many article proposals do you need to send out this year? What blogs should you read? What conferences do you want to attend? Can you find grants or travel reimbursement to apply for? Do you have online/free options? Do you need to build up funds to tide you over while you strike out on your own? Figure out what you need to do, and break it into logical steps. Keep your eye out for opportunities that can help you reach your goals — look for calls for contributors, find announcements of online courses, be alert for posts or discussions with others who have similar goals.
Being proactive is rewarding both personally and professionally, so think about how you can move forward. You don’t have to create an online course, you don’t have to create a blog, you don’t have to find yourself an internship — but it will pay off if you take the time to think about what step is right for you to take next.