Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Career Shift

While I don't regularly update this blog, I thought I should give an update of where I am. Currently, I'm sitting in a beautiful coworking space with my husband, my feet up and a latte at easy reach. Before you get too excited, know that I am nursing my last moments of freedom.

Around July, I experienced some panicky moments where I felt like maybe I wasn't cut out for the library life. But then I recovered. However, in the meantime, I did some serious evaluation of my life, thinking about my kids, my job and my happiness.

Library work makes me happy. But being with my kids and being able to take care of my family also makes me happy. I looked at a few things when I did this internal evaluation:

Of course. This is always a consideration. So, let's do some math: I made $40,000 a year. My drive was 100 miles each day, so I spent about $2500-$3200 a year on gas. I spent $1630 a month on daycare, so another $19,000 a year to keep my kids cared for while I went to work. So, already, I was only bringing home at most $18,000. If you then factor in the number of times I had to pick up dinner or buy fast, expensive food from the grocery store, I am certain I've wasted another good $1000-$2000 a year. My income was not augmenting our lifestyle in any significant way, in the end.

Each morning, I woke up at 5:45, which gave me about ten minutes to get myself ready for the day before I went and assembled breakfast for the kids. My morning was intense, with literally zero minutes for relaxation between 5:45 and when I finally dropped my son off at 7:20. I would then embark on my 45-minute commute. I left work every day at 4:30, arriving home at about 5:15, at which point I would frantically try to assemble dinner before my husband got home with the kids between 5:30-5:45. Then it was a race to eat dinner, get the kids bathed and have a little time to play before bedtime routines started at 7:00. And after they went to bed, my evenings were consumed until usually about 9:00 with cleaning, laundry and preparing for the next day. I was lucky if I had an hour to sit down before I fell asleep at 10. The constant running meant that my only time to do anything of significance was on the weekends, so rather than plan lots of fun and exciting things for our weekends, it was filled with projects that had to be completed, and attempts to entertain the kids while I worked on things.

When it came down to making a decision on what to do, I knew I needed to make a change. And while it broke my heart into many pieces to decide to do it, I knew that leaving work for a while was really the only thing I could do to improve my situation. It's going to mean a small reduction in income, but almost immediately after making the decision, my husband got a raise that almost negates the difference in salary.

So here I sit, on my 14th day since I left work on December 15. And in a few days, my daughter's daycare will end, and I will officially be a Stay-at-Home Mom. Still, I can't bear to leave libraries in total, so I will continue to do book reviews for Reference and User Services Quarterly, and have already told my boss that I'll be happy to come in and volunteer my services when they are needed.

I know library work is where I belong. I look at this as a pause button on my career and not an end to it. Libraries inspire me, and I can't imagine never working in one again. But for now, my kids and my family need me to be there for them in ways I couldn't be while working so much. It's a decision that was so difficult to make but was the right decision for me and my family right now. I look forward to the adventures I'll have at home, and I will be excitedly awaiting the right moment to jump back into the world of library work.

Friday, May 6, 2016

OLA2016 (or, How I Learned Stuff While Tweeting)

(I wrote this post weeks ago, and somehow never took it out of drafts. So, here it is, better late than never!)

I've been a "real" librarian for just over a year. And for a couple months of that year, I was on maternity leave, which is why I didn't attend Oklahoma Library Association conference last year (I think -- all that time period is kind of a haze). So, I was very excited to attend this year, for my very first time. I even missed it as a student, since I was working full time and didn't have the vacation days available for it.

But this year. THIS YEAR. I'm here. And I've loved it. I've been Tweeting like crazy, making librarian friends across Twitter, and finding out all kinds of great things about this library world. I feel invigorated by ideas and excited about what is coming next. I also feel worried for many of our librarians who depend on state funding, since our budget is in the toilet this year. (And next year. And probably every year hereafter until we figure out how not to be so dependent on oil.)

Here, in no particular order, are some things that I've felt were interesting/important or otherwise memorable:
  • Jamie LaRue, keynote speaker and President of the Freedom to Read Foundation made us all think about how we talk about our library. One of my favorite things that he said was that libraries don't write down our own stories, but we spend all of our time buying other people's stories. it's about time we learned to collect stories about our success, so that we can use that information to help increase funding and support of the library.
  • I was reminded, yet again, that for embedding to really work I have to go meet with departments. I have this fear of "inconveniencing" people and taking up their time. But they need library support, and they don't know what they don't know. So, I'm going to have to learn to be a little pushier. I think I'm going to start showing up in people's offices unannounced, and bring them treats and information.
  • LGBTQIA needs are something I want to learn more about, and I attended a session with some librarians who are very good at making that section of our users feel welcomed and understood. This is something I want to see happen at my own institution, and we are currently in the very beginning stages of doing that now.
  • I heard from OU LIS students and the interesting research they are doing in their program. I was especially interested to hear a presentation on social media, and it gave me a few ideas on how to increase our presence.
  • In a presentation from the University of Tulsa staff, I learned about some fascinating collections that are available in their special collections, including enormous photography collections from prolific Tulsa photographers. 
I'm an education freak. (As are many librarians, obviously.) Getting to spend two days hearing from librarians all over the state has been like going to Disney World. I can't imagine what it would be like if I actually got to go to ALA AT DISNEY WORLD. I'd probably have a complete meltdown. Sadly, due to aforementioned budgetary ridiculousness, the only way to do that is if I were to pay my way and take some vacation time. Alas. Maybe someday!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

"Other Duties As Assigned"

We have had a 3D printer in our library since June of last year. We started with an Ultimaker 2, and it was a beauty. It's bright and very exciting-looking. And out of the box, it worked pretty well. I was pleased with the first few projects, and so were our students. 

What I was not prepared for was the popularity of the printer. It took about a month for people to catch on. But then, for the next three months, my queue for printing was always about 5 people long. I created a request form, and started keeping a log when I realized I couldn't just hold everything in my head anymore. 

Then, at the beginning of this semester, we purchased a second 3D printer. After various fits thrown by the Ultimaker at the end of Fall, I felt like I was taking a breath of fresh air when I started printing with the Taz 5

It looks so much more complicated. It feels like it's serious business when you pull it out of the box, but it's actually (in some ways) easier to use than the Ultimaker. And so far, no fits to speak of (other than a couple of prints that inexplicably stopped with no explanation). 

When I started this job as a Reference & Instruction librarian, I thought I would be teaching classes, answering questions, and sitting at my desk a lot. With the addition of our Tech To-Go program and 3D printing to the library, I've added a whole new set of skills to my resume. 

I'm by no means an expert in 3D printing. But I probably know more than a lot of people. And there's so much interest in what they are and what they do, that I even began offering an "Introduction to 3D Printing" seminar once a semester. We only have a few people attend each time, but those people are fascinated from start to finish. They love seeing the printer at work. They ask all kinds of questions, and I even end up learning quite a bit from them on how you can use the 3D printers.

I know at face value, 3D printing may not seem practical. It's expensive, for one. And some people see it only as a glorified toy-maker. But I've seen how our students have responded to it, and it's been amazing. The things they think of and attempt often surprises me. For instance, one student had a simple problem - the handle on his (very old) mini fridge broke. This is a student who is in a heavy equipment maintenance program, so it's not as if he has spent much time learning design or drafting. Earlier in the semester, I showed him the online tool Tinkercad. After a couple of small projects that he had made for fun, he was able to design a brand new handle, up to the perfect specifications for his old fridge. 

In the end, he was able to print a handle for about $7 at the library. To find the right replacement part would have cost him upwards of $50. For that cost, he would have been able to buy an entirely new fridge.

Becoming a 3D Printing hotspot on campus was not something I had anticipated in this project. But it's been delightful seeing how the students use the technology. And I have a feeling this skill will come in very handy as I continue my library career.