I have wanted to write this post or a variation of it for the last 2 years but it isn’t easy to write. Even now it will probably take me a few days before this is published. To get it right. To put it in such a way that blame isn’t laid on anyone. Because that isn’t why I am writing this. Other people that have been involved in this situation may have different views and opinions. These are my own.
I work for a government department. I used to work in a library. Changes in government resulted in changes in our library. The physical part was taken away in 2012/13. A library taking up roughly a third of a floor in our building with 6.5 FTE’s reduced over a relatively short period of time down to 3.5 FTE’s, a cubicle of 4 desks in an open plan office but thankfully still a successful electronic library to build, manage and support along with a few other core library services.
Late 2013/early 2014 saw even more changes, when it was decided to go out to tender for the content, hosting, support and management of our electronic library (under the banner of contestability). Eventually 3.5 FTE’s became 2 (and then 1 for a period of time, more on this later), and now back to 2.
So what do you do when the electronic library you used to manage, the website you redeveloped and used to maintain, the clients you used to support and the systems you use to troubleshoot are all given to someone else to manage? You look around for another job.
I was lucky enough to get an 11 month temporary contract at a university doing similar things to what I did before with our electronic library but only with different systems. This was a great opportunity to work in an academic library as I had only ever worked in special libraries. I learnt so much about the workings of an academic library and I loved it. But it came to an end. The domino effect of a maternity leave replacement secondment falling back into place.
So I returned to mpow. I had taken leave without pay for the contract as it was only temporary. During my time away no one had replaced me. There was no need. What work would they have done? My desk had been given to somebody else. And before my return it was suggested I take some leave so that they could move that person to a new desk and decide what work I would do on my return. This idea irritated me at first but the leave was a welcome break as I had very little time off during the previous 18 months.
Since my return I have done bits and pieces here and there to help the unit we are a part of and the wider branch, (mail outs, collating of procedures) but certainly no fulfilling library work in any great quantity. I have also been doing some web publishing for the branch which I have enjoyed. This has included some clean-up work in response to a wider intranet project by the government department’s web publishing unit and also suggested changes made by me in order to have something to do. But I am not rushed off my feet, the days tend to drag and you know you have hit a low point when you go to the toilet just for something to do.
So I wait for a suitable library job to come along in a limited SE Qld market (moving interstate with my family is not a possibility). Sometimes it doesn’t help that I have stayed in the same library field (specials) and specialty (library systems and electronic resources) for over 10 years?
Over the past few months several thoughts have invaded my head:
Am I done with libraries? Is it time to get a job outside of the industry?
Do I progress a career in the web usability field with the degree in information architecture I obtained to complement my work in the library technology space?
How do I achieve this? I am not very good at self-promotion?
How do I obtain the other coding I skills I am sure I need?
What other learning/ professional development should I do?
Do I really have any skills and knowledge to be able to do anything anymore?
Boredom, stagnation and delusionment definitely lead to self-doubt.
I want to end by saying I have no ill will towards anyone as a result of this situation. The vendor who took over the management of the electronic library is doing a great job. They have been able to make more progress on things like training and marketing than our small team was able to do because of their organisation wide resources.
The library and now the remaining 2 staff are a part of a bigger unit within a branch that has different priorities and focuses than that of a library. It is not to say that we are totally forgotten but on a day to day basis there are usually different priorities that require attention. So things may have turned out different if we were located within a different branch. Or they may not have. If this was private industry I am sure they would have though.