Over at The Liminal Librarian, Rachel has a great post about “Making Our Careers Happen”. She highlights one thing that I really love about being a librarian: we have the power to make things happen in any number of areas. My job has had a remarkable amount of flexibility, letting me get experience in a number of areas: reference desk hours, instruction, systems work, and any number of special projects. Starting next monday, I’ve found a new hat to wear: distance learning.
At UAH we provide library services to Kaplan University, a mostly online school with over 20,000 students (and quickly growing! In 2001 they had just 34). We manage their database subscriptions, provide reference service, set up course reserves, and deliver articles and books to students worldwide. I’ll be stepping in and supervising the department – at first on a short term basis, keeping an eye on how to restructure my role and the whole department in the future. I’m really, really excited about this opportunity! I’ve spent the last two weeks intensively observing and training in the department (causing my online disappearance), and really like what I see. It’s been exhausting, but I still feel genuinely motivated. Distance learning is pretty cutting edge stuff, and the chance to work on emerging services and technologies like this is something I’ve always wanted. On a smaller level, the stories of distance learning students continually amaze me. Today a call came in from a student deployed in Iraq, and I’ve heard about others in the most remote parts of Alaska or central Asia.
I can’t say that I truly made this opportunity happen – to be honest it actually fell in my lap. But I still feel that the skills I’ve cultivated in myself over the years have led to this point like an arrow. Will I stay in distance learning long term? Who knows? But now that I’ve gotten my feet wet in a number of areas, I’m ready to focus in on just one for a bit. I’m nervous, but also excited. And the latter outweighs the former.
With the ability to make our careers happen comes a responsibility to learn to roll with change as it comes – made by us or not. Take the skills learned from change and mash them into your career direction. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned in my year and a half since grad school.