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One year on

On June 15 of last year, I left the University of Arizona Libraries for the last time, as I left there for the new job at Georgia State. Nearly a year after that, I’ve had time to reflect on why I left – they recently posted an open position on the Instruction Services Team, and that’s had me thinking about the library.

My friends know that I struggled with the culture of the UA Libraries – for me, it wasn’t a good fit, and at times I admit that I’ve wanted to write that all off as their fault. Then again, I did have a full day interview back in 2007, and I had the opportunity to evaluate whether it was the right place for me.  I didn’t, at the time, know what questions to ask to help me get at whether the culture was right. And admittedly, even had I asked those questions, I might still have been blinded by the salary difference between there and my previous workplace. And so I didn’t ask the questions I needed to ask and ended up in a place that wasn’t right for me.

But distance brings perspective. And in that perspective I can now see just how much I gained being there during those three years. Yes, I learned a lot about the kind of library environment that doesn’t work for me, but I also learned a lot about working with a very wide range of people, with hugely variations in communication styles, work styles, all of that. I learned a lot about looking at the bigger picture of the organization: it can’t be just about MY job – it’s about how we work together and juggling priorities and resources.  The library, after all, is a growing organism and an academic library at a public research institutions is also tied closely in with other “ecosystems” – the university, to be sure, but also the political and cultural environment of the state.  The University of Arizona Libraries did teach me to think at a broader level about my role – whether I wanted to learn that or not – and that continues to help me.

I’m not sorry I left. I needed to leave. My first year here at Georgia State has been what I needed it to be, and the second year is shaping up to take me in new directions that are also what I need.  But I don’t regret my time at UofA – or at Youngstown State either. Both of those gave me perspectives and experiences that I still draw on now.



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Over in this FriendFeed thread, Martha points out that there are a number of awesome people at my new place of work. Discussion ensues, with people ultimately acknowledging that there are multiple Libraries of Awesome and to the question of  “I wonder what I & my colleagues can do to help make MPOW work mucho awesome (even more so than it is now). Obviously, there are lots of Librarylands of Awesome already.”

Well, ok then. That’s a BIG question, and I can only answer what mattered for me with my decision to come to Georgia State. While I accepted the offer quickly, there was a long thought process that went into me even applying.  Especially since I swore, when I left Atlanta in 2002, that I would never live in this city again. Apparently “never” is 8 years in my world.

But I wouldn’t have come back now if the job hadn’t been right. So, what told me this was the right place?

  • The conversations during the interview process felt like just that, conversations
  • The information I gathered from the library during the interview came across as accurate – not a picture painted to make things sound good
  • The information I could gather from the library’s website supported what I was being told – at least in the areas I could access
  • The university’s strategic plan and other documents available from the university supported what I wanted to have at the institution I worked for

All of this though, could have been things that I interpreted as I wanted to interpret them. What else stood out?

  • The dean came to my interview presentation, obviously listened and asked questions when I met with her at the end of the day.  I’ve not had that happen at any other interview (though to be fair, at one, I met with the dean prior to my presentation and was asked what I planned to talk about and that framed our conversation, since that dean was unavailable during the presentation)
  • People smiled and seemed happy to be here – this might seem like a small thing, but it very much sets the atmosphere
  • During different interview meetings, people were mentally present and seemed to be listening to what I was saying – I never felt like anyone was just there physically but really focusing on all that they had to get done around this meeting.
  • The  conversations I had with people I knew who worked here – both before I applied and after.
  • The attitude in the library that I picked up on while interviewing. It very much felt like one that was customer/patron/user/whatever name you use focused, where the first question that would be asked of something new was “how does this benefit our users” rather than”how does this benefit us”.
  • The gut feeling that this was a good place to work – all the other stuff comes together to create that gut feeling.

All of these things combined, and perhaps some that I haven’t yet identified came together to have my answer to the offer be yes.  And that yes brought me back to Atlanta – and if I’m being truthful, I’m surprisingly pleased to be back here despite my words 8 years ago.

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Yes, I stole Cliff’s post title but since I get to work with him soon, I figure I’ll go ahead and start steal…er, collaborating without his knowledge now. 😉

As of July 1st, I will be one of the business librarians at Georgia State University Library. I am thoroughly excited about this opportunity along with the opportunity to return to Atlanta. That’s where I was when I decided to go to library school and 8 years later I’m heading back.  Family is nearby (in eastern TN, as well as a few in the Atlanta area) and I’ll get to work with awesome people like Cliff, Jason Puckett and a whole slew of other excellent people.

I’ve been at my current job for almost three years (it would have been 3 years July 2). I’ve learned a lot while I was here and I definitely appreciate the opportunity to have come here from Youngstown State’s Maag Library – another place I learned a lot. It’s time to move on, though, and I am thoroughly excited about this opportunity. I wish I could have started as soon as I accepted it, but silly things like finding a place to live and moving have to come first.

Now the fun begins. 🙂  Anyone know a good property manager/group in Atlanta?

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