Are there such things as library mentors?

At present I’m in like with my job, everything is going well and I’m enjoying the work that I have to do. However, I know that a time will come where I would like to move on. But I have no idea how to get from my current position to where I would ultimately like to go. But, I would really like to change that.

So my question is, are there such things as library mentors?

I would really love if I could find someone who could guide me in my career and let me know what I need to do in order to advance in the direction I would like to go.

The obvious choice would be to speak to my manager however, while she has been in the industry for a lengthy amount of time from what I can see her focus is very local and she does not really engage with the wider community like I would like to. Also, in the past people have only stayed in the role short term so I’ve got the impression that if I mention moving on she will think I have itchy feet and become concerned that I am thinking about leaving.

Once this is out, my thinking takes me to LIANZA. Do they have a mentor type programme?

The answer to this is yes and here is a link to it: http://www.lianza.org.nz/professional-registration/lianza-mentoring-scheme

I love that they do this. However, my only problem is you need to be professional registered and I have not completed my MLIS so therefore can’t. This I could be wrong about though because as I was filling out the, can I register type questionnaire it told me this:

LIANZA

But to be honest, I don’t know if I want to professionally register yet. I know I do one day but at the moment I’m just dipping my toes in the water with LIANZA. I don’t know if I’m ready for this type of commitment.

So what am I do to?

Katniss

I think I may just email the person who is in the job I would ultimately like and ask them how they got to be where they are. I don’t know if this is a good idea, if the person will even get back to me or if this is beneficial. But, I’ve got to try because at this point I don’t know the path I need to take.

I would really appreciate your advice, stories and comments about this so either do this below or email us at theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz

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Becoming a Manager……

So let me tell you about my experience of being promoted to a management position.

Just to be clear I have been manager to a small number of staff for over a year and still don’t feel confident in my abilities to inspire or lead.

The particular position I am in was created after a restructure, I won’t discuss the merits or disappointments of the restructure as that deserves a separate blog!

I had no previous management experience and was super excited to be given the opportunity to develop new skills and learn from experienced managers.  How wrong I was to be excited.  The only training or development I have had has been received from my direct manager who has what I would call an interesting management style.  I hoped for mentoring to develop my own style however I quickly learned what all middle level managers know to be true – you are there solely as a buffer between the plebs and the patricians.

Going into this I had a genuine desire to be a competent and respected manager.  Now all I require of my staff is that they don’t do anything to get noticed by the higher ups.  Being noticed is a very bad thing.

I’m not really sure what I’m actually allowed to do (and I have asked, believe me!) and every suggestion I’ve ever made for improvements or trying something new has been met with swift and brutal denial.

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And the one lesson I have learned from this experience; upper level managers don’t want you to question the status quo.

So far this is just a reflection of the day to day reality of my job, the special hatred of my management position is the dreaded performance review period.  Which I am so lucky to have three times a year plus monthly meetings with each of my staff.  How can I help my staff to achieve their goals if I struggle to understand what is expected of me?

I want to be able to say yes absolutely you can do that instead of oh let me just check with my manager and get back to you, maybe in about a month if you’re lucky.

I hope that there are people working in Libraries out there that have had a fantastic promotion experience with support and mentoring that meant they were able to grow into the type of manager that the Library industry desperately needs. Managers who are creative and forward thinking who want to encourage and inspire those who are interested in Libraries as a career.

Disappointment

The Merriam-Webster definition of “disappoint” is “to make (someone) unhappy by not being as good as expected or by not doing something that was hoped for or expected”.

This perfectly describes my experiences in the library environment.  I started full of vim and vigor at a small branch library where I became disillusioned with the institution after two restructures in five years.

From here I moved into a much larger organisation where I discovered a rigid structure that felt impossible to navigate.

I am now entering my fifth year in this organisation and I have come to the end of my library adventure.  I continue to work here however I now am on the hunt for anything to take me away from what has become an endless drudge.

How did I come to this point you may ask.  Through a combination of the worst factors of incompetent bureaucracy and managerial indifference.

I am aware that no job is perfect and that fighting against every single decision that management makes is futile and frustrating.  Every employee must pick their battles otherwise you will burnout in any job.

I used to be a conscientious employee, proud to do a good job, now I have become a warm body in the workplace that does not give a fuck about clients or colleagues.  I have gradually come to this place after receiving no positive feedback from my manager and getting a completely average performance appraisal every year and seeing colleagues who were terrible at their job never suffer consequences for their poor performance.

I want to be that positive person again who is challenged by their job and is trusted to show good judgement when making a decision.  In other words I want to be a person again.

My first blog post

How do I begin to explain to people what my job is like?

I’m whimsical at times and tend to have my head in the clouds (but not the same goddamn cloud that our goddamn email server is now in).

I’d like to work in an old, dusty library with high shelves and weathered books; a place full of shadows.

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Ummmm.  Well, yes.  Like in Doctor Who.  But without the deadly shadows.

Not all libraries are how one imagines them to be.  They are much more diverse, much more ridiculous, and much less efficient or quiet than I’d supposed.

I often wish some TV crew would come here and make a fly-on-the-wall doco.  It would be ratings gold, I promise.

Just the other day I had a “do you remember when I first started work here and it was stupid?” moment with a colleague.  Haha, oh yes, he remembered.  And did he remember how they forgot to train me?  Or give me access to any of the things I needed access to?

This colleague had to print off overdue reminder notices for me to put in envelopes so I’d have something to do.  On a good day, I managed to stretch that task out for half an hour.

“Do you have access to the shared inbox’s?  The library-issues inbox?”  He asked me.

“Library-issues inbox?” I rolled the words off my tongue like it was a wondrous foreign expression.

That’s how we know people haven’t been trained.  You glance across the room and see them looking confused, otherwise blank-faced, and not doing anything but repeating wtf wtf wtf over and over in their minds.

I spent weeks staring at my computer.  I was bemused.  I’d moved to a city where I knew no-one.  My workplace more or less ignored me.  I didn’t exist anymore.  I had become a part of the ennui that I can only assume office work is made of.

I explored the website.  I read all of the (out of date) manuals.  I got given one desk shift each day, and wished for more.  I seldom saw my managers.  They were in perpetual meetings or on courses.

Perhaps I was trapped in a dream.  The sort of dream that refuses to make up facts or gaps in your knowledge, blocking you from entering certain places or doing things.

I don’t do anything all day, I wrote to my parents, but I’m not afraid of being fired because I don’t think they know I exist.

At least they’d put me on the payroll.  If this was going to be a dreamworld with logical rules, then I’d still need money to get by.

And why didn’t I be more proactive and ask what my role was?  If this ever happened to  me again, I would.  But I was more shy back then, very much thrown by the place, and I seldom saw the people who managed me.

It was dull and strange, but it didn’t matter.  I began to feel less and less real.  Sunday shifts were beautiful and purposefully empty.  I didn’t have to do anything but exist.  I didn’t know it then, but I was supposed to be paid time and a half.  When my colleagues and I did accidentally uncover this and took it to the Human Resources department, it was over a grand worth of back pay.

So I experienced a personal tragedy five months later.  The pain of this flung me out of the sepia world and I was suddenly visible to everyone in violent, garish Technicolor.  Something in me snapped and I didn’t even hear it snap.

I’m not ‘good’ anymore.  I narrate sardonically from the wings as a farcical play carries on around me.

My blog posts will mostly be vistas of library life.  Little snapshots and anecdotes that I hope will help bring to life this place for you – as though you worked here yourself.

So, without further ado…

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