from there to here

Five years ago I made the very difficult decision to give up my career as a newspaper designer and find a new direction in life. I was hoping to find something that allowed me to do the same things I loved about working in journalism: giving people the information they needed. But I needed a career that brought less stress in my life.

So I became a librarian. A law librarian at that.

I know. Perhaps not the smartest option.

Law firms have an urgency I’ve not seen in any other type of librarianship. Attorneys always need information yesterday. Books are ordered and shipped overnight more often than not. A brief has to be filed TODAY. Admittedly, the stress level is still pretty high.

But one element I missed a lot when I worked in newspaper was the face-to-face experience. I never knew how my work was impacting others. We live in an instant gratification society, and I am no different than anyone else. I want to know that what I’m doing is useful and helpful to people.

Newspaper has a delayed impact. You create something and put it to bed on an 11pm deadline. And you don’t get to see the fruit of your efforts until it hits the presses the next morning. Even then, you don’t have any real understanding that what you produced was helpful. You might get an angry email from a reader or nasty voicemail from your editor when you did something wrong. However, positive feedback is rare. Few people consider writing to let you know a chart or map you created was useful to them. So you end up working in a bubble and assuming that if no one complains, you must be doing something right.

But for me that was not enough. I wanted the satisfaction of knowing that what I was doing was actually helpful. Working as a librarian allows me to do this. I get to do a reference interview (even if it’s not in person, I can interact with attorneys or paralegals via email or phone). Once I determine a person’s needs I can send him the information or direct him to the resource so he can do the research himself. I can even follow up to determine if he’s satisfied with the results. It allows for constant personal evaluation, which always makes for a better librarian. I’m allowed to tweak my process as I go along to fit the needs of my users.

So while I swapped stressful job for (possibly) more stressful job, I am allotted the real time opportunity to determine that what I’m doing is beneficial.

And that’s what it’s all about for me.

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About indie librarian

a recently MLS librarian's observations
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