Libraries, the universe and everything

February 1, 2016, 13:13
Filed under: Uncategorized

As I may already have mentioned around here, 2016 is my year as President of SLA New York. Even now, one month in (and following an entire year as President-Elect), I’m still somewhat overwhelmed, both by the responsibility and the by honour of it all. Me, a leader, in New York – surely that’s impossible? My impostor syndrome is being well-and-truly stomped on, however – despite what I might try to convince myself to the contrary, the fact of the matter is that I was asked to take on the position and I am going to do my absolute best to live up to it. To be perfectly honest, I’m excited about the challenge. Late last year I was asked about my presidential theme for the year, and I replied rather flippantly that this would be “your future is a moving target” (riffing off my predecessor’s theme “your future is now”). Various colleagues were kind enough to see this as amusing, or even appropriate, rather than merely silly, and I was asked to write something about it for the chapter e-magazine, B2E.

You can read my piece on the B2E site (and for site-statistical purposes I should probably have stopped there), but for ease of reference I’ve also copied the text below.

Rock Art @ Sevilla Rock Art Trail, South Africa

Can you say for sure that you know exactly what this year will hold for you? I know I can’t. Even the best-laid plans can go awry, and unexpected obstacles lurk behind every corner. Change doesn’t have to be bad, of course, so please don’t think me unduly pessimistic, although even good change can bring adjustments of its own. How about if everything stays on track and you successfully meet your goals – what then? A new set of goals of course, and the target moves once again.

Speaking personally for a moment, the only thing I know for sure about this year is that change and uncertainty are coming my way. Whether this will be good or bad remains to be seen, and although I can anticipate at least some of the potential disruptions to my status quo, there isn’t much I can do to prepare for them. In many ways I’m not actually too concerned, I’ve never been the sort to plan too far ahead, but I must admit to feeling unsettled by having even less of a clear target than usual.

So what is the point of all this? And, more importantly, how is this relevant to SLA NY? I strongly believe that a continued investment in myself as an information professional is my most effective insurance against the challenges ahead. I may not be able to predict how this chapter of my life will unfold, but I can make sure that I am prepared to bring my best self to meet it.

In the years since I joined SLA, I’ve gained tremendous value from the knowledge I’ve taken away from educational events, from the network I’ve built through attending social occasions, and from the leadership skills I’ve gained by volunteering on committees and the chapter board. Had I not chosen to do any of this I would obviously have had much more free time, and yes, more disposable income too, but I would be in a much more precarious position as a result. During my time in the workplace, I’ve changed jobs for all kinds of reasons, watched companies rise and fall, seen friends and colleagues get laid off, and it is crystal clear to me that preparation is the key to bouncing back from whatever life has to throw at you.

I was always mildly envious of those rock star librarians – you know, the ones who are always getting invited to speak at events, who land the dream jobs without breaking a sweat, who effortlessly talk themselves into sweet new projects year after year – until I realized that this was just as much about the groundwork they put in as it is their natural charisma (although of course that never hurts). We all have the potential to succeed, provided that we put in the time and effort needed to keep up to date with developments in our field, to attend events and maintain our networks, and to gain applicable skills through volunteer work.

Sure, it’s a big commitment, but SLA NY is here to help! Each year, the Board and committees work really hard to put together a wide range of opportunities for our members to learn, to network and to grow. We are never more delighted than when we hear that somebody got a great new job because of something they learned, or someone they met, at one of our events. We can’t predict your future, but we can help you prepare to meet whatever the future holds. You may not be able to stop the target from moving, but the way you approach it is entirely up to you – do you chase it down with a quiver full of arrows, or are you defeated by a limp bowstring?



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