Shifting Your Career Trajectory: When You Love Where You Live

First, I didn’t blog like all summer. I’m not really sorry. I had a lovely summer and got some stuff done but I would consider it a sort of slacking off period that my brain really needed. I find this blogging thing really hard to do because I have a lot of ideas about my profession and being in a leadership role in it, academia, the role of gender, but feel a lot of the time completely unqualified to tell anyone how to do it the right way. I mean, who am I?

I. Know.

So, I’m going to commit to blogging every week. I’m going to do this because I like it and because I have things to say. But, I’m also going to do it because it keeps me engaged in my profession a little more and that’s a thing that I struggle with sometimes as an administrator.

(And shut up Impostor Syndrome in my brain. Shut. Up.)

That’s a pretty good segue for today’s topic.

Someone in this profession once told me that you get to love where you live, what you do, or who your with but that you don’t usually have all three.

I have all three.

I bring you this proclamation: It is possible to still grow professionally and be a good librarian and stay in the same place. (Also, this comes from my very academic librarian perspective. I hope it’s still helpful for others.)

Some of you may know this. Heck, some of you probably live this. But I was raised and mentored in academic librarianship believing that you had to move on to move up and that you had to move on to get better.

Today I’m publicly declaring that my love for the place that I live is most likely making me shift my perspective on what a good academic librarian/administrator career would be (for me) and possibly pause or shift my career trajectory. That also means that my current struggle is thinking about ways of advancing and growing in my career even if I stay at the same place. Honestly, I think it’s hard to do. It’s a much easier path to become comfortable and I am terrified of becoming one of those people. It’s even easier for an administrator without the publish or perish hanging over her head and without a lot of extra time (and energy) to put it all out there and be super involved in the profession and committees (I used to do more of this.)

I always thought I would continuously be a move up/move on librarian. I’d do the three-five years at a place and pack it all up and find the next opportunity. I’ve worked (post library school) in three libraries before my current position. I’ve moved on and up in every place. But, I don’t really want to move and I really don’t even want to move up from here. Not now anyway.  I like being in a smaller place where I feel like I make an impact. I like being somewhere where I’m part of a culture shift and changing the place A LOT. I have friends here. I have colleagues that I love working with.

I’ve often been asked by librarians “how many years should I stay in this job?” And I’ve always answered something like “as long as you’re still learning, stay.” Or, maybe, “stay at least until you get tenure.” So, for you newer librarians, my advice is to get as much experience as you can before you hit the top level because it is really helpful to have had a few experiences to pull from as the bosslady.

I am putting this out there now partially to really just be OK with it myself. I feel like I’m sort of letting myself down by saying, “Man, I love this place so much that I don’t want to move on or up again.” I came close to thinking about other opportunities once earlier this year and it caused me to really do some soul searching about what I want out of this career. I am also putting this out there as a way to engage in this conversation of moving around and mobility (which is LOADED with all kinds of privilege and problems.)

Maybe what I want right now is just stability. I want to live in a lovely place where my kids go to wonderful schools. I want to live somewhere nice and affordable that has great restaurants and museums and stuff to do (Hello, baseball!). So, yeah. I feel like we’ve hit the life jackpot in some ways. I’ve come to love Cleveland more than I love my career. (And it’s a pretty awesome career, for sure.) So now I just need to keep making it awesome, but from the same place.

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