Hiatus and comeback!

11 Feb

As my regular readers have noticed, I’ve taken a little hiatus from my blog. This essentially corresponded to the time I left my position as the director of the Tracadie-Sheila Public Library in New Brunswick last September. I was extremely proud of the work I did at the Tracadie-Sheila Public Library and my decision to leave my position was bitter-sweet. On the bitter side, I was leaving an incredible library full of wonderful people to whom I’d grown extremely attached (patrons, staff, volunteers, library board members). I was also sad to leave behind projects that I cared passionately about such as our new library building project and our continuous efforts to create new and rewarding community partnerships. However, on the bright side, my decision to leave was based on a very happy development in my personal life (my engagement) and so part of me was definitely excited to relocate to Toronto.

Since I needed to relocate to Toronto, I got back into the full-swing of applying for library positions. This was a difficult period because I am definitely a perfectionist when it comes to applications and every time that I spent hours toiling over an application only to never even get an interview, it was like I’d lost a small piece of myself. After a few months, people said that it was because I hadn’t yet found the “right job for me”. In the end, this turned out to be true as at the end of August once “the right job for me” was posted it took me only 2 weeks total to send in my application, be contacted for an interview, have an interview, and be offered the position.

I now work for a Francophone school board where I am in charge of the libraries in two schools (a K-6 school and a middle school). This is a fantastic job because I have always been passionate about children’s librarianship. Being in a school library allows me to do story-time, teach information literacy, provide reader advisory and research and order books that kids will get excited to read.

Each Canadian province has different standards for what qualifications are needed for working in school libraries. In Ontario, most school boards have teacher-librarians in their schools; this position requires a teaching degree paired with a few courses in librarianship. When I went for my interview, I was told that my school board has not had teacher-librarians for over a decade, now all of the school libraries are run by library technicians. A part of me has issues with calling myself a library technician even though it is officially my job title. Having obtained a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, I tend to say that I’m a professional librarian who works in a school library (I was told by a friend not to say that I am a School Librarian because technically I’m not). Rather than feel limited by my job title, I use my professional knowledge and skills everyday to strive to ensure that I am creating the most positive library experience possible for these kids. Most of the kids at my schools are from recent immigrant families to Canada. The parents are often struggling to make a life for their family in Toronto and do not have the money to buy books nor do they visit regularly the public library with their children. Consequently, the library experience that I provide for these kids becomes their only exposure to libraries. I am very motivated by my goal to help kids discover a passion for reading that will translate into a life-long pursuit of learning whether they attend post-secondary education or not.

Last week, I attended the Saturday sessions of the OLA (Ontario Library Association) Super Conference in Toronto. This experience was extremely positive and encouraged me to get back into blogging because I realized how much amazing knowledge librarians share when they get together. The biblioblogosphere is an incredible place and I want to get back into the swing of things! (That and my dad kept asking me when I was going to post something new).

I have always been grateful to everyone who comments on my blog posts. So what do you think of the importance of job titles? How would you feel about taking on a non-professional position as long as you got to do something you love?

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6 Responses to “Hiatus and comeback!”

  1. Jen February 11, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    If it was something I really, really loved, then of course! I did leave what became a permanent position as a library technician years ago and I think the main drive was the title – I enjoyed the work and the people.

    Looking back, I probably would still do the same thing because I now know how much more I can do. In an academic environment librarians like to view themselves as equals with faculty; it helps for collaboration. Unfortunately faculty sometimes view librarians as staff, just there to take their requests, so with a “library technician” title, this attitude can be more prevalent. It makes negotiating or making suggestions (say, about library instruction) trickier.
    Ultimately it probably relates back to the institutional culture, and so maybe it’s not really a comment about the title at all….

    • Amanda Halfpenny February 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Jen. I agree with the importance of wanting to be treated as equals. In the past, it seemed that people always gave me the benefit of the doubt that I knew what I was doing when starting a new position. However, when I started my new position in September, I felt like I really had to prove myself. However, when the teachers began to see the quality of the activities that I was providing the students they began to see me and treat me more as an equal

  2. Joe February 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    To do what you love and choose the path-that-has-a-heart is what I believe to be the purpose of life. And the universe conspires with you every time you choose that path. Job titles have the only importance of giving you a position within the strict boundaries of society. And since society’s value of loving what you do isn’t as high as being what you should be as defined by society’s needs, the people who choose love have to be self-sufficients as far as approval and self-confidence. Society won’t give it to them as an entity, but individuals within society will; all our true friends and family. That is the most important. So being a professional serves nothing, a title serves nothing if it’s not a way to do what you love. In fact, it serves only our denial of our fear of not getting the society’s approval we so crave. My advice: go for it, do what you love first and foremost, and the universe will help you along the way. Believe in your dream; no one else will do it for you.

  3. Kathy February 12, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    Reading your blog was like reading my story as well. I left my position as a manager in a public library and switched over to the school system. I absolutely love it but agree that being referred to as a technician is slightly bothersome. The other day, we had a group meeting of all the technicians and someone asked me when I graduated from the Abbott tech program. I replied that I did my Masters at McGill and their response was “oh, you are a real librarian”.
    I try to ignore the title and just give the best programs that I can in the elementary and secondary schools that I am work at.

  4. Cindy Kilpatrick February 13, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    Very interesting discussion. Sadly, there are very few, if any teacher-librarians left in Alberta schools. Most of the library staff in my district are program assistants with a few hours in the library. I am lucky to be full time in mine, but I have no professional or para-professional certification. I have a certificate and 20 years experience. Naturally, the students and staff call me the Librarian, but I have read enough to understand that that is a title that should be reserved for professionals. My job title is ‘library assistant’, a hold-over from when the district libraries were staffed by teacher-librarians with an assistant (which I would happily be) but since I’m on my own I have adopted ‘library manager’.

  5. Meghan February 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    I recently changed job titles (last week!), and will also be taking on a new role in the library where I work. My biggest issue with the idea of the “job title” is that it can be very limiting- they put you in a pigeon-hole, as it were.

    As my previous job was a term, I have been applying for many jobs, only to be told that “well, you’re a cataloguer, and we’re looking for …” because my title was “Cataloguing Librarian”, even though my job also involved significant reference work and many other projects. I’m looking forward to really getting into the new job (“Collections Development and Reference Librarian”), and hope that my new pigeon-hole is bigger and more flexible than the last one!

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