Further Questions: How Can Someone on an Extended Leave of Absence Stay Professionally Relevant?

This week we have a new set of reader questions. This person is preparing to leave work for an extended period of time, due to the incipient arrival of twin babies. We’re going to talk about leaves of absence for the next three weeks – I’ll be asking questions of people who hire librarians, and then I’m going to also run companion posts with people who have returned to work after an extended leave. This week’s question is: 

What do you recommend that a person on an extended leave of absence do in order to stay professionally relevant?

Petra Mauerhoff

We had a staff member from our cataloguing department start an extended leave (maternity leave) at the beginning of this year and before she left she expressed concern about “staying in the loop”, professionally as well as being connected to our organization. Her supervisor gave her homework to do while she is on leave (exercises from the cataloguing course) and will invite her to participate in any professional development activities we might be offering during the year. Of course her participation will be voluntary, but it will be a great opportunity for her to stay connected to the profession and continue her connection to staff as well.
I recommend staff who are planning a leave speak to their supervisors about what the expectations are and what the supervisor would recommend in order to stay professionally connected and relevant while away from their job.
- Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
J. McRee Elrod
Read the appropriate e-lists, e.g., cataloguers should read Autocat, RDA-L, and Bibframe
- J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Marleah Augustine

This question is close to home, because I recently took maternity leave. I expected to be gone during the months of August and September, planning to take 6 weeks off and then work the next 2 weeks on half-time basis, using vacation time as needed (our policy follows FMLA, and employees are expected to use their sick and vacation time). However, my daughter arrived 8 weeks early, so I ended up being gone in June and July instead. This threw quite a monkey wrench into my work plans, as the day I gave birth was the same day that I had planned to orient my assistant department head to my files and where everything was.

My recommendation to others is, if you are taking an extended leave of absence from a job that you currently hold and will be holding upon your return, stay in touch with those folks that you work with. Make yourself available via email or phone if possible. Even if you aren’t doing the actual work, just staying in touch and keeping up with issues that happen means that you will have less catching up to do when you do return.

If you are working with your supervisor to try to find the best solution for both you and your work, and you have an idea about the time off that you want, just ask. A friend of mine was unsure about whether she was going to go back to work after the birth of her daughter, and she told her supervisor that. Her supervisor worked with her and just hired someone on an interim basis so that my friend could have a year off and her position would be held in the event that she came back to work. You never know unless you ask!

If you are between jobs but are taking an extended leave of absence, keep up with professional developments as much as you can. Read blogs, keep browsing Library Journal.

All of this being said — take time for yourself and focus on the reason you are taking that extended leave in the first place. If you are on sabbatical to work on a dissertation, do that work first before you check in with your job. If you have a baby, that is your first priority and no one should discourage you from recognizing that.

- Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Marge Loch-Wouters

Keep up on blogs, twitter feeds and, if you don’t already, ask to have remote access to your institutions email system.  Ask a willing colleague to forward meeting notes or policy changes or news that are posted on internal communication networks – wikis; blogs; etc – just so you stay slightly in the loop. Ten-twenty minutes a day spent perusing what’s up will make it feel like you are aware of what’s happening without needing to stress over it. And again, if you have a willing colleague who would drop off  professional print journals after they’ve been routed to the rest of the staff so you can keep up (kind of like homework being dropped off!), that is a way to stay connected.
- Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
I really believe that whenever possible, the person on leave stay in touch with their library, either through listservs and other email methods, occasional phone conversations, conference calls for committees or other pertinent professional events that the person would have attended or in which they would have been involved.    Offer to have those at work call you at home when something of importance is about to happen–more of an FYI or courtesy than actually asking for input or opinions.  I say all of  this, because it the person is truly planning to return to their jobs, it is best to keep abreast of what is going on, rather than have to play major catch up upon one’s return.    The person should also read the literature also, just to make sure that you don’t completely remove yourself from the profession in your absence.  ALA members receive American Libraries, and others may subscribe to that or Library Journal, etc.  And of course there is the web.
Some colleges or universities may frown upon, or just plain not allow active participation in committee work or conference calling.  If that is the case, then I would recommend doing the other things I mentioned above–staying abreast of things on listservs, webpages, occasional phone calls to friends/colleagues just be kept up to speed.  Some people like to just “unplug” when they are away from their jobs, but if one is only on leave, and plans to return at some point, I don’t think that is a good idea for more than a couple of weeks.  In addition to the person on leave remaining informed, it is good for he/she to be remembered by colleagues, not out of sight out of mind.
- Sharon Britton, Library Director, BGSU – Firelands
Samantha Thompson-FranklinI have some personal experience from 2 short term maternity leaves. So here are a few suggestions that I have:
*Keep up as best as you can with the professional literature, either via online or in print publications
*Become involved or stay involved in any professional association committees at the local or national level
*Take advantage of any professional development opportunities, either face-to-face in your local area or online through webinars
*Continue to keep in touch and network with colleagues
*Look for opportunities to contribute through writing for a blog or a professional publication, if that’s of interest to youSome of these suggestions will depend upon how much time and resources/funding you have available to you, but they should help to you keep you involved and stay professional relevant.

- Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight. 

If you’re interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

And thanks to YOU for reading! 

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer, by your comments.

*Edited 2/3/2013 to add in answer by Samantha Thompson-Franklin

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Filed under Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Extended Leaves of Absence, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Topical Series

2 responses to “Further Questions: How Can Someone on an Extended Leave of Absence Stay Professionally Relevant?

  1. Pingback: Further Questions: How Can Someone on an Extended Leave of Absence Stay Professionally Relevant? | Hiring Librarians

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