This week we asked people who hire librarians
When is it time to leave your first professional job? Does your library/organization value longevity or variety of experiences more? Can you share a little about your job history (position/length of time) and rationale for changing positions (or not)?
[And just a disclosure from the Further Questions writer, Sarah: this question was not asked because I’m wondering for any personal or professional reason! I peruse job/hiring/workplace/library blogs for ideas for this column and this was a recent topic of discussion on one of them… so I wanted to get the library perspective. I wanted to make that clear if anyone from my workplace happens to read Further Questions.]
I think it’s time to leave if/when you need to grow in the job and there is no room for growth in the job or in the organization. I can’t really say what my organization values, although because we are full faculty, people tend to stay a long time and their job changes rather than leaving. People move around within the organization or we change their job description/title as they grow. I am still at the same library where I had my first professional position. I feel very lucky that whenever I was ready to grow in my position, there was room for me to grow – and sometimes I wasn’t even ready! I went from music/media cataloger to Bibliographic Control Coordinator (kind of Head of Cataloging and Acquisitions?) to Technical Services Coordinator to Associate Dean, all within the same organization. One caveat for doing that – I have retained some of my original responsibilities!
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans
If the job is satisfying, pay is adequate, and one likes the location, I see no reason to change positions just for more variety. In the past, I became restive after five years, but see no reason to leave sooner than that. Short tenure looks more suspicious than long term service.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
I feel like I’m in a unique position answering this question — I’ve just taken a new position and will be leaving my current position in a couple of weeks. I think that over time, you can get comfortable in your job. This is beneficial in some ways, but it can also lead to complacency and a lack of new ideas. This is why continuing education and conference attendance is so important, but it also may mean that it’s time to move on to something more challenging. For some, this may be after two or three years; for others, it may be after five or ten.
My current library very much values longevity — when someone is in a position for a number of years, they have extensive institutional knowledge and can remember why some things have changed and why some things have stayed the same. They also are aware of various connections in the community and how to take advantage of them (or why NOT to) based on past experience. That said, my library also values variety of experiences, and that is why continuing education is so encouraged among professional and paraprofessional staff. It keeps us all fresh and interested, and it keeps new ideas flowing in so that we don’t become stagnant.
My personal story is that I started at this library in a part-time position, started my MLS program, and then a few months before completing my MLS, I was hired by the same library to fill a professional librarian position. I’ve worked in this position for the last five years. My main reason to change positions was because my family and I wished to relocate, and there are also limited opportunities here for me to grow — the only place to move up next here is in the director’s position! Going to a different library system will let me work in multiple branches, learn more about librarianship, and continue to grow.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
I will stay in a position as long as it’s interesting and both my boss and I think I’m doing a good job. If any one of those things is not true, it’s time to go.
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