Photo by Dan Hartley.
Last week I talked about my 2015 plans & goals in an uncharacteristically personal (and long, sorry!) post for me. Dare I do it again? One of my 2015 goals is to open up a little more and stay on top of reader questions and such, so in a first step toward keeping my word, this post is all about how I balance being a Librarian as well as a blogger/knitting designer.
The two questions I get in blog comments and emails, as well as last year’s reader survey, tend to be variations on “what’s it like being a librarian?” and “how do you handle two jobs?” I mean, the short answer to the second question is that I do both part time, sort of. I work 20 hours a week at an urban public library.* And I work most of the rest of the time working as a blogger and designer. That means doing photoshoots, emailing with brands, invoicing, writing blog posts, and designing DIYs and knitting/crochet patterns for magazines, books, etc. But if you’re looking for a more in-depth response, read on.
*I realize it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which library I work at, but I gotta keep it profesh. I can’t go into too much specific detail about many of my experiences, particularly at my current job. The American Library Association Code of Ethics says:
We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.
This Code is where being a librarian is a bit like being a doctor or lawyer. Think of this as Librarian/patron confidentiality. :) With that in mind, here’s more on what the contemporary librarian does.
What being a 27-year-old Librarian is like
I work as a Teen Librarian, which means I work with all ages, but I am my library’s “expert” on working with people ages 12-18. I have a master’s degree in Library and Information Science, and years of work as a Library Assistant and Marketing Director on top of now being a Librarian for 2 years. I’ve almost always been the youngest person in my workplace, and at my first master’s-required job, I was the youngest Librarian by 34 years. (PS: That age gap is pretty unusual. My coworkers are currently all under 40.)
The 2015 library world is probably nothing like you’d image it. These days, the field is really competitive and requires a lot of outside professional development in addition to work experience, a positive personality, and the ability to understand people with every possible personal background or lifestyle you can imagine. I’ve worked in privileged communities (and hated it. so. much.), middle sized cities where 75% of the patrons we served were homeless or new Americans, and in a library branch located on a gang boundary (most favorite job ever by a landslide). Part of why I’ve been consistently employed is because I’m willing and able to work part time and have my master’s. But then I feel bad because it’s actually problematic for all the other young librarians in the field who are working PT because it’s what’s available, but paying off all their school debt without enough money.
This happened IRL at my work. via instagram
I could probably write an entire book about all of the interesting, heartwarming or bizarre things I’ve experienced in just 5 years in this field, but this isn’t a librarian blog. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll write a memoir with stories about the kind gangbangers, or the young army wife who needed someone to teach her how to check the news for stories about the Middle East. Or the retiree who walked to the library to do puzzles for 8 hours a day three days a week. She would get angry when we put out a puzzle completed too recently, and devised her own system for marking puzzles as recently completed, by the way! :)
The thing about this job that people don’t realize is that I have been blessed with so many beautiful, crazy, heartwarming, hilarious, and fascinating experiences because of it. When it comes down to it, my job, despite what anyone might think libraries are and do in 2015, is just to do my best to help people. The degree taught me how to handle the management aspects of libraries and how to effectively answer in-depth or academic questions, but being on the ground in the job is one of the most important, life-changing experiences I’ll ever have. If you think you don’t know what the world is really like, consider a job at a public library. Your eyes will be opened and your heart will be touched if you’re capable of even a modest amount of empathy.
Are these good reasons to do this job? I think so. It’s not for everyone, but I have a hard time seeing myself doing anything else with my non-bloggy/knitty time.
And the job you’re all much more familiar with: this one!
This. This blog. These patterns (and others) are my other job. I’ve tended to view this as less of a job in the past, but it’s just as valid as being a Librarian, albeit less traditional. This gig is all about creativity and self teaching, but what both of my careers have in common is that they help people. At the library, I help people face to face and I sometimes help people with tremendous hurdles in front of them. People whose lives can be for-real changed by being introduced to a language learning or job hunting tool. Or even to a free email account! But through Hands Occupied I get to help people learn more about what I’m most passionate about.
You heard me. I am, in fact, more passionate about my creative career than my bookish one. It’s taken me years and years to admit it, and then decide that’s okay. When you work with the public and get to help people and are good at it, but realize it’s not necessarily what you need to be doing with your whole life and nights and weekends and energy, you feel kind of like a dick. It’s feeling like you should apologize that you don’t have a limitless well of empathy and interpersonal energy to spend on improving the world. (I wonder if social workers and teachers in particular deal with this too?) For the longest time I was telling myself I was working part time because that was the job that was available (see above note on the problematic part-time-with-a-master’s thing). And I enjoyed blogging, which led to making some money to help assuage my guilt about contributing less money to my household. I also loved it because I was learning about web design, photography, designing DIYs and patterns other crafters could successfully use, etc.
But then I realized there were full time jobs in my field I could probably get – and dun dun DUN! I didn’t want them. Being confronted with how much I’d have to give up if I worked full time as a librarian was a big reality check. It’s funny that when I was busy making plans about how to make my full time library career happen, my business grew to a point where I loved it and didn’t want to give it up. I love the empowering feeling of knowing I have monetized my passion in a way that enables me to still love it and justify getting to spend so much time on it. None of this means I want to stop being a librarian though, either. I love that too, but in a different way. And between the two careers, I’m able to cobble enough together to feel like I’m contributing to my household without feeling like some kind of kept woman. Having two jobs requires a lot of compartmentalizing and definitely working more than 40 hours a week, but I don’t think I’d have it any other way. At least for now! :)
Storm really needed some attention when I was blogging one night. via instagram