This week I attended a workshop put on by the Special Library Association called “Building a Resilient Career – Agile, Opportunistic, and Sustainable.” The presentor was Kim Dority, who is both an LIS educator and an information consultant/freelancer. She is the author of Rethinking Information Work. It seemed like a good idea to check my expectations and experiences against this perspective. I took away a lot of important messages from the presentation and particularly an increased sense of energy and confidence towards my future in information work. Most importantly, it reinforced my knowledge of the MLIS degree as creative, flexible, and broadly applicable. My current job trajectory is a perfect example of that.

Here are some of the presentation highlights:

1. Self-leadership
We need to take charge of the events of our own lives. Libraries tend to be in reactive rather than proactive positions, and need to harness some of the power for ourselves. This means creating agendas, knowing what will be gained in decisions, and how to move forward. Importantly, though we share the missions of our employers and the LIS profession, we are also competing as individuals against some of their interests.

2. Willingness to let go of perfectionism
I can relate to this one. I know it’s what limits many of the challenges I take on, and I know that’s a trait I share with many other librarians. That’s probably why as a profession we’re so slow to make changes.

3. Willingness to embrace change
Don’t fight against the power of change, but harness it.

4. Willingness to take risks
Again, I and many others have a great discomfort with incompetence, even though that is the impetus for learning.

5. Willingness to make decisions
Sometimes our professional neutrality limits our ability to make decisions, a quality that attracts the most respect in our society. If we want respect, we need to be decisive.

6. Willingness to accept (and respond to) reality
We talk way too much about the way things should be, how libraries deserve greater respect and support in society.

7. Commitment to focus on solutions

8. Willingness to reinvent ourselves on an as-needed basis
OK, that’s a tough one. But again, the best part about LIS is flexibility, if you’re proactive.

One of the most interesting ideas in the presentation was the “Impostor Syndrome” – that sinking feeling that you’ve been handed responsibility way beyond your capabilities and that you are going to fail horribly and publicly, that every day is just an effort to hide that incompetence. This is particularly common in a “female” profession such as librarianship. We’re not known for our confidence, and it’s a major effort to stretch beyond our comfort zone.