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Sometimes Lady Luck does pass my way.  I was recently awarded this year’s Winberta Yao Travel Award from the Mountain West Chapter of ARLIS, which means that not only do I get to attend the joint ARLIS/VRA conference in Minneapolis, network with colleagues and attend useful workshops, but I don’t have to pay for it.  Win win.  During the conference I will also be meeting my new mentor as part of the year-long career mentoring program.  She is the librarian and San Francisco MOMA, so is sure to be a great source of advice on my career development.

The recognition I have started to get as a result of winning this award is very validating.  The art librarian at UNM invited me out to coffee.  My boss at Bunting was kind enough to forward the announcement to the art history department, so I’ve been receiving congratulations from fellow students and professors.  It seems this kind of thing may truly be the key to the kingdom – get your name out there (for a positive reason, of course!) and the ball will start rolling.  Let’s see where it goes from here.

Though this semester is shaping up to be even more intense than the last one, I am pretty excited about the months ahead.  Once again the first order of business is prioritizing and organizing my agenda to make sure I accomplish everything I set out to do.  Along with my research and cataloging projects, in large part this means redoubling my efforts toward professional development and funding opportunities.  It won’t be long before I’m wandering the aisles of the job market with basket in hand, and in the meantime I need to continue to find inventive ways to finance my grad school experience.

There are several things I’m working on at the moment – applications for conference travel awards (I’m planning to attend the joint ARLIS/VRA conference in Minneapolis this year as well as daydreaming about the VRA Summer Educational Institute), the semi-annual resume rewrite, and an interesting project through ARTstor that would also pay for travel expenses.  I’m also eligible for UNM scholarships this year, so that’s another possibility.  While I would like to continue working at Bunting for the duration of my degree, last semester’s budget situation goes to show just how tenuous funding sources can be.  Time to channel my creative energy.

Spring is in the air, making me want to climb out of my hibernation and attend some conferences.  Unfortunately, as I’m not actively job-hunting, funded by my job, or spurred on by the student rates, I’m limiting my conference attendance to one day at the New Mexico Library Association in April. I really wanted to go to ARLIS this year (in Denver), but it just isn’t feasible. I’m in that career spot between discounted student and successful career librarian – right now I’m just impoverished early career librarian who can’t afford to go to conferences.

Now I’m brainstorming new ways to fill in the gaps.  Online library training and programming is becoming more common, even though I haven’t attended any lately (combination of time and utility – and my computer at work is ancient and largely useless for such things).  I finally broke down and bought an MP3 player, so free downloads are now a mobile opportunity for whiling away the long park-n-ride hours.  Library Journal is offering podcasts from the “Library 2.0 Gang” that sound interesting, including lots of info on Open Library. According to the Library Journal article, “Each month, the Library Gang will focus on a technology topic at issue in the library world.”

The thing is, I miss the conference networking the most.  I miss the librarians! These days that aspect of my identity is only validated when someone at work asks “Heather, you’re a librarian – you must know how to spell ‘cantankerous’.”  I’m not sure where the spelling/librarian corollary comes from, but as a matter of fact I DO know how to spell “cantankerous” and I’m proud of it. But I’m also looking forward to chatting with some fellow bibliophiles in a couple weeks.

I have always considered myself pretty proactive in the things I do for professional development.  However, I have discovered that this momentum is much easier to maintain in the context of current enrollment in an LIS program and working in a library.  By necessity, over the past few years I was constantly immersed in dialogue with co-workers and fellow students about issues in the field.  Now that dialogue is limited to my solo efforts at keeping up with writing/reading/continuing education.  It’s a bit lonely.

Part of my frustration is my desire to stay involved via conferences and committees tempered by the lack of opportunity here in New Mexico.  In Nebraska, I was able to be involved in the New Member’s Round Table of the state library association and an employer extremely supportive of conference attendance and other professional development.  The mini conference of the New Mexico Library Association is coming up next week, but I probably won’t be going for several reasons.  For one thing, I don’t have the vacation time, and, unlike at an academic library, can’t take administrative leave.  Also, I’m finding that conference attendance is much more expensive as a graduate than as a student.  As are most other things, including association memberships (*note to all LIS students: join all the associations you can at the student rate!).  There aren’t more than a couple of sessions that sound interesting to me, and I can’t justify the attendance fee.

So that leaves me looking at other upcoming conferences.  I was excited to see that ARLIS (Art Libraries Society of North America) is having their annual conference in Denver this year – a mere 6 hour drive.  But…attendance is $200.  Maybe I’ll go to MPLA again.  It would be a good chance to see my old colleagues and friends from Nebraska, though I was less than blown away by the sessions offered last year.

I guess this is all to highlight the difficulty of being active in the profession while working in a non-traditional setting.  Though our skills are becoming more and more applicable to other areas, it will be all too easy for the profession to become increasingly fragmented as those of us who are not currently working in libraries face the onus of staying involved while also staying busy and committed to full-time jobs.  Professionals are usually supported by institutions within the profession – as our profession becomes geared more towards “information management” than “librarianship” and we take jobs in areas as varied as publishing, medical records, museums, and instructional design, garnering institutional support becomes more of a challenge.

Well, I missed out on ALA yet again…anyone who went feel free to contribute some commentary.  For the most part,  personally I find more localized or focused conferences such as MPLA, VRA, or ARLIS to be more useful.  Or maybe I’m just bitter about ALA’s virulent recruitment efforts.

After spending so much time last week setting up the ledgers and funds for the Georgia O’Keeffe serials collection, today I did indeed have to reinvent the wheel.  Because we were booted out of the system abruptly last week, all the changes were lost.  I had to recreate the whole thing, which was pretty frustrating.  The good news is that I have a really good grasp on how the system works now and how to work with the subscription maintenance.  After today, many of the titles are ready to be checked in.

Eumie also mentioned trying to get grant funding or some other source of money to add a position at the library…and that she would like to hire me, even if it was just for a temporary project.   That would be an incredible opportunity.  It feels good to know that I am making a real contribution there and that she admires my work.  A job would feel even better, but I’ll take the admiration for now.  And it’s good to have daydreams to sustain me while I’m waiting for the job offers to come.

Keeping up my zen outlook to this whole adventure, something will come along…

August 2020