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Sometimes I have a sneaking suspicion that by following my heart I might be getting less than I deserve, in terms of salary, opportunity, and respect.  I guess that’s a common affliction of LIS professionals.  But whenever I’ve tried to talk myself into seeking more highly compensated tenure-seeking positions, I feel like I’m locking myself into a small box with too little air, from which I may never emerge.  I feel like I will be compelled down a certain path, a prescribed direction, FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.  I don’t really want to sign on to do anything FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, but as long as I keep just moving along incrementally, making improvements and adjustments and trying out different paths, then I don’t feel like I’m signing a deed in blood.  This is a little melodramatic, but I know how people can get pigeonholed.  I’m sure this is already the case with my career, to a certain extent.  But I really want to think that my options will be open in the future, whether I want to work in visual resource management, art librarianship, or even museum collections management or curatorship (that’s part of the idea behind the MFA).  In my mind they’re all related, and my experiences over the past few years have been preparation for a variety of paths.  I see myself more as an information professional than a librarian.

With these thoughts swirling around, I recently put my name in the hat for two positions that are both very similar and very different.  Their similarity stems from the motivation I have in seeking them – i.e. my goal to get cracking on that MA.  They are both university positions, and I know very well how much easier it is to pursue a degree with the support of university employment (besides the perks of the benefits and time off).  Other than that, the differences are pretty big.  One is a generalized faculty position of the type of tenure-track librarianship I’ve been avoiding, but gosh, it sure does pay well.  It’s also a bit of a longshot that I will even get an interview for this one (I’ve seen how many applications these kinds of positions get).  The other is a visual resources library position that would require me to take a pay cut.  This feels counter-intuitive, but could possibly be balanced out by better benefits, flexibility with classes, tuition remission, cheaper cost of living, etc.  Obviously the biggest plus would be experience doing something I would like to do – image cataloging and reference in a really great visual resources library.  I think it would expand my possibilities in the future, whether I want to go the museum route or the more traditional library route.

Heart says: “Wow! That VR job sounds REALLY cool!”

Mind responds: “Why are they offering such a low salary and still advertising it as a professional position? Wouldn’t I be contributing to the trend of deprofessionalization?”

And around it goes.  Finally I listened to the heart and accepted a phone interview with job #2.  But I appeased the mind by promising to be rather more hard-nosed than usual in my approach, in terms of what they have to offer me.  I don’t see any real harm in venturing a ways down this path to see where it might lead me.

I am a huge proponent of self education, and part of my taking my current position is the ability to continue to do art history research as part of my job.  With this thought in mind, I have put on hold most serious thoughts about continuing my formal education. 

 The original plan before I ever seriously formulated my sojourn to New Mexico was to enter the Art History Master’s program at the University of New Mexico.  It’s a great program, very competitive, and offers the unique track in Native American/Art of the Americas that I am pursuing in my own research.  It’s basically what I prepared for in my undergratuate Art History degree, particularly my thesis (prehistoric pottery of the Rio Grande region).

Long story short, I have started to revisit my dream.  It seems like the right time to start taking classes again, probably slowly at first as a non-degree seeker.  I can transfer 12 credits into the program if I eventually enter the program officially.  Yes, it’s more money to put into my education, which is a burden I didn’t really think I wanted to put on myself again, but in the long run…this is something I’ve always wanted to do.  I don’t want to regret deciding against such an opportunity to advance my career, enhance my options, and just get some new experience and knowledge doing something I love.  Quite frankly, I need the challenge.

I just got back from a whirlwind conference day in lovely Las Cruces New Mexico. A day was all I could devote to conferencing, but I tried to make the most of it. It was also good to visit a new part of the state and see New Mexico State University and the impressive Zuhl Library.

Among programs on new technologies and the meaning of professionalism, I attended a very interesting session on the new Fine Arts Library at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. I haven’t yet had a chance to visit this building, but they have obviously done amazing things with their new space.

The presentation itself was entitled “Creativity All Around: and Within! The Fine Arts and Design Library at UNM” and featured 4 speakers who approached creativity in the Fine Arts library from different perspectives. The building project itself was discussed, along with the call to “claim your creativity” and step out of the librarian stereotype of being stuck in the dark ages (this seems to be more tangible lately with many exciting new “library as place” inspired building projects such as this and this and this).

Another presenter focused on the need to think outside the box in terms of collection development. They recently purchased a large video collection from a store going out of business down the street from the university. While this may fall under the radar of most collection development plans, it turned out to be an excellent way to fill in the gaps and make a stronger collection. It also turned out that the teaching faculty were extremely enthusiastic about the purchase (having informally used the store for years for teaching material), pointing out the need to get input from other constituents in the CD process.

The last two presentations were about instruction and reference in the Fine Arts library. The last presenter passed out handy bookmarks listing reliable online resources to use for those of us who don’t have access to comprehensive physical collections of fine art resources.

All in all, a good day…I really wish I had more time at the conference to network, however. It was great to finally meet some of the UNM art librarians, particularly Nina Stephenson. Her career path is an inspiration to me, though she commented on the dearth of art librarian jobs and the need to be in the right place at the right time. Easier said than done!

January 2020
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