I have had the privilege to work at a great library with wonderful colleagues for 15 years now. It is hard to believe that it has been 15 years since I walked in the doors, were given my staff card and keys to the office. I was 27 years old, and had worked in two other libraries (a school library for 2,5 years and a year at a library on one of the ministries in Oslo). As with all milestones, great and small, it is a good time to reflect a little on the journey.
When I started library and information science studies, I had little idea that I would become an academic librarian. For me, and I suspect many others, libraries equaled public libraries. I loved books, I loved people and I loved technology. Working in a library seemed to me the perfect mix.
I was lucky enough to land my first job as a school librarian even before I had finished my degree, so I never really had time to reflect on where I wanted to work. It was only after a couple of years that I found that I wanted to try other kinds of libraries, and I spent a very happy year as a librarian in one of the government ministries in Oslo. However, when the chance came to have a job at the college library in my home town of Gjøvik, I couldn’t resist the chance to work with a broader set of patrons and completely different tasks.
I will not pretend that every day was a joy those first years. It was a steep learning curve, I had some problems fitting in at first and it was difficult to figure everything out on my own. My predecessor had already left when I arrived, and I desperately wanted a mentor or a “more knoweledgeable other” (hello, Vygotsky!) to guide me. But of course, it was also a lot of fun to figure things out, and it felt great the times I had been able to make a success of something I had figured out by myself.
A lot of things have changed since I started this job, both in my private life and my professional life. In my private life, I got married, bought a house, had a child, sold that house and bought a bigger one, got arthritis, had another child, lost my darling mother, learned to sew (still learning!) and many other things. In my professional life, we moved the library into another building (that happened four months after I started), transformed that library from a book repository with dense stacks to a learning hub with zones (many more work stations for individual and group study, a silent reading room, a relaxing zone with bean bags and plants, an event room etc.). I have been able to specialise more in pedagogy, writing scholarly articles and developing new learning resources. My university college merged with a university and three other university colleges into Norway’s biggest university. I got 130 new colleagues overnight. So yeah– things happened.
I love my job, I really do. It is interesting, enjoyable, sometimes frustrating, and there is always an element of something new. New students, new teaching methods and tools to test, new colleagues, new situations. This corona pandemic has shown me many things, but especially the need to be flexible and to just try something new. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be authentic. When the libraries closed down in March, a lot of people quickly learned new things and new technologies. I have never been more grateful that we are specialised workers at my library. I didn’t have to worry about acquisitions, because we already have an expert who can handle it. I didn’t have to worry about interlibrary loans, because we already have an expert to handle it. All I had to worry about was how to deal with communication and teaching online. I am not saying that it was a small task, and I am still trying to figure out how to engage the students on Zoom in bigger classrooms. (How do you get students to ask a question or comment on something when there are over a hundred students participating and the record button is on? I have tried a lot of things, but it is hard!) But – at least I knew what I should focus on.
The last 15 years have been good. I have learned a lot, I have had interesting conversations with patrons and staff, I have had days when everything just dovetailed and days when I wanted to cry out of exhaustion or frustration – but it has been, and still is, work that I believe in. I believe that librarians still have a crucial position within the university, I believe that I can make a difference in student learning, and I believe that I still have a lot to learn. A heartfelt thanks to the various managers I have had throughout these 15 years, for being my mentors and for letting me figuring things on my own, and equally heartfelt thanks to my many colleagues and peers who have spurred me on and celebrated every success and supported me when I have failed. You guys are the best!