Monday, February 4, 2013

New Directions

As I write this, I'm occupying a spare desk in the offices of in Tucson, drinking french press and contemplating how to begin to describe the past year or so of my life. Most of this blog so far has been about the trials and tribulations of a library school student whose perceptions of the library world have undergone significant change since the beginning of my time at the iSchool. This change kicked into high gear over the last year as I began working for Google, escaping a stagnant position and moving to one that couldn't possibly be more opposite dynamically, and as a result, this last year turned into the major crisis of identity and purpose that I've been expecting since my first day of classes. I'm happy to report I'm on much more solid ground nowadays in terms of what I actually want to be doing with my life, and while I've still got a lot to figure out, here's what I've discovered so far!

Firstly, and most importantly, while I still very much subscribe to the idealistic view of the future of libraries I discussed in the post I wrote almost 2 years ago now (What Being a Librarianarchist Means to Me), I've come to realize that this future won't be in place for a very long time, and it's going to be an uphill battle all the way. There has been some incredible innovation in libraries over the last few years, and I'm still optimistic that they will eventually evolve into these "local nerve centers for information" discussed by Godin in his article, but I've realized that for me personally, my interests now lie somewhere outside of fighting this good fight.

One of the most alienating things about my degree experience has been that the vast majority of my classmates are looking forward to inhabiting existing roles in the library sphere. While this is a perfectly understandable and normal direction to take, I find I'm less and less interested in walking into a job where I'd have to operate within the rigid confines of a long-established job description. My job at Google has completely opened my eyes to how much more satisfied I feel with my work when I'm working on multiple projects/products at once in every possible capacity -- I've had days where I'm pulled aside for 2-3 completely separate projects in the span of 8 hours. I've grown to love and embrace variety, and people demanding things of me that I've never done before in a professional capacity. I like walking into the office and not knowing what I'll wind up doing by the end of the day. This is not something I'd be able to do in the library sphere, at least not until I've "done my time" working low-level, static jobs in places I don't want to live for a couple decades and crossing my fingers that the Great Librarian Retirement that was promised to us all when we started our degrees back in 2010 will someday come to pass.

This has been the main impetus for my professional interests swinging firmly into the tech start-up camp, and I don't see them changing anytime soon. I made the decision to move to San Francisco months ago, and my move date (come employment or a leap of faith) is rapidly approaching. Seattle has been a wonderful place to live, and it will always be home base for me, but it's time for something different. Something bigger, and something more risky. The more job announcements I see for tech start-ups in the Bay Area, the more excited I get that I've finally found the work environment I've so desperately been searching for. These jobs demand that you wear many different hats every single day -- you are expected to learn on the job to fill existing gaps, and to learn quickly and well. Much of the time I've spent at Google has been doing exactly this, and it's hard not to go into gush mode whenever I try and describe how liberating and enlightening that experience has been for me. I can't wait to continue it in the more intimate atmosphere of a start-up, as working for a company whose name has become one of the most commonly used verbs in modern times understandably has its limitations.

Since this is already getting pretty long, I'll just call this Part One of my giant update and save the rest for another post down the road! Feels great to be writing again. :)

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