Here is the lead I have buried, if you just want to know where I’m working now. 😉
“What do you do?”
“I’m a librarian and developer.”
“Oh! Are you with one of the local libraries?”
“Well… no. I’m a consultant.”
(disappointed) “Oh.” (And then maybe they ask what kind of consulting, or maybe they change the subject.)
Over the past few years, I’ve come to dread the “what do you do?” question, because what people generally mean is “where do you work?” And it’s awkward when you can’t have that conversation the way they expect. Also, whenever I decided to go with the short-and-interesting version of the answer—”I fight patent trolls”—people thought they wanted more details. Most people did not actually want more details.
So, I’ve been not-so-subtly looking for work, local to Pittsburgh. And, yeah, it’s taken some time: the job market for librarians here is brutal, and very few of the tech companies are interested in junior developers, no matter how many STEM degrees they might have. (Yes, I’m a little bitter about the local tech scene.) Also, to be honest, I didn’t throw my hat in the ring for everything I probably should have, this year: I didn’t talk about it on this blog, that I recall, but I was supposed to take six months to really focus on my health and get my arthritis under better control. I … didn’t really do that. We still owe a lot of money after having to do two multi-state moves in under a year, plus moving three times since we got to Pittsburgh (very bad luck, yeah); so, I kept applying to jobs and doing consulting work, even after telling myself (and my spouse and my family and my friends) that I wouldn’t. I’ve also had some pretty tough personal things happen, which I won’t detail here, but they didn’t help with health or job searching.
Anyway, here we are, in October—a traditional month of auspicious things for me—and I am now officially employed in a library! And it’s great!
I’ve joined the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) Boyce Campus Library as a (depending which computer system you look me up in) Part-Time, Adjunct, or Reference Librarian. I like that last one best, so it’s the one I use, when I get any say in it. 😉
I feel lucky to have ended up with this position, not just because the library job market here is so saturated, but more, because I have genuinely nice (and also kind) coworkers. I really like the people I work with, as well as the students and faculty members I’ve met so far. I like working for a community college. I like the campus. I like working part-time: it gives me time outside of work to take care of my health and (or?) teach classes or sell art on the side. And to take classes. (I’ll get free classes starting with the 2018 summer semester.) While I expect to eventually move to full-time, whether at CCAC or elsewhere, working part-time is perfect for right now. (By “right now,” I mean “I expect to stay at least a year, maybe much longer. And, for the record, should they offer to upgrade me to full-time, preferably with some kind of technical/digital responsibilities, I’ll take that offer.”)
As for the patent troll fighting, the risk of being called in for a deposition goes up with every one of those contracts I take. That would be inconvenient, now, since a large part of my position involves desk work, which requires my physical presence in the building; therefore, I’m significantly decreasing how many contracts I take. Luckily, a friend and colleague is willing to take some of it on—maybe all of it, if he likes it enough—so that work isn’t going un-done.
… Is it funny that I spent the first third of this post defending the concept of “wanting a job”? I mean, most people consider that to be kind of a given. But I tried so hard, for so long, to project confidence in my (almost nonexistent, because I am not a designer) web development business and the (much more existent, but still uneven and unpredictable) patent contracting, and if I was at all successful at that, I kind of expected people would ask themselves, “Why is Coral moving away from their successful-sounding contracting business and into a part-time job a half hour from home?” And, while, certainly “a predictable paycheck” was a factor, this whole “I’m uncomfortable calling myself a librarian, in part because of how people react” thing was also a serious driver. (It isn’t quite impostor syndrome. I’m not sure what the right term is.) Capitalism is a hell of a drug, and so much of our identities end up wrapped up in what we do.
I like that I get to say “I’m a librarian,” now, without hesitation. I like that there’s a place for me in library associations, again. (Though I’d like to see the library community make more space in our associations for MLIS holders with nontraditional librarian positions, such as consultants.) It is maybe non-ideal that I’m still very tech-oriented, as is the bulk of my community within librarianship, while my current position is distinctly un-technical, at least until I come up with some project more technical than editing LibGuides; so, while I’m happy saying “I’m a librarian,” I still feel a bit out of place within Code4Lib and LibTechWomen (both of which I unsubscribed from for about a year, despite continuing to contribute to the Fiscal Continuity Interest Group of the former and staying in the GitHub organization of the latter). I tell myself that I can make up for the disconnect by doing cool work with data in my free time, and maybe that will turn out to be true. Or maybe I will do art in my free time and slowly back away from tech librarianship and find the corners of librarianship that fit better with what I’m doing at work right now: reference, instruction, circulation (our desks are physically close, so I cover circ when they step away), and serving a community college campus with a strong focus on nursing and allied health. Or maybe I’ll make friends with more librarians local to Pittsburgh, without any concern about what kinds of librarians we are. After all, part-time positions don’t come with travel funding. And there are so many of us here! And now I won’t feel like a fake for showing up to a librarian meetup!