18 August, 2006

Fast Track - Dirt Track

In which the ADHD librarian implores librarians to go bush.

New grad, or perhaps just been sitting in that one office for too long now? Well what is the option for you, short of waiting for those damn baby boomers to retire and create a vacancy on the management team?
Well for this Librarian, the solution was "leave the land of your father and go to the land I will show you". No, not the Israel, but perhaps wandering in the desert could be a good move. So why go bush? Well, I'd been on the slow track (nine years part time study) and as a new grad I didn't feel like another nine years before I got the chance to make some decisions. I was competitive at interview in NSW, plenty of positive feedback and 'in other circumstances, but it was a competitive field …" So where is this less competitive field? It is country NSW, far north QLD, all of the Territory and probably most of SA and WA. In short there are a lot of regional and remote communities who are as desperate for librarians as they are for Doctors or Engineers.
Two years as a bush Librarian brought opportunities that Sydney promised I'd get in fifteen years if I stuck around and waited. I've been on management team, worked with architects to design a new library, acted as library manager, given aldermen tours (and argued with them about library directions), I've sat down with Directors to write strategy, in short I've been fighting well above my weight 'and loving it'. So much so that the two year stint has now become four and I'm still not planning my return drive to Sydney.
But there is a dark side, why couldn't I get a job like this in Sydney?
Because I didn't have the experience to do the job, so I've learned on my feet and made mistakes. Now however I do have the skills and if the harbour starts tugging at my heart strings then I'm sitting in a great position to argue my case.
So where are these jobs for you, who knows but the ALIA website will have the ads.
So what are the skills that remote or rural libraries need?
They need the ones you have, because the ones you have are better that none. But a willingness to be adventurous could help. A desire to be part of a small team, remember you can hide in a bigger organisation, perhaps deny a few mistakes, but when there are only a handful of staff (and you're the new one) you'll need to be open about how bad your grade was in cataloguing (but only after the interview).
You will need to be prepared to work on a smaller budget, fewer copies of the next Harry Potter and planning a few years in advance for the new chairs. I recommend sucking up as a great skill, but not to the boss (God no, never that), rather find the person who really runs the library, a technician who's been there since federation, this is the font of all knowledge for a new grad who is willing to admit that a one year post grad qualification doesn't make you infallible. It's a fine line between being willing to ask for help and palming off your work on others, make sure you know which side of that line you're operating on, because if that technician feels put upon by you, you might well be 'sans paddle whilst navigating an impolitely named watercourse'.
Experience will hold you in good steed when you go 'bush', experience of an inner city nightclub to hold in your memory but more vital experience of life. Work experience in any form, from stackie at your state library to circ work at your uni. Whatever experience you've got, look at it in a new light. Remember which team leaders and managers were appalling, who were the bosses who put their staff offside with stupid battles. Remember how you felt? Well you're going to be supervising people now. How about ensuring that you learn form your time at the bottom to make sure your rise to the top is comfortable. After all, you weren't a moron (were you?) and nor are the people your supervising now.
There is more to the rural life than work. In fact there is more to the country than rum and B&S balls (but don't let on to the ute drivers). Country towns need netballers, football coaches, scout leaders, singers for the church choir and rugby players. My time out here has involved several visits to the emergency ward as I hadn't played contact sport since high school (and even then I wasn't very good at it). Yet somehow this seems to be to be one of the highlights of my time in the desert.
One Saturday night a concerned community member approached a member of the sports medicine team at the rugby ground. "Which one is the librarian?" she asked. I was pointed out to her (the one in the headgear) at which point she walked off expressing her disgust at a librarian playing rugby. I never found out who she was, but no doubt she pops into the library occasionally for some large print Catherine Cookson, but only after making sure I'm well out of the way. I probably lower the tone of the place?
So what skills have I got out of my stint in the outback? You know with nine years library experience before I graduated, not a lot. But then again I've been able to put into play most of the brilliant ideas I'd been carrying around with me, I've used all my skills at a higher level than before and most importantly, my resume has doubled in size, I no longer have to say that I know I could, I shout out that I have and here are the photos....

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