After four years working in corporate America, I decided to pursue my life-long interest of becoming a librarian. I enrolled in a Library Science program nearby full-time and started a job hunt. Since my experience working in libraries was outdated by 9 years, it was difficult to find a full-time position in a library. But I did it! After three months of hunting, I was in.
My career change meant a paycut and switching from a supervisory role to a non-supervisory role. To many of my co-workers, it seemed like a bad decision. It also meant no more all expense paid trips to the Philippines and all the AA reward miles associated with that.
But I wasn’t happy working at my job. I didn’t dislike what I did per-say, it was more of an issue with the basic purpose of corporations. Corporations are built around making more money, higher margins, and, in a lot of cases, finding ways to decrease what they provide to customers to make money. It didn’t gel with me.
Finances are an important factor for any organization. Libraries have to balance budgets, which means budget cuts or creative staffing or ordering less. Libraries have to work for funding from public and private sources. They have to justify their needs and show their value. Money isn’t out of the equation for libraries, but profiting isn’t a part of it.
One of my courses this semester focuses on management in libraries, and right off the bat the textbook advises that most of the management techniques successful in the non-profit sector are similar or the same as the corporate sector. Reading through the examples, I’m reminded of all the management and leadership workshops I attended through my previous career. However, the text is quick to point out:
“The emphasis in most libraries is not a creating profit; instead, libraries exist to contribute to the public good.” – Library and Information Management by Moran, Stueart, Morner, pg. 16
YAS! This is exactly why I love libraries. I love reading. I love information. I love creating connections between people, between people and books, between people and their community. I love working in an environment that fosters well-being in people’s lives. I want to be part of the public good a library provides.
And now I am.