Empowering New Librarians to DIY their Careers

Now that I’m back from NLS8, I’m hoping to share my experiences and the key messages that I took from it with you all. Looking back through the tweets and reflecting upon what really resonated for me, the message that I’d like to talk about is EMPOWERMENT.

The conference theme for NLS8 was “DIY Library Career” and the call for proposals included these words:

It’s time to take control and build your future in libraries – by learning, trying new things and hearing from library and information professionals. We want students, new graduates and seasoned professionals who can tell NLS8 attendees about the skills, challenges and big bold steps it takes to DIY your library career.

A number of the keynote speakers and other presenters took the theme and ran with it – inspiring delegates to chart their own course and take the first step (next step?) in the direction of their dreams. The voices were varied, speaking from their unique vantage points of context, experiences and career stage, but all joined the chorus singing “know yourself, know what you want and make it happen”!

Our first keynote speakers, the successful and glamorous Clare McKenzie, Kate Byrne and Alyson Dalby used the story of their work creating the International Librarians Network as a platform to inspire their audience to DO SOMETHING, with the reminder that “every leader started small doing something that they didn’t know how to do”. They reminded us that the important thing is to allow yourself to notice what speaks to you and to take action on it. If you look around and think “someone should do that thing” then guess what – that someone is probably you!

Mylee Joseph continued the theme, focusing on saying “yes” and providing us with the perfectly memorable sound bite “you will always be the CEO of your own career”. It is up to each of us to decide where we invest our time, energy and resources and what we say yes to. And the warm and generous Jane Caro rounded it out by reminding us not to allow others to take away our personal power or coerce us into making ourselves smaller or less than we are. No one can tell you what to be passionate about, how to feel, act or react. Don’t let anyone suggest that you should care less about something that you’re doing – something that gives you energy and meaning. Instead simply care less about what they think about what you’re doing!

The beautiful Jennifer Nash and Laura Stroud (slightly biased because I work with them) addressed similar ideas in their presentation on being genuine in the workplace. They encouraged their listeners to consider what unique skills they bring to the table. By bringing your passions into play at work you benefit both your career and the organisation that you work for. And the lovely Katrina Williams shared the secret of coping with change “like a boss”. No shortcuts here, the only way to thrive in an environment of uncertainty is to know yourself, your purpose and your values.

So there you have it, as usual the best advice is simple but not easy.

I’d like to add my vote of thanks to conference co-convenors Sally Turbitt and Amy Walduck, as well as the amazing team of committee members and volunteers. They managed to create a joyful conference space that addressed deep and meaningful issues. Well done!

Did you attend NLS8? What resonated for you?

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