Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Achieving success

With the recent posts by Joy Weese Moll and Michelle Boule, I got to thinking about what success means for me. First, though, I’d like to ruminate on what the meaning of success is.

Is there a universal yardstick for success? I think not. Michelle’s comment perfectly describes my viewpoint: “I define my own success, it does not look like yours, and I am ok with that.” From the outsider’s perspective, Michelle would certainly be considered successful. She is asked to speak on topics at conferences, referenced by other “marquee name” bloggers, and helped develop and deliver a unique and groundbreaking continuing education model. I’m not as familiar with Joy’s ouvre, but her blog feed that I subscribe to in Bloglines has over 200 subscribers. These are women who can be a force to be reckoned with. Each is working on redeveloping her sense of success, however.

Michelle’s post immediately reminded me of my post last year on why I was not blogging as frequently as others. That post, in essence, was about me finding a balance in my life. I’ve been in my current position for a little over three months. I’m already thinking about what my next career step will be. Am I being presumptuous? No. I have long term goals for myself, and I think my position is best served by having new blood every few years. I’ve already talked with my boss about my long term goals, and she had some suggestions of things to think about. She’s been fairly open with me also as to what her general career plans are. We are each working off of what we personally term success.

Defining success for yourself will help you formulate career plans and goals. When you get hit with the dreaded “where do you see yourself in five years” question in an interview, you will have an idea of where you do want to be. It will help you in determining what positions to apply for in the first place. If you even want to be working full time. Joy decided that success for her included not working at a “9 to 5” job.

I enjoy my position a lot. It’s varied, I get to explore a lot of different topics, and I get to work in an environment different from the traditional library. As a substitute librarian with one of the local public libraries, I get to keep my skills as a reference librarian up to date, but my schedule there is on my own terms. I still think my ideal job would be as a sole librarian, or manager of, a reader’s advisory/popular fiction department in a large-ish public library. But that’s more from a personal interest/strength point of view. Within the library world, I didn’t have a clear view of what success meant for me other than having a full-time position when I graduated from library school. As I’ve reflected on my personal indicators of success, this comment from Meredith struck a chord:
I think I’ve taken on so much because I want to achieve some impossible measure of success; and I keep raising the bar higher and higher every day. Two years ago, I would have never thought I’d write a book, and now it doesn’t feel like enough. It’s like I’m looking for some sort of magical approval that never comes and I don’t exactly know why, but I have to get over it, because I’m beginning to suspect that there will never be an “enough.”

I’m guilty of taking on too much. I hate it when I have to say no to an interesting project. At the same time, I remind myself of my current definition of personal success. Is the project I’ve been offered going to help me achieve that success? Having that definition in place has made it easier for me to say no. I’m not rude about saying no, just “thanks for thinking of me. I’ve just got too much on my plate at the moment.” People are very understanding creatures, especially the people of Libraryland.

In the wider view of Libraryland, I think I’m fairly successful. I told Walt Crawford today that I still squee when he comments here. I’ve contributed to a book on Readers’ Advisory, have been asked to consider participating in a proposed book series, asked to supply a bibliography for a program at ALA Annual and am currently serving on the RUSA CODES Reading List Council. Outside my RA passion, I’ve had an essay published in Public Libraries, served as a Director to the New Members Round Table, and I have over 130 subscribers to one of my feeds according to Bloglines. Not bad for someone who’s still surprised when people she hasn’t met before recognize her name without prompting.

I’ve never hidden the fact I also write fiction for publication. How I define my personal success is increasingly influenced by this pursuit. There may become a point in time where I cut back from full time work in Libraryland to facilitate my success in writing fiction. I believe in keeping your options open. Definitions of success need to be flexible because your life circumstances are constantly changing. Success may be a more balanced life which requires you to cut back in activities. It may be as simple as getting a pay raise as a result of your next evaluation.

The long and short of it is: achieving success is dependent upon how you define success.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Not feeling love for ALA?

I believe in the importance of having professional organizations. But kind of like when I went off to college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I also believe that you need to find your niche because they can otherwise be way to huge and overwhelming. I think that the New Members Round Table is a great group of people and they're very committed in helping those who are working to get ahead in the profession. Right now, I'm also valuing my RUSA membership, mainly because I've been appointed to a committee that feeds my personal interest in reader's advisory (seriously, where does that apostrophe go in reader's?). If I hadn't found my place in these two particular areas, I probably would have left ALA long ago. It's an expensive gateway membership to these other groups. Everyone has to make their own decisions on what is important to them. I do highly recommend that if you're still a student, or qualify for any of the reduced fees, join if only to get a flavor of the organization. Informed decisions about why you choose not to do things rank you much higher on my respect-o-meter than if you proudly proclaim your ignorance of what you're deriding.

For those who are not interested in ALA whatever your reasons, a semi-serious group has started. The Library Society of the World is an intriguing bunch of people whose opinions I've come to value over the years. It was Rochelle's post today which alerted me to the group, so check it out if you're interested.

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