Student-Worker to Professional Librarian: Overcoming the Transition

Today marks the end of my first week as an Adjunct Reference and Instruction Librarian at HACC (Harrisburg Area Community College) York Campus.  While I am very excited to start working on my instruction presentations and help students at the reference desk, I have found myself dealing with a tough transition from student-worker to professional librarian.

How could this be?  I have been applying for librarian positions for over a year now – I went to library school – why does being a “Librarian” feel so awkward?

As a student-worker and supervisor, I was constantly moving: looking for students/staff/faculty, training incoming students, working the circulation desk, ILL, resource sharing, stacks, and special projects.  I also had several supervisors that I had to report to.  Now, I have the specific duty of manning the reference desk and working on class presentations, but I still have the urge to shelve newspapers and books, check the book-bins, and tell student-workers what they should be doing.

I am also finding myself concerned about being called “Faculty.”  During my tour, I met several staff and faculty around campus who mistook me as a new student.  Since the majority of the student population is non-traditional, I get the overwhelming sense that they don’t trust me to help them with their assignments.  And if the students don’t trust me, how will the other faculty trust me to instruct their classes?

How does one deal with this dilemma?  Well, here’s what I’ve done so far:

  •  Told myself: they wouldn’t have hired you if they didn’t think you were qualified and capable of doing the job.  This mantra has helped and was reinforced at my New Faculty Orientation.  Obviously, during my interview and presentation, they saw my potential regardless of my appearance (specifically age), and thought that I would be a good fit and addition to their library.
  • Be confident.  “Confident” isn’t the first word I would use to describe myself, but I have quickly learned how important it is to gain trust from students.  If students see that you are confident in finding the information they are requesting, you ultimately gain their trust.
  • Ask questions.  Don’t be shy, you are working with librarians.. They love to answer questions.  I have found that the more questions I ask, the more comfortable the staff and faculty feel with me – I want to do the best I can, and they see that.  All of this will help boost that confidence 🙂
  • Relax.  You don’t have to know everything all at once.  Any new job is an information-overload, and no one expects you to know it all.  Just remember to breathe while sorting through all of your new work email.
  • Be flexible and don’t panic.  During my first week, my supervisor had a family emergency which left me at the reference desk by myself.  Instead of panicking, I just followed #4 and winged it the best I could.  If you don’t know an answer, tell a student you will get back to them with the information they are seeking – don’t worry!

As I explore, discover, and learn all about being a professional librarian, I am sure I will begin to feel more comfortable in my new role.  In the meantime, I have to squash those desires to direct student-workers and command the circulation desk as I previously had.  Those days are over now – I can finally say I am an Academic Librarian, so it’s time to start acting like it!

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