First Impressions of Being a New Librarian in a Strange Land

It recently occurred to me that not everyone would move across the country, leaving behind family and friends, and settle in a place she had only visited once, all for the sake of a job.  But this girl would.

I recently accepted a position as Reference Librarian/Government Information Coordinator at Georgia Southwestern State University, which is very exciting and, for all intents and purposes, exactly what I had slaved to achieve since January. However, (keeping in mind that I’m from Wisconsin), moving to Georgia without a significant other or any friends living in the entire state of Georgia started out as an exciting victory and very quickly turned into a cause for anxiety and fear. What if I was terrible at the job? What if the climate was so horrible as to make me hate it there? (Have you seen the bugs?) What if I didn’t find anyone my age to spend my free-time with? All these questions and more ran through my brain as I considered this huge life change. It all came down to one question (a question that I’ve been asked several times already by people living in sweet little Americus, GA): Why did you move here?

1) I wasn’t always so sure about what I wanted to do with my life, but over time it has become clear to me that teaching will always be a part of it. It has also become clear that I belong in the academic library universe–it’s where I feel most at home. So finding a position that allowed me to teach, gave me the autonomy to try new things, and didn’t overwhelm me with its scope was very important to me. The position I have now is the position I’ve been looking for.

2) For a librarian who is young (I’m almost as young as my students) and relatively inexperienced, GSW is a perfect place for me to begin to understand what being a professional librarian is like in a low-risk environment. My coworkers are not only accepting of new ideas, they expect them from me, even if there’s a risk of failure (and there always is). This is an environment that I can really benefit from and–bonus!–my employer can benefit from me being here as well.

3) Trying something new and uncomfortable is a good way to make big things happen. I’ve learned through experience that when I push myself and step out of my comfort zone, that’s often when the most exciting things happen–I encounter big opportunities, step into leadership roles, and expand my thinking and world view further than it has ever stretched before. These are things that can only be accomplished by being willing to do something a little crazy, like moving all the way across the country and taking on enormous bugs.

If there’s anything I could impart to my library student recent grad comrades, it would be that in order to do what you want (and after months of hard work and searching, I’m sure you’ve made a decision at some point that being a librarian is something you really want or you would have quit that dream by now), you might have to take some risks. You might have to sacrifice the location you wanted for the job that makes you happy,  you might have to sacrifice the fantastic salary you imagined for something a little more reasonable, you might have to sacrifice the comfort of a culture you’ve always known for something that, at first, seems kooky and strange, but eventually will become your own culture. I can’t say for sure at this point, but right now I feel that all the sacrifice was 100% worth it. Check back with me in a few months, but in the meantime, embrace your inner courage and reach for the job that you know you deserve.


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