Big Changes: Or, Why I’ve not Been Posting or at ALA.

Well, it finally happened! After 2.5 years of laborious and demoralizing job hunting I’ve finally been graced with a NEW JOB! About two months ago UNLV offered me the position of Circulation Manager for their Lied Library. I agreed to it right away and my wife and I started preparations for the move from St. Louis, MO to Las Vegas, NV. To say that this was an exciting and frightening time for us would be an understatement.

True, we’d been talking about this possibility since way before I graduated with my MLIS degree, but now that it was actually upon us we had to adjust to the new reality that the abstract theory had become tangible fact. In a week we’d secured an apartment and arranged for our transportation. A week later we were on the road. It was that fast. I left a Jeffrey-shaped hole in the wall at UMSL as I left.

Leaving my house in St. Louis
Leaving our house in St. Louis

We drove between St. Louis and Vegas in twenty-eight hours, only stopping for food, gas, and stretching along the way. Sleeping when we could while the other drove. We moved into the apartment on May 26, and spent a week getting to know the area, buying furniture and housewares that didn’t fit in the truck, and doing our best to enjoy our last week living together for a while.

You read that right. My beloved wife is still back in St. Louis where she works and shares our house with her daughter. That is the absolute worst part of this move, not being with her. We’re doing our best with it, though. We’re talking everyday via phone or video, and we’ve always IM’ed and texted each other throughout the day. She’s actively looking for a job in LV and has made an arrangement with her boss to work remotely for short periods of time. This means that she’ll be able to visit for two weeks at a time and only take vacation time for half that time, so long as she spends the rest of the days doing her job from here. While the ideal situation is that she do her job remotely full-time, her superiors are not ready to make that commitment, yet. Maybe if she proves herself capable and trustworthy that day will come in the future. In the meantime she’s still looking for work and watching the calendar. If nothing changes in the next year, she’ll turn sixty-five next May and retire from her job after she can claim Medicare. So, absolute worst-case scenario is that we’re apart for a year. It helps knowing that there’s an upper limit to the situation.

The Job

Jeffrey at Lied Library
Me, excited to start my new Job

Previously, I was managing consortial lending for UMSL’s Thomas Jefferson Library. That meant that I’d spend 2-4 hours a day running reports, noting statistics, harassing delinquent students and libraries about overdue materials, and maybe processing the day’s incoming courier shipment. The rest of the 4-6 hours of my day were spent waiting for my student workers to get the rest of my work done. I mastered this position two years into it, and spent the next five years twiddling my thumbs.

The only good things about this were that I was able to get my library degree for 25% of the sticker price, do most of my classwork at work, make some pretty good work-friends, and stay in the field of my chosen profession. Not too bad.

The bad parts of this job were the caustic and cancerous work environment I was forced to stay in in which I was absolutely denied any opportunity to expand my professional experience, getting only occasional paltry pay raises (0.5%-1.5%) less than once every two years, being asked to do supervisory work for entry level pay, and being paid far less than the average for equivalent positions even in my own city.

Now, I’m in a position in which I’m directly supervising four full-time employees (soon adding two part-time positions) and am the authority figure at the circulation desk of a library three times larger and thirty times more busy (so, I’m told), for a university that has bucked the national trends and is actually growing to the point where they can build a brand new medical school in an environment where they’ve never had one before.. Oh, also, I’m treated with respect, paid a living wage in which I’ll receive regular cost-of-living increases, and am being encouraged to pursue professional development and activities even though I’m not in a professional librarian position (I was told that was “inappropriate” at UMSL).

To say that this has been a big change is an understatement.

So far, the biggest adjustment I’m having to make is that I have to get used to being “the decider” on issues. My first instinct is to run something by my boss, but now, I am the boss and my job is to keep problems off my supervisor’s desk. I’m not a naturally aggressive or ambitious person. Now that I’m in this position I’m finding that I have to grow into my power — limited as it may be.

While I’m ecstatic to get this job, I’m sad that the timing of it made it impossible for me to attend this year’s ALA Conference, especially since Chicago is one of my favorite places in the world. We’d ponied up for the cost, since UMSL was too poor to send anyone, and were set to have a working (for me) vacation. Luckily, we were able to get most of the money back.

I love going to conferences and playing Spot the Librarian as I go around town. I love meeting colleagues and seeing what they are doing at other places. I love exploring other cities, and bumping into old friends. I love having conference buddies to hang out with after hours. Happily, though, I’m probably going to the Access Services Conference in Atlanta (another former home city) in November, and I should be able to go to ALAAC18 in New Orleans (not one of my favorite cities) next year.

I know the shine will probably wear off the new job and living in Las Vegas sooner than later, but for the moment I’m enjoying my time as much as I can being so distant from my wife. I’m happy working in this beautiful library on a vibrant campus with really nice people. It feels good to be in a place that wants you there.

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