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IAmRUSA Interviewee for the Week of July 21st is
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Howdy, everyone! I'm Liane Taylor and I'm RUSA's President-Elect for 2014-2015.
My journey in libraries has been a bit...different. I started working in libraries in the late 90s as an undergraduate student worker in the Memorial Library at UW-Madison, where I held several jobs simultaneously -- shelving, working in the copy center, doing admin assistant work for the Instruction office, etc. I was probably breaking laws because I was working about 35 hours a week.
In 2000, I started the LIS program at UT-Austin, and my first jobs were random ones, like helping a local couple research a book on grandparenthood and teaching a woman how to use computers. I was also, briefly, a cataloger for a textbook company. I eventually obtained two part-time staff positions at the Undergraduate Library at UT-Austin, doing web design, instruction, and reference. I thought for certain I was headed to be a frontline reference/instruction librarian in an academic library.
My first professional job was in August 2002, six months after I obtained my MLIS. I was a temporary reference librarian at St. Edward's University in Austin. Due to changes going on there at the time, I became permanent and started coordinating Reference -- I started an intern program and helped us move to more reference ebooks. I also started looking at our e-resource licenses, managing that part of the budget, and working with vendors. Due to more changes at the library, and the work I was doing with E-Resources, the Library Director determined I should become the Serials Librarian!
THE SERIALS LIBRARIAN?!? You can imagine my surprise. I taught myself everything there was to learn about serials -- and that was a lot. I learned all about check-in, renewals, invoicing...all those details that I had been blessedly unaware of for years. And you know what? I loved it. I loved every minute of it. I loved the spreadsheets, the problem solving, working with the budgets...ALL of it!
However, I had remained active in RUSA's Reference Services Section, and due to my work leading committees in RUSA/RSS, I was asked to apply for the Director of Reference of the Chicago Public Library System. That was quite a jump for me! I applied, and after almost a year (you know how it goes!), I was hired and I moved to Chicago. That was April 2008. It was an amazing experience. For the first six weeks, I held focus groups with the over 350 frontline reference staff across the city and learned what their needs were. I worked closely with frontline staff to develop workshops to help them with Science Fair, History Fair, and even developed mini-Immersion workshops, to help develop frontline teaching skills. I even worked at a reference desk! The job was interesting and the librarians there were amazing.
I held that position for a year, but Chicago is cold and I missed Austin, TX, desperately. I also missed my spreadsheets. I missed serials. It sounds ridiculous, but I did. I love helping patrons at reference, but I love the day-to-day work in Acquisitions.
I applied for the job of Serials Acquisitions Librarian at Texas State University, just 25 miles south of Austin. I was lucky enough to get the job, and I moved back to Austin in May 2009. Eventually I changed the name to Continuing Resources Librarian and I did great stuff -- figured how to save money by negotiating better deals, helped convert many subscriptions to online, streamlined workflow, and developed a better way to predict serials expenditures for the next year.
Then, due to another random twist of fate, this March (2014) I was asked to step in as Interim Head of Acquisitions at Texas State, as the previous department head has become our Systems Coordinator. I am now doing my old job as Continuing Resources Librarian and also managing the entire Acquisitions department. My work as department head involves a lot of problem solving, workflow strategizing, and more budget work.
Having a public services background has made me a better librarian, and so has working in so many different areas of the library. RUSA keeps my skills sharp and my network wide!
In my personal life, my husband and I travel every chance we get, and spend most of our free time hanging out in Austin, eatin' tacos, drinkin' beer, and having a grand ol' time.
I can't wait to hear your questions! Best to you all.
Thanks for taking part in IAmRUSA this week!
I've actually got two questions for you:
1) Do you mind talking a little bit more about your education? Was there a long break between getting your undergraduate degree and doing library school, or did the one follow the other quickly?
2) Having been thrust into a budgeting job myself while finishing school, I was happy to read of someone else who enjoys the ins and outs of library budgeting. How do you feel your education helped prepare you for budget work - did you have much theory to go on or was it all learned on you feet?
To follow-up on one of Kirk's questions, was your undergraduate degree in a numbers field such as accounting, math etc.? Or did you somehow have an inclination that you would be good with spreadsheets and data?
On a different note, I am assuming you negotiated your increased responsibilities with an increase in salary so can you give us some tips on negotiating when taking on added job responsibilities?
Good questions! Regarding my education background -- I majored in Philosophy, which I think sharpened my analytical skills and I use those a lot when solving problems and making budget projections. I entered the LIS program almost immediately after obtaining my undergraduate degree.
Frankly, the most influential drivers in my inclinations and skill development were my parents. I was raised helping my mom in an office environment, and I feel like the combination of my analytical skills and the work I did from a very young age helping my mom really helps me in acquisitions, which is similar to office management. Also, my father worked in sales and I was raised around salespeople. My comfort level with and understanding of salespeople has also significantly helped me in my job. So I think that personal experience has had the greatest effect, more so than any classroom experience.
As for salary negotiation, the situation worked out differently. All administrative positions at my library have a standard administrative stipend. It's the same across the board and it's not negotiable. My advice is to find out how, *realistically*, you can increase your salary in your institutional context. I think it's important to keep in mind that libraries, especially those at public universities, don't work like corporations. The salary negotiation tips that we read about for corporate contexts aren't always helpful or applicable. For instance, it's common to suggest you find out the salary of people doing your job at other institutions. But, frankly, we're all so underpaid that benchmarking usually works to your DISadvantage. Also, there are often more constraints on directors at libraries at public universities than there are on those working in the private sector.
As such, and unfortunately, the most realistic way to increase one's salary may be to pursue promotion (most libs have a career or promotion ladder), to give a strong annual self-evaluation to help you receive a merit raise if your university has money to give them out, and to be nominated for any awards that are available (self-nominations should always be taken advantage of!).
I wish I could give some great, edgy, "lean in" advice instead, but I haven't found that advice to be particularly realistic at academic libraries in public universities.