I thought I’d wrap this week’s posts up with a summary of the first 100 days on the job as Associate Director for Learning & Outreach at Virginia Tech Univeristy Libraries. For those who have been following along, I’ve taken this position after nine years at Wake Forest University as Head of Instruction, Instructional Design Librarian, and Microtext Specialist.
The two institutions are similar in terms of geography, but otherwise quite different. In a way, the point in time in which I joined both is similar: soon after I came to Wake we got a new dean, and not long after that a new president. I came to Virginia Tech just after a new dean, and soon after I got there we got the announcement our president is retiring.
I’ve been at Virginia Tech long enough now to have a sense of the place, understand the general culture of the library, and I’d say at this point I know maybe three fourths of the people who work in the library and a dozen or so who work in other units. That kind of statement would have been unthinkable at Wake. Within this time frame you would certainly know the entire library (it’s about a third the size) and many people outside the library as well (the university is about a fifth the size).
Realizing it was time for me to move on was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. Yet at the same time, it was validated nearly immediately. It had taken me several years to get used to working at a small, private, teaching centered, liberal arts institution after attending a large, public, Research I, technical, land-grant university myself. That background served me well in this transition. As I told a colleague earlier today, on the very first day, when walking across campus, I was struck by how at home I felt.
Joining a place that is going through the early phases of change is very different from having some time on the ground before change happens. I was able to get to know the interests, motivations, wishes for the library of my colleagues at Wake before I ever imagined there would be a transformation. At Tech, I joined in once the changes were already happening, and it’s been harder to get to know how my colleagues feel about things. However, at Wake, on some level, I was always that kid right out of college, or a library school student, or that brand-spanking-new professional. Coming into Tech allowed me to shed that to some extent, and come in as someone with experience and professional reputation. Pros and cons to both those perspectives, I think.
The main thing that I’m still adjusting to at this point is missing the intimacy of working in a smaller library. Make no mistake: we were doing big things, and a lot of them, at Wake, but I was both positioned in such a way I at least knew what the big projects were, and so that I could seek out that information and get involved to whatever extent I thought made sense. Tech is so much bigger that you have to specialize (truly, a treat for me!) The size makes it impossible to keep track of everything going on in every part of the library. And with specialization comes a limitation to what you can get involved with. I know less of what’s going on in the library, but I have a much deeper knowledge of the part that I’m involved with.
As for the work? I had the luxury to focus on learning as much as I could about Virginia Tech and the University Libraries in my first few months. I spent a lot of time meeting people: going to lunch, and getting coffee. I read a lot of documents. I spent a lot of time on various websites. I attended a lot of meetings, as much to learn as to contribute. I’m involved in a handful of concrete projects that will have tangible outcomes as well as more heady, exploratory projects. We’re in the midst of hiring a few communication related positions and I’m extremely excited about that group spinning up.
My work largely focuses on the Learning & Outreach portion of the library’s work. I get to work closely with my boss and have a freedom to think about what we can be doing. I know in the next year we’ll spend a lot of time looking at pedagogies and literacies, and how the library can support the learning mission of the University in logical ways that we might not have traditionally considered. Renovations are underway. New services are starting up. It really feels like we’re inventing the future. And that is a very exciting thing, indeed.
You’ll note that I have completely left out the discussion of changing coworkers. Though I have gotten to know several awesome, smart, friendly, and supportive colleagues at Tech, and look forward to getting to know more of them, I also know I will continue to miss my ZSR friends and family as well. Luckily they’re only two hours away.