On Monday, I started a new job with Internet Scout. (It’s a cool place, and it has been around a long time. I’m still bad at explaining what it is that Internet Scout does, but think digital libraries + the National Science Foundation + Education + librarians. Kind of.)
I joined as a Cataloger which is something I’ve never been before, and (so far) I do a lot of original cataloging and re-cataloging, which is something I’ve never done before. I also fix broken links in already cataloged resources, which is something I’ve never done before. I also – or, I will also – archive digital resources, which is another thing I’ve never done before. I’ve had to learn how to use Classification Web, I’ve had to familiarize myself with Library of Congress Classification and Fast and Eric and CWIS (an open source software), and, and, and.
Theoretically, I’ll be in training for four weeks. I’ve worked – however slightly – with metadata in an archival setting, but not for cataloging purposes. And I took Cataloging my very first semester – thankfully. So, it all kind of sounds familiar. But it’s all very new, and it all kind of freaks me out.
I don’t know how much I have to say about learning a new skill: we know it’s (usually) hard, and it’s uncomfortable, and there is – at least for me – a little bit of shame in admitting that I don’t know how to do something. Even if I’m not expected to know how to do something. Even if I’m new. I want to be good, and I want to be good now. You know. I don’t want to read a one-page document about innovations in automobile engineering and spend thirty-five minutes with Classification Web open in one tab, trying to pick the best subject string. I want to read it and know.
(For the record, I ended up going with: Automobiles — Motors — Technological innovations. But now I’m thinking, Maybe not. Because the document wasn’t about technological innovations in motors, but rather the industry itself. Alas.)
Before I started library school, I got a job at the Historical Society doing very familiar-to-me work. Communications, meeting minutes, writing reports, etc. I was doing good work right off the bat, and was praised for it. But now: no praise. And I know that it’s not because I’m bad at the job, or because I’m disliked, or because they’re planning to fire me tomorrow. It’s because I’m new, and the subject material is new, and there’s a steep learning curve that, if the length of training required – and the sheer number of courses taught on the same subject is any indication – should last at least a month. And I’ll get better with every minute I spend scrolling through Classification Web. It’s just a skill that I don’t have mastered yet.
I want to learn at this job. Just like library science. I didn’t decide to get a graduate degree in library science because I figured I knew everything about the discipline, or because I wanted something easy to do. I’m here because it’s new and it’s interesting. And it’s often shocking how little I know. I find that easy to accept, for some reason, when it’s through the lens of graduate school.
So, as week one finishes up, goals for week two: let learning – and being taught – be okay for now. Remember that learning curves are allowed to exist in both professional and educational settings. Ask questions. And spend more time with Classification Web. Maybe.