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Academic vs. Public

For those of you who have followed my story from the beginning (yeah, just me!) the whole idea of The Ambidextrous Librarian is that I am a newbie librarian working two jobs; one in a public library and the other academic.  I try to blog about my experiences and provide a bit of insight into each library environment, maybe provide other newbies with a bit of an idea what each is like.  My version of worldly wisdom and all that!

But enough intro - I'm sure you're dying to hear my thoughts.

Since the beginning of the year I have been getting a lot of shifts at the academic library. These were very welcome, not just for the extra bucks but because the job gave me interesting things to do - long term projects that require me to plan and create and research and present things. I've made it sound all very high-brow but let's not get too excited, it's basically just a Digital Literacy learning plan for struggling new tertiary students.  Still, I was part of a small team creating course content and presentations and nutting out a new learning tool.  I felt like what I was doing was rather worthwhile.

Doesn't that sound really rewarding?  Well, it was from a creation standpoint, but to be honest it was a bit lonely. I don't think all academic libraries are the same but I found working at this one quiet and studious (you mean, like the atmosphere of an academic library?).  When I was there I would sometimes find myself looking up from the computer and thinking of the big motley workforce and silly laughter and randomness of my public library job.  I missed the chaotic colour and the kids books and the fast-paced desk shifts and the constantly changing environment.  I guess I missed the external stimulation, as it does help to move the day onwards.  Don't get me wrong, the people I worked with at the academic library were absolutely lovely - friendly and welcoming and chatty, but when we worked it was independently and super-studiously.  It could be very, very quiet (um, like a library!?) and I was developing a not insignificant level of dread on the days when I had my shifts.

Through this experience I have come to realise that yes, I am an introvert and most definitely need my quiet time, but yes, I also need a good dose of "up" time as well.  If you're out there seeking your first library gig, I would suggest you have a think about the kind of environment in which you like to pass your time. Do you like to work independently or as part of a big team?  Do you prefer interacting with lots of people in a bustling environment, or do you like a serene workplace - one that allows for longer interactions and less interruptions?  Being a librarian offers up a vast array of options; academic, public, school, law, medical or specialist (I saw a job advertised as the librarian for the botanical gardens, you would have to really, really like plants).  I know a lot of us won't really have the option to pick and choose our first jobs, but as part of your career planning it really does really help to objectively think about the kind of person you are, the environment you enjoy, and the kinds of people with which you would most like to work (hopefully weird, because we are all librarians, of course).


  1. I totally relate to this post. I worked in a public library for about 16 years,but left before moving to academic and have now been here about 4 years.
    There are parts that I miss from the public library environment, and working in a larger team, and other parts like cleaning up little people messes that I sure don't miss!

    1. Hi current0bsession - you are deffo right, there are certain parts of public library life that are best left in the public library! The academic library I am employed at is a TAFE library, so the students themselves tend to be quite lively, it's just that I didn't have much FOH time to interact with them as I was focussed on the project. As for the mess - just swap little person mess for big person mess! This often comes in the form of random plastic smoothie/juice cups (why does it ALWAYS seem to be smoothie/juice cups!?!) and the ever-present untucked chair. Ahhhh the untucked chair - common to all libraries around the world!!! :D


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