You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might get what you need

by Alexis Rohlfing, previous Head Editor, INALJ New Hampshire
previously published 4/30/13

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might get what you need

alexisrohlfingFor those of us who are not working a library job, one of the most frustrating experiences is that sense of being ‘on the outside looking in.’ The sense that you volunteer, you work on committees, but the day to day work of the bill paying job seems to be ever present and in the way. Here and on other blogs, there are discussions of transferable skills and ways of connecting non library experience to library experience. One thing that can be easy to overlook is the need for information professionals in the corporate world. It brings to mind a scene from the tv show “House,” in which the titular doctor, in one of his trademark tantrums, explains that “As the philosopher Jagger says, you can’t always get what you want.” At the end of the episode, his boss comes back to him and says “Oh, I looked into that philosopher you quoted, Jagger, and you’re right, ‘You can’t always get what you want,’ but as it turns out ‘if you try sometimes you get what you need.’”

I recently had such an experience. In my job, there are resources that we use everyday to do our jobs. The main resource that my colleagues and I rely on recently underwent a major redesign: information moved to completely different places within the system and suddenly even the most tenured representatives sounded as though it was their first day in the training room. The most popular response among the reps was that they (meaning corporate) needed to “put it  back”– but that’s as nuanced as the argument got.

Certainly, I was as annoyed as the others when the changes first took place, but I realized that I had one major advantage: my library background. I spoke with my manager, and my manager spoke with her supervisor, and suddenly I was the “subject matter expert.” I was putting together training sessions that I presented to my team, passing along job aids and resources that I had developed to navigate the resources and databases that we use day in and day out, and those job aids were passed along to other teams and to management.

While this has not moved me out of my current role, I can now say that I have experience with training people to use resources, that I have been able to exert some small influence on the further development of these internal resources, and hopefully, I will be able to move toward the content management group. What could have been just another opportunity to gripe and grumble has provided a networking opportunity, an opportunity to show my skills are very useful even outside a library, as well as providing a much needed boost to my own decision to pursue an information professional role that is much different than what I had envisioned in library school. Sometimes, its good to remember that you can’t get what you want, but if you try, and you keep an open mind, you might get what you need.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ.com. INALJ has had over 19.5 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 & 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro. She presents whenever she can, most recently thrice at the American Library Association's Annual Conference as well as breakout talk presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa and as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting, at the National Press Club, McGill University, the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has relocated to being nomadic. She runs her husband’s moving labor website, KhanMoving.com, fixes and sells old houses and assists her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food as well. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 

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