by Jennifer Quier
So you transferred to a new position…
First, go you! Finding your first library/museum/archives job was hard enough, but now you have a few years under your belt. You are (hopefully) pretty familiar with your institution, collections, and people, and you may be thinking “What next?” What follows is a tale of making a lateral move to a new institution and my experiences so far.
I moved to Nashville in 2010 to work for the Special Collections Division of the Nashville Public Library as Education and Outreach Librarian. Whoa, say that four times fast! I primarily gave tours of the Civil Rights Room, a space and archival collection documenting Nashville’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. If you haven’t been, leave now and head to Nashville. I am totally biased, but it’s a pretty awesome space and collection I came to NPL and to Nashville primarily because the library had (and still has) a “mountain goes to Muhammad” attitude: the library exists for the community. Over the course of 3 and 1⁄2 years, I spoke to thousands of school kids, teachers, churches, and community organizations.
Just after my 3 year anniversary in Nashville, I began feeling a little restless. Internal changes in the library and external changes in Nashville left me unsure of my role as Education and Outreach Librarian. The library adopted a new strategic plan, the state adopted Common Core, and the Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) moved to Project Based Learning, or PBL. For a few months over the spring and summer of 2013, I found myself with no tour groups on the schedule, no programs on the calendar, and wondering where I would fit into the “new vision” of NPL.
In April of 2014 (and I’m telescoping here, to spare you the details), I transferred to the Metro Government Archives of Nashville and Davidson County. Same position, new agency. But again, I found myself with no tours and no programs to schedule and plan. The Archives was scheduled to move to the Main branch downtown, and everything was on hold until we made that move.* Five months into this position, I can definitely say there have been some challenges.
First, Metro Archives is a repository for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. I had no previous experience working with government records (other than filing my taxes every year). Metro is…byzantine, for lack of a better word. I can speak levels of arrangement all day, but the size and scope of records in our collections left me a little overwhelmed (it still does, to be totally honest). The Archives has a fair number of manuscript collections as well, with which I feel much more comfortable working. Those collections are pretty user-friendly, which is not the case for our government records.
Second, I joined a much smaller staff than that of the Special Collections Division. Each person in that Division did one primary and specific thing, and maybe one or two extra things. There are five people in the Archives, and in theory, each of us does one specific thing, but in reality we really do several things and sometimes, we do work based on personal interest. In my case, my primary focus is education and outreach, but I have mainly spent the last few months processing and arranging collections while planning a program or two.
Third, the Archives have moved to a totally new space in the Main branch. This has been a huge change for my coworkers, but not for me. I left Main to work at the old Archives building, and for me the adjustment has been figuring out where Metro Archives fits into the library structure (and explaining it to my manager and coworkers). The Archives is technically a separate and distinct agency, but housed in the library and commonly thought of as a library branch. If you are looking for a copy of your marriage license, a will, a deed, or a plat, you come to the Archives.
My biggest challenge will be not only familiarizing myself with the Archives and its collections, but also developing programs and activities that make these records accessible, informative, and exciting to researchers…I’ll keep INALJ updated!
Education and Outreach Librarian, Metro Government of Nashville and Davidson County Archives, Nashville, Tennessee. Jennifer’s favorite part of being a librarian: teaching children and adults how to use archival materials in their daily lives….and free coffee!