For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
August 10, 2000 - Library Headhunters
About once a week, lately, I get letters (and sometimes phone calls and visits) from library headhunters.
More commonly called "corporate search firms," these are companies employed by fairly large libraries to fill the top job. Some headhunters work a variety of professions. Some just do libraries.
At first, I freely admit that I was flattered by the attention. Who wouldn't be? Headhunters tend to be very complimentary. They've heard good things about you, they say, or were impressed by a talk or an article you did.
They describe a terrific position in (pick your city) with infectious enthusiasm. They emphasize the opportunities -- to make more money, to earn more prestige, to make a difference, to make a change. If the job itself isn't so hot, they tend to emphasize the recreational or cultural benefits of the area.
Of course, you have to temper all this with the understanding that they do get paid for moving you from one job to another. You might think THEY think you're one swell guy. The truth is, at least some of them see you as a commodity.
But all this did get me mulling over my career. I haven't interviewed for a job in 10 years. Interviewing, like everything else, is a skill. If Doug Bruce's Taxcut 2000 passes this fall, a lot of Colorado librarians are going to be out of a job. That means there will be more competition for the jobs in other states.
Did I mention that I am the sole support of a wife, two children, and two dogs? All of them, I've noticed, expect food on a more or less daily basis.
Of course, getting a call from a headhunter isn't the same thing as getting a job offer. You still have to polish off the resume, draft a cover letter, and do a little research, long before the interview. But these days, there's a wonderful tool for that research: the Internet. You can pull up real estate ads (with pictures), local newspaper articles, the school website, and in the process get a pretty accurate feel for the general community tenor. You can also get some great comparative cost of living figures.
Then there's the biological network: friends in the field who can give you the inside story on a place. There are always a few skeletons in library closets, and it can be fun to ferret them out.
In the midst of all my musings, I began to notice something. A LOT of top library jobs are opening up lately, all across the country. Why? Retirements. A whole generation of librarians are stepping down. There just aren't as many experienced library directors as there used to be, hence the calls from headhunters.
So consider this a professional recruitment call of my own: librarianship is experiencing a generational turnover. I firmly believe our profession will be in demand for a long, long time to come. Those of you heading off (or back) to college, give this some careful consideration.
There are a lot of good jobs out there. While I don't know many rich librarians, that also depends on how you define rich. In my eyes, life at the library is wealth beyond compare.
But I'm finding that the more I study it, the harder I think it would be for me to leave Colorado. There are two reasons: people and place.
The best part of my job -- as I suspect is true for a lot of administrators -- is watching staff members grow, putting them in places where they can try new things, and giving them the resources they need to succeed. Usually, they do succeed.
I find that I have some significant personal investment in the people who work for the library.
Then there's Colorado itself. Part of the attraction is a combination of altitude and aridity. The rest is pure natural splendor.
It would take a statewide vote to get me to leave. But even if THAT happens, well, at least now I know some headhunters.