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 31, 2006 - Public Sector Vs. Private Sector Employment
Jamie LaRue is on vacation. This week's column is written by Art Glover, Human Resources Manager for Douglas County Libraries.
"How do you feel about public employment verses private employment?"
It is a question I have been asked many times since I began working for the Douglas County Libraries as the district's Human Resources Manager.
Often, the question is delivered with a knowing wink. I imagine they are thinking, "Surely you must be happier now!" And generally, I would say they are correct.
Once upon a time, I worked for a very large telecommunications and cable corporation. During those seventeen years, I did everything from handling calls from customers, to responding to executive complaints, to managing other employees, to human resources management work. I learned a great deal during my tenure with the company. I made long-lasting friendships. The company paid for my Masters degree. I was given many wonderful opportunities, and I'll always be grateful for that.
But was I happy at work? Oh, there were good times, sometimes even happy times. I'm usually a glass-half-full kind of guy, so I rode through the rough times without too much stress. Yet I was vaguely, and sometimes very, dissatisfied.
Why, you might ask? I have thought about it for quite some time now, and while there were multiple reasons I think I have narrowed it down to a few major issues. First, there was not a clear connection between my work and the overall mission of the organization. I never knew how my work fit into the grand scheme of things.
Something else became clear as I began to work for the library district. With my previous employer, I began to realize that I wanted to do something that would, directly or indirectly, give back to the community. I wanted to do something for the common good. I was growing tired of working to fill the pockets of the CEO, the shareholders, and our own wallets. This was the other major dissatisfaction for me.
Many people prefer working in the private sector. I understand that completely. It does have its advantages.
But for me, the public sector is where it's at.
I'm a big believer in acknowledging the fact that we all have choices. They may not always be easy choices; often they are very difficult choices. But I believe that the old saying is true: The only thing we must do in life is die. Everything else is a choice.
Some choices are made easier by circumstances. While working for the aforementioned telecommunications corporation, there were many threats of layoffs through the years. After enduring and surviving many rounds of down sizing that affected my peers across the company, and after handling many of the layoffs myself as a Human Resources Manager (a gut-wrenching experience, to be sure), my number eventually came up. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
I had a chance to seek other opportunities with the company after the layoff became effective, but I decided against it. I decided that I wanted less stress in my life, for starters. I wanted to grow personally and professionally. I wanted to work for an organization that was much smaller than the over 50,000 employee workforce that I came from. I wanted to feel valued and listened to. Of course, fair pay and benefits were in the picture as well, but I was willing to face the inevitable decrease in compensation that the public sector provides in comparison with the private sector.
I may be an optimist, but Iím also a realist. Everything is not rosy in the public employment world. Funding, for example, is a constant concern, no matter how financially stable your public employer might be. There are also the usual workplace woes, from employee relations challenges to office politics to communications and trust issues.
But in spite of it all, those of us in the public sector know why we are here. Everything we do is in support of the community. It is a selfless and honorable endeavor.
And that's why, at least for us, working in the public employment world is a winner. Hands down.