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Year in Review: Two Librarians Reflect on One Year of Blogging (and Two New Jobs!)

December 28, 2018

by Michele Anfuso and Jessica Showalter

In January 2018, Michele Anfuso and Jessica Showalter began writing monthly blog posts for the Pennsylvania Library Association’s College & Research Division blog, It’s Academic. In this co-written post, they reflect on one year of blogging and how it has affected their professional and personal development. Both bloggers will continue blogging for It’s Academic in the upcoming year.

Michele writes:

This has been an incredible year for me as a fledgling librarian, and I have been pleased with my progress as a blogger for the Pennsylvania Library Association’s College & Research Division. When I first started blogging back in January, I had very little experience working in academic libraries, other than two internships during my time as a graduate student. I had just started my second position in a public library setting as a Circulation Desk Lead the previous month when I wrote my first article for the College & Research Division’s blog, entitled ”Straddling the Fence of Both the Academic World and Public Libraries,” in which I discussed my unfolding journey as a graduate student earning my Master in Library Science while desperately trying to accumulate enough professional experience to appeal to potential employers. Interviews for both academic and public libraries popped up for me during this time, and I was very pleased, if not honored, to be considered as a potential candidate for Villanova and Arcadia Universities. Sadly, I did not secure either one of those positions, but just to say I was interviewed by these prestigious institutes of academia has been a highlight for me.

I left my position as a Circulation Desk Lead in May when I was offered to serve as Library System Administrator for Bradford County, but personal challenges eventually prevented me from making the three-hour move, and I had to decline the opportunity. It is something which I deeply regret now. For three months, I was unemployed and felt like a failure as a librarian. Nonetheless, to keep up with my blogging, I took advantage of my extra time to attend webinars, such as “Open Access 2020: Looking at the Future,” so that I could stay in the loop concerning academic libraries. I wanted to stay relevant even though I was not working, and the College & Research Division blog gave me that opportunity. It would not be until mid-October when I finally secured my first job as an academic librarian. Now I feel as though I can contribute so much more to the blog and I am looking forward to new challenges and to the ideas I can churn out for 2019. In the spring, I will be conducting my first information literacy sessions, and yes, I am nervous. I want to make a good impression and come across as confident and thorough in what I am trying to convey. It is my hope that I can get some crucial feedback from my fellow College & Research Division bloggers!

Jessica writes:

My New Year’s resolution last year was MORE WRITING. Love of writing was part of the reason I went to grad school for English, but after graduating in 2015, my writing practice took a nosedive. To get back on track with personal writing projects, I committed to weekly writing dates with my writing partner Jeannette and to finishing a NanoWriMo challenge. However, I dreamed of finding a way to integrate my love of writing into my job, too. While I have enjoyed working as a library staff member at the Penn State Altoona Library for four years, I wanted to expand beyond my job duties of course reserves, interlibrary loan, and working at the circulation desk. When I saw the call for bloggers for It’s Academic, I took the leap and applied.

I call it a “leap” because that’s what it felt like for me. I was afraid that since I was a staff member (not a librarian) and I don’t have an MLIS, I would be disqualified. Happily, I was wrong! The Pennsylvania Library Association welcomed me. But if I thought applying was nerve-wracking, imagine the cold sweats I had when I had to click the “Publish immediately” button on those first few blog articles…

Writing for It’s Academic was a whole different animal than writing a dissertation about 19th-century US culture. I needed to learn an entirely different skill set, and I needed to learn it fast. How to track down a lead, how to cold call for an interview and then transcribe it, how to write for the web, how to find copyright free images, how to share my posts on social media, the list goes on and on. Not to mention, I needed a crash course in the latest library trends so I could situate my articles in context. Along the way, I presented at my first Pennsylvania Library Association conference and signed up for its 2019 Mentoring Program. Looking back, I learned a lot.

The biggest surprise was that blogging contributed to a career change–starting in January 2019, I will begin working as the Student Engagement & Outreach Librarian at Penn State Altoona. Lessons learned from blogging absolutely helped me prepare for the interview process, and I will be applying them to my new role in the coming year as well. I can’t wait to get started!

Michele Anfuso is the Information Services/Interlibrary Loan Librarian at Lehigh Carbon Community College’s Rothrock Library and a library assistant at Lower Macungie Library.

Jessica Showalter is an Information Resources and Services Support Specialist at Penn State Altoona’s Eiche Library. Say hello on Twitter @libraryjms

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