It’s that time of year again! Time for me to gripe about how I haven’t posted enough to the blog, give some (*reasonably legitimate) excuses as to why, and then reflect back on the year’s events. Let’s just skip right to that last part, shall we? That sounds like more fun.
10 Favorite Professional-Life Things
10. I got a new job!
So, remember when I said I had some *reasonably legitimate excuses for not posting to the blog more? Yeah I’ve had some pretty big life changes this year. One of the biggest is that I got a new job! In May, I started as a Youth Services Librarian with Hennepin County Libraries.
The new job is simultaneously one of the best and most bittersweet things of the year. For my personal life, it was pretty fantastic, as it meant moving back to Minnesota where many family and friends reside (more about that in the Personal-Life Things section). And in many ways it’s also pretty great for my professional life, as HCL is one of the leading library systems in the country. I feel very honored and proud to be able to say I work for such a well-renowned and in many ways cutting-edge library system.
But it was really hard to leave Wisconsin.
I loved my job–the small-town community, the ability to be creative and try new things,
the crazy busy programming schedule, and above all else the kids and families I worked with. I also loved the life my husband and I created there. We were renting a place on a lake, exploring new things together, and enjoying each others’ company–just the two of us most of the time, since family and many close friends were a good 4+ hour drive away. We knew it was temporary, though. Since we moved out to Wisconsin in 2012, our plan was always to make our way back to Minnesota sooner rather than later. It was happy news to learn I was hired at HCL. But it was HARD. Hard and exciting and sad and wonderful and bittersweet.
I have experienced some pretty big growing pains in my new position. I was used to being a medium-sized-fish-in-a-smallish-pond and suddenly I was a teeny-tiny-fish-in-a-much-larger-pond. I learned with a significant degree of sadness that single-handedly planning, marketing, and executing 8-10 youth programs a month isn’t necessarily the norm and that sometimes what looks shiny and beautiful from afar can be rough and scratchy up close. But I also learned that I have a lot to offer and a lot of room to grow professionally. I am learning that I have the ability to guide my career the way I want it to go. And that’s exciting.
9. Attending the MLA Conference in Duluth
Another thing I’m adjusting to in my new job is that going to conferences is kind of a rare opportunity unless you’re a supervisor or on the executive team (or you’re presenting). So I was surprised and thrilled when I was accepted to attend the Minnesota Library Association Conference in October. A few spots opened up and librarians were invited to submit a paragraph of interest, so I thought “Why not?” and threw my name in. It just goes to show that it doesn’t hurt to try!
I did my undergrad at UMD, so it was fun to visit my old stomping grounds. Another fun perk was that a friend who also happens to be a former Wisconsin librarian newly transplanted to the Twin Cities was attending the conference and staying in the same hotel, so we got to catch up and swap library stories.
8. 16 Personalities test
I love personality tests and found this one to be eerily accurate. It’s essentially a free Myers-Briggs test that places you in one of 16 different personality types. I’m an INFJ-T, or “The Advocate.” A lot of the stuff it says about various aspects of my personality and life are spot-on. OK, so this might not be *directly* related to work, but I learned about it through a conversation thread on our staff web, and my work style very much reflects upon my personality type, so I think it applies. Take the test if you haven’t already!
7. Quiet Revolution newsletter
Quiet Revolution is an online community I learned about after having read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I subscribed to the weekly newsletter and have found many of the articles to be helpful and enlightening in both my personal and professional life.
6. Discovering my work style and advocating for it
One of the things I was looking forward to in my new job was that I wouldn’t be the only YS person anymore. I’d have a team of people to support me and together we’d be able to do more! I wouldn’t have to spread myself so thin! I could bounce ideas off others and vice versa!
I quickly learned that that is just not how I operate.
Turns out I like to be somewhat of a “lone wolf” when it comes to my job (Speaking of #7 and #8…). It’s not that I don’t work well with others or enjoy a good brainstorming session now and then, but I’ve found that I do my best creative work when I’m on my own. I need quiet time to work through the ideas in my head and formulate them thoughtfully. I don’t like sharing an office. I don’t like being constantly available to my office-mate’s every thought and question. I don’t like thinking on the fly and having to come up with an immediate answer. It’s nothing personal! It’s just not me. I tried adapting to the situation while also suggesting things to make it a more tolerable work environment, but in the end it was pretty clear that I was not going to thrive in that environment.
Which leads me to #5…
5. Transferred to Northeast Library
One of the benefits of working for HCL is that it is fairly easy to transfer to other branches. I put my name on the transfer list in the hopes of a) finding somewhere that was a better fit for me and b) reducing the length of my commute. A few weeks later I was given the option to transfer to the Northeast Minneapolis branch.
I took a tour, met with the person who would be my future supervisor, and absolutely loved it. It’s a smaller, diverse, community library in the heart of the arts district with a cozy, laid-back vibe and lots of big windows that let in natural light. AND… I’d be the only YS person. Say no more! I’ve been here almost two months and haven’t been happier with my job since moving to the Twin Cities.
4. Book Riot Read Harder Challenge
Enough about me. Let’s talk about books! This year I took on Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, which led me to read outside my comfort zone and expand my boundaries. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to tackle this year’s challenge.
Speaking of books, here were my faves this year (not necessarily published in 2016, just read by me in 2016).
YA: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (this was a re-read for me, but I enjoyed it just as much the second time!), and Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
For the complete list of books I read this year, check out my Year in Books on Goodreads.
2. Protect Your Peeps
The last “Monday Madness” program I did with my teens before leaving for Minnesota was Protect Your Peeps. I got the idea from the fabulous 52 Weeks of YA Programming resource put together last year by the Youth Services Section of the Wisconsin Library Association.
You can read more about program specifics on the 52 Weeks link above, but here’s the gist of it: The teens split into teams of 2, built fortresses out of recyclables to hide marshmallow Peeps inside, then took turns catapulting marshmallows to try to knock down the other teams’ Peeps. I planned the program for shortly after Easter so I could buy the Peeps on sale. Luckily the program date fell on an unseasonably warm April day, so I set up outside.
The teens surprisingly followed the rules quite well throughout, but once I called the winner it immediately evolved into an all-out marshmallow war on the library lawn. At another time I may have tried to stop the madness, but since it was my last teen program and I was feeling especially fond of them I joined in and chucked my fair share of marshmallows too.
1. Less on my plate
Like I said, my programming schedule is a lot less hectic than it was in Wisconsin. A big factor is that HCL has access to Legacy-funded programming and system-sponsored performers and partners are hired to carry out many programs, especially during the summer months. I came on during the beginning of Summer Library Program and was shocked to find that the YS librarians were not running around like chickens with their heads cut off (What do you mean, people come in to do the programs for us and all we have to do is welcome them, make sure they have what they need, and help keep things in line during the program?!). While in many ways it was a relief, it was also disappointing, to be quite honest. I love developing and carrying out programs. It was one of the biggest joys for me in my last job and one of the things I excel most at.
But as I settle into my position and talk with my new supervisor, I am realizing with relief that yes, I am allowed to do my own programs in addition to the ones we bring in. And while I can’t see myself going back to the crazy busy programming schedule I used to have, I am also realizing that I am kind of okay with that. It is okay to be strategic and intentional about the programs I offer, adding just a bit to my plate at a time as I assess the needs and wants of my community.
Having less on my plate has allowed me to pursue professional development opportunities, join a few system-wide sub-teams, work more closely with the collection and the space, and reflect. I expect that in the near future I will look back on this time of reflection longingly as my plate will be filled with making community connections and exploring new programming endeavors, but for now I will enjoy it while it lasts and look forward with anticipation for what’s to come.
10 Favorite Personal-Life Things
10. Moved to Minnesota
As I mentioned, my husband Alex and I made the move from Wisconsin back to our home state of Minnesota. We are excited to be back closer to family and friends and our goal this year is to make sure we continue to carve out time just the two of us to explore and adventure together–and also to just sit on our butts and binge-watch Netflix (See #3).
9. Bought a house
We started seriously looking for our own home this fall and were lucky enough to find The One on our first day of showings–in fact, it was the very first one we walked into(!). But it couldn’t be that easy, right? After lots of unforeseen back-and-forths over the span of a few nerve-wracking weeks, we finally got the house. We closed on Halloween and managed to unpack our boxes and hang stuff on the walls in time to host a housewarming party in early December. We love our new home, especially the big back yard and mature trees. Can’t wait to continue making memories in it together this year!
8. Genevieve Louise & Kendall Paige
On my very first day of work at HCL on May 31, my sister/best friend Kari went into labor with her first child. To channel the great Chandler Bing, “Could the stars be any more aligned?” I was honored and fortunate enough to be present for the birth of my niece (and goddaughter!) Genevieve Louise that night. What an amazing and unforgettable experience. She is now just over 7 months old and has such a sweet, determined, fun-loving personality. Another bonus to our new home? It happens to be about 3 minutes away from them. It has been such a blessing to live so close that we can be around to spend time with Gigi as she grows and changes.
We also got another new niece this summer! Alex’s sister and brother-in-law (who were kind enough to house us for several months before we bought our house) had Kendall Paige on August 6, the same day my family participated in a walk to raise awareness for Huntington’s Disease for my mom and uncle. Alex and I were able to help out with our godson Cameron while his parents rushed off to the hospital, and we got front row seats to the first few months of Kendall’s life since we were living under the same roof. Wonderful timing to be living back near family!
7. Good times with family
The biggest family event that stands out this year, aside from the two I just mentioned, is that my niece Nicole got married. Kari and I were the Matrons of Honor and had a blast showering Nicole with love at a fancy bridal shower brunch and a nautical-themed bachelorette party. The wedding was at an apple orchard in September and could not have been more beautiful. I love weddings! The anticipation, getting all dressed up, the expression of love during the ceremony, eating, drinking, speeching, celebrating, and dancing the night away. The best part was seeing the love Nicole and Tony have for each other. They were both absolutely beaming with excitement. I can’t even handle how sweet they are together. Did I mention that I love weddings?
6. Good times with friends
Living in Minnesota has allowed us to spend a lot more time with not only family but friends, too. I joined a book club Kari started a couple years ago with her friends and have since coerced a few of my friends into going, too. Alex and I have played endless rounds of Marbles & Jokers with our closest pals (have you heard of this game? It’s like an addicting combination of Sorry and Chinese checkers) and have just barely started to tap into Minneapolis’s micro-brewery scene. Looking forward to doing more of that this year.
Another fun thing I did with friends since moving back is an Escape Room. You may have heard about this phenomenon, as lots of libraries are creating them for Teen programming. It made for a fun ladies’ night, too. We didn’t successfully escape the room in an hour, but had a lot of fun solving puzzles and cracking codes until the clock ran out!
We ended the year on a high note by hosting an Anchorman-themed New Year’s Eve party (inspired by our ’70s wood-paneled basement) complete with Minute-to-Win-It games. Stay classy, Minnesota!
In March, Alex and I (along with Kari and her husband Levi) visited my parents in Rockport, Texas, their new winter home-away-from-home. We enjoyed spending Easter with them (including a balmy beach day, what?! This Midwest gal had never before gotten a suntan on Easter), joining my mom for yoga, eating delicious food, and sight-seeing as they showed us around their town.
In May, our good friends Jon and Amanda got married in Sarasota, Florida and we spent a few days exploring and celebrating with them and another friend-couple. I had never been to Florida and wasn’t sure what I would think of it, but I have to say that my cold-blooded self was in love with the heat and humidity. Aside from the wedding festivities, we did some deep-sea fishing, shopped, and most importantly soaked up the sun. Can I go back now?
In September, we visited Alex’s parents in their new home near Denver, Colorado. We had an adventurous time zip-lining and white-water rafting, saw the Redrocks amphitheater, drove around Rocky Mountain National Park and took the New Belgium brewery tour. A busy but fun-filled vacation!
4. Boating and enjoying the lake house
We got in our fair share of good times at the lake house this year before moving back to Minnesota. We sure will miss that place, but are thankful for the time we had there. And Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, so it’s not like we’re exactly hurting for opportunities to get out and about this summer. 😉
3. Parks and Rec
OK so I’m a little late to the party here, but OMG PARKS AND REC. We started binge-watching the series this summer and just finished it up last month. It is no exaggeration to say that I felt like I lost a good friend when the season finale was over. Alex can attest to the fact that I was down in the dumps and in withdrawals. Sometimes I talk about characters from the show as if they are real people. That’s normal, right?
2. Walks with Patch
One of my goals for 2016 was to do 100 walks with my dog, Patch. We only made it to 71 (my fault, not his–he would’ve done 365 walks if he could have!), but the goal definitely got me out and about more than I would have otherwise. It was fun enjoying the paths at each of our three homes this year in all kinds of weather.
I listened to many audiobooks and podcasts on these walks as well as just enjoying the sounds of nature. Patch enjoyed sniffing lots of smells, swimming, and “hunting.” We stumbled upon deer, prairie dogs, sandhill cranes, mallards, great blue herons, hawks, snakes, and little rodents of all types.
Looking forward to another year of walks with Patch, whatever the number may be.
1. Adventuring with Alex
One of the things I admire most about Alex is his enthusiasm for trying new things. Once he gets into something, he goes all in. While I admire and appreciate this about him, I have to say that I don’t always fully understand the draw of some of his hobbies. However, one of the things I tried with him this year and got pretty into was mountain biking. I don’t consider myself to be a real adrenaline-seeking person, but I am hooked! I am looking forward to trying out more trails this year.
Here are some of the other fun things we did together in 2016. Can’t wait to do even more together this year!
Thank you for reading! I hope you, too, had an adventurous 2016 and that your New Year is off to a happy, healthy start.