Sunday, January 8, 2012

13.5 years as Head Research Librarian, with the company where I am now Client Executive

As I mentioned, the recession of the early nineties occurred only a couple of years after I completed my library degree (ahem, M.Sci IS :-) ) I mention this due to this fact:

During the thirteen years before I was hired by my current employer, I had seventeen jobs.

That recession, having occurred in a period of time that my professional experience was relatively short, caused a situation where I had to take multiple concurrent part-time positions, rather often, during those years. There was also a period in the early nineties that I held a position that's unconventional for a librarian. I'll describe it in another post.

So anyway, in the *late* nineties (just as the dot-com period was heating up), I was hired, first as a contractor, by my current employer. Fourteen months after joining, as a contractor, I was hired as a full employee.

For 13.5 years, I was in the same role. The job title changed during those years. However, for the last eight years, the title was Head Research Librarian. When I was hired by the company, I was in a team of about 15 professional librarians. We reported to several people, all of whom also had library degrees. We also had support personnel, who were in union-represented roles. The recession associated with the dot-com bust hit the company badly, and the Library organization was decimated. After that period, the Librarian-managers having been laid off, I was reporting to an Engineer, who was a department head and had taken on a management role. All the other libraries in the company had been closed; the union-represented support also laid off; but, I and one other professional Librarian remained, providing excellent service to the company's "Technical Community," and funded by a specific group/department within the Labs organization.

About two years after we started reporting to the Engineer, the company was acquired. Within the next couple of years, it merged with several other companies.

We used to say that we were like a "Solo Librarian Times Two." We had always answered any tech-related reference question, from anywhere in the company. We also had a long list of other responsibilities, from managing the suite of online services and maintaining the library intranet website, to cataloging and providing remote book checkout/borrow (circulation) services, to issuing Copyright Transfer /Publishing agreements for the technical papers and books written by employees (usually 30-40 publications to review and release per month.)

After the company had gone through it's rapid succession of acquisitions and mergers, the total number of employees was several hundred thousand, in the US alone. Potentially, all of them were our customers, especially anyone who had a need for technical information, in a company with technology at its core. You might assume that we must have gotten new-found colleagues from the other companies, from that M&A activity. But, that wasn't really the case. The other companies we had merged with did not have as long a history as ours, which is a technology company with roots going back to the period of technical innovation just prior to the 20th Century. Also, although we were smaller than the company that acquired us, we had a much more robust R&D organization than it or any of the other companies that we subsequently merged with. Our only new colleague, who did a great job managing the little library (and holding down a ton of other responsibilities) she ran for the Labs organization of the company that acquired us, did not have an MLS.

I remember 2008 as very stressful (tears, even) yet exhilarating (so many interesting new clients). In 2009, I made a comment to a colleague, who had an MLS but was working in an non-traditional role in the company, that I was having a "goosebumps" feeling.. the technology space just felt so much like it had felt in 1999.. That is, a period when there are many rapid advances and "disruptive technologies" occurring concurrently; yet so much on the verge of an economic bust, in our industry sector. I was on the phone with her. We both "held our breath" and said we were "crossing fingers."

In the first week of January, 2010, she, and my colleague (with whom I had formed the "solo librarian times two" team), were laid off. My manager said that the remote circulation service had to be discontinued. All of my other responsibilities remained the same.

Luckily some changes had occurred in my personal life and in late 2009, I had moved to a rental apartment much closer to the office. I now had a 15 minute commute, instead of one that was at least 45 minutes, due to traffic. I forged on; but it was very difficult. It became my habit to leave the office by 8pm for safety reasons, but get back online once I got home and continue working, until at least midnight.

Back in the early 2000s, when the professional librarians in my larger team were getting laid off in waves over several years, I considered looking for another job. But, this was the first time that I had worked for a major corporation, as a full employee. I decided then, to do whatever it took, to hold onto the job as long as possible. I had learned many key skills at Simmons College regarding the management of libraries in corporations, including what steps to take, to thwart a library's closure. In that context, I had also learned that very often, library positions in corporations do come to an end, eventually.

Because of the eventual prospect of 1. unemployment benefits enhanced by a severance payout and maybe outplacement help; and 2. the likely opportunity to search and apply for other positions in the company, I continued doing my best to hang onto the job.

As you might now expect, my "time" came in the early Spring of 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment