We’re conducting a classification and compensation study at the library where I work, and the study has forced me to think a lot about my job description. Since I started here, I’ve kept a list of the projects and programs I’ve worked on for my own reference. But the job description questionnaire we had to fill out for the study really made me think about the day-to-day work. One of the reasons I love my job is that every day is different — one day I may spend an hour and a half teaching someone to use her new Kindle Fire, another day I may spend two hours weeding the biography section to make room for new materials, and another day I may spend an hour leading a discussion for our adult book club. Unfortunately, the inconsistent nature of my day-to-day work makes it hard to define on the form.
Though I’ve been assured that the study’s findings will not recommend that any positions be eliminated or salaries reduced, I found myself looking at the questionnaire as a defense of my job. It feels like this is a chance to prove my worth, to show that what I do makes a difference for both the library and the people and communities we serve. Maybe that’s because I’ve read so many articles lately about positions getting eliminated and funding getting cut at other libraries, and about libraries’ needs to prove their worth in order to keep doing what they’re doing.
Rather than tackle the questionnaire head-on, I first consulted my list of “APL Accomplishments.” I then worked backwards, determining which of these things I considered “essential functions” and which fell under “other duties.” Finally, I spent a good half hour contemplating the first real question on the survey: “The purpose of this position is…”
What is a public librarian’s purpose? The librarians in my department all have vastly different projects and assignments that we work on off-desk, but when we’re on the desk (which is roughly 90% of the time for most of us, myself included), we all do very similar work. Two of my “essential functions” came from what I do on-desk. But the more I thought about it, the more I found myself connecting my off-desk work back to the same primary goals. When I eliminated the details and looked at the big picture, I came up with a mission statement that I’m pretty happy with:
The purpose of this position is to connect customers with the information they desire or require through library resources, media, and programs.
All of my duties, projects, and assignments in some way work towards supporting that mission. Of course, I go into a lot more detail in other parts of the survey, but if I had to define my job in one sentence, this is it.
Have any of you had a similar cause for reflection lately? Even if your employer doesn’t require it, I recommend taking a few minutes to think about what you do and why it matters to the organization or institution you work for. What’s your mission statement, and how does your work reflect that? You never know when you’ll need an elevator pitch, and coming up with one ahead of time could prevent a brain freeze at a crucial moment.