Some conversations can be worth having even when you don’t have a clear idea of how you will pull value from them or when – if ever – they might become fruitful. I’ve had conversations that have led to invitations to join project teams, to new careers, and now to a new collaboration with a colleague from this lab as she becomes active for the first time at the national level in the professional organization for health sciences librarians. As informal exchanges, some of these conversations have had outsized impacts, leading sometimes to more formalized mentoring and in this case, to peer-to-peer collaboration and exchange. As I reflect on the research lab as an incubator for professional growth in librarianship and developing relationships with colleagues who can both help you grow and whose growth you can help spur, I can see where the relationship building has taken me and where it has begun to bear fruit.
As part of our efforts to understand the needs of qualitative researchers at U-M, members of our research team spent time in pairs interviewing. We sometimes needed to travel to off campus sites to meet our interviewees, and those times offered chances to talk about job searches, what it’s like to give a job talk and how to prepare for one, what salaries are like, and factors that go into making a career decision. In one case, this lead to a more formal meeting where we actively planned for a campus interview experience that resulted in a job offer. Whether it was anything I said or did or simply the opportunity to practice with someone that helped, having been in those shoes relatively recently, I found that I had something I could offer my colleague.
Now, from our respective roles as research and instruction librarians, our conversations have moved to a new phase and a new modality: what types of roles to seek in professional organizations and how soon to get involved? Instead of face-to-face our “conversations” have transformed into asynchronous email “check-ins” where we share how our semesters are going, what challenges we are facing, what we are excited or nervous about, what strategies we use to cope, and how we are balancing work and a personal life. As I move from being brand new to health sciences librarianship to watching someone else new to it settle in, the opportunities that the lab has provided for us to learn together have also seeded an ongoing relationship beyond the lab. Together we are collaborating on a proposal for a poster for the Medical Library Association (MLA) annual conference based on our research in the lab. Would this have happened without tending to the smaller conversations – perhaps not. I suspect that we will have ongoing conversations about continuing education, networking, and leadership in MLA, as well as about our roles as health sciences librarians at our respective institutions. I’m happy to have this connection to my colleague and expect to gain a lot from it as we both deepen and broaden our experience.
Jackie Freeman obtained a B.A. in English and French from Kalamazoo College, a M.A. in English from Michigan State University, and a MLIS from Wayne State University and is now an Informationist at Taubman Health Sciences Library at the University of Michigan.