Thursday, December 3, 2015

Passing on Good Advice

“I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.” 
- Oscar Wilde (An Ideal Husband)

Next week is my last as a working librarian - I retire on December 11th.  Over the past few weeks I've been thinking a lot about the places I've worked and all the wonderful folks that I've worked with during these past 30 years.  It's been a great trip but I'm ready to do something different during the next chapter of my life.  As I look back on my career, I keep thinking about the choices that I've made and what's influenced those choices.  Unlike Oscar Wilde's character above, I do rely and act upon the advice that I receive.
Photo of Isabel Bloom figurines
Isabel Bloom figures & friends
(photo by Denise Anton Wright)

The best work-related advice that I ever received came from Dr. Charles Bunge, one of my professors at UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies back in the early 1980s.  He advised all of his students that the library world was a very small place and to never "burn our bridges."

At the time I don't think I fully realized what great advice this was.  But I put it to good use a few years later.  The not-for-profit book jobber where I'd been working as a staff librarian experienced financial reversals and my position was slated to be eliminated.  I was given 30 days notice and was expected to write my copy for our spring catalog before I left.  It was not a good time for me to be without a job.  We had purchased our first house (a fixer-upper) the previous year, my husband had recently left a very stressful full-time teaching gig at a women's prison, and Christmas was coming.  Let's face it, I was having a serious "little match girl" moment.  

Hurting from the shabby way that I felt I was being treated, I fantasized about leaving my job in a "blaze of glory" - quitting on the spot and telling them what they could do with their catalog. However, the gentle advice of Dr. Bunge drifted back to me.  I took the high road, finished out the year, and did a great job on my catalog copy.

Everything worked out for the best.  Through connections I'd made by being active in our state library organization, I learned of a temporary position at an academic library and wound up working there for over six years.  That position - in turn - led to my next job at a regional library system where - among other things - I had the responsibility of working with that same not-for-profit book jobber in providing continuing education.  Had I burned my bridges, it all would have been incredibly awkward and uncomfortable.

What's the best work-related advice that you've ever received?  I'm going to post this question on our "Library Administration" Google+ community and see what we can all learn from each other.


Written by Denise Anton Wright, Public Library Development