Katie Rojas is the most recent participant in our Year in the Life series, which follows new archivists in their first professional position. We have followed Katie for 12 months – this represents her final post in the series. You can read the Katie’s previous posts here. Thank you, Katie, for a great year!
This is my twelfth, and final, blog post for this series. Often, when we complete a project or a journey, it seems like we have somehow arrived at a new beginning. While I do feel like that’s partially true here, I also don’t feel like I’m back where I was a year ago. There has been definite growth and a LOT of learning in the past twelve months!
First, graduation was awesome. I loved meeting some of my classmates and instructors in person after three years of online-only coursework. And I am very much enjoying my newfound free time! Also, the regional archives conference was an absolute blast. I met so many wonderful archivists and thoroughly enjoyed the panel sessions I attended. It was so refreshing and invigorating to spend a few days with others in the profession. I really feel like I’m where I need to be. Graduation and the conference have definitely helped me feel like I’m beginning a new and wonderful journey.
At work, I don’t feel quite that way, but it’s not a bad thing! Here, I’m not at the beginning, and that’s great too, because I feel more confident, qualified, and decisive. Some of the most important things I’ve learned this past year have come from my practical experience as an archivist, but they aren’t things that are easily learned in school:
- People skills. Are. SO. Important! Thank goodness for my background in the service industry and teaching, or I’d be up a creek. It’s more than just being nice to people; it’s also about professionalism, communication, and networking. Building relationships is important for building support for, and a wider understanding of archives. I could have told you this during grad school, but the words have so much more meaning for me now. I’ve talked about how much I’ve enjoyed working with researchers in past posts – these are just a small example of how these skills have come into play and helped enrich my love of the profession.
- Translating library/archives lingo is not as easy as it seems when you’re in library school. Neither is the reference interview. We covered these issues in my classes, but they are definitely learned-on-the-job skills. There have been so many times that I’ve spoken to other employees and researchers and had to interpret what they’ve said into “library speak” in my head, and then re-interpret it back to terminology that makes sense to them! Sometimes, they use the same terminology, but they mean completely different things than what a librarian/archivist thinks it means! This can lead to confusion, but I’m getting better at this, and trying to (nicely) educate others along the way.
- Setting boundaries and structuring time are important. This is sort of a personal growth thing, but I know many other archivists, like me, have several projects on their plate and also feel the need to learn better management skills. Working on a project for an indefinite period of unstructured time lends itself to unfinished projects. Setting deadlines, even if they’re just your own self-imposed deadlines, can be really effective. And learning what you can/should say “yes” or “no” to is challenging, but very much worth it in terms of successfully getting things done without turning into a stress zombie.
- Archival work is not a quick process. It is not a medium-paced process. It is a slow process. I also knew this in school, but seeing the pace at which I’m able to accomplish things at work compared to expectations of how quickly things can be done, and to what degree of detail they can be done, is frustrating and overwhelming sometimes. I’m approaching this from two angles. First, it’s something that I am trying to work in with the bit about people skills and educating others around me about archival work. Second, it’s also something that I’m becoming more proficient with as I become more comfortable working with the collections. Patience, dedication, and planning are also important here.
- Don’t let “perfect” be the enemy of “good enough.” I’ve heard this somewhere before, and someone also said it in one of the conference sessions, which is where it really stuck with me. This is another point that holds much more meaning for me now that I’ve been in the field for a little bit. We archivists often love to meticulously organize stuff and do things perfectly to the nthdegree. I enjoy it, but it’s just not possible or practical most of the time, so I’ve started to learn when to draw the line. This has also helped tremendously in completing tasks. There’s always a mountain of work to do and little resources with which to do it. Good enough really can be good enough if it’s good enough!
This year has been both challenging and rewarding, and there’s really no way I can sum up everything that I’ve done and learned in one blog post, or even in all the posts for this year. I know I still have more to learn yet, but I’m looking forward to it, because really I love what I do! Here’s to many more years in the archives!