One of the things I always have a love-hate relationship with is the process of getting to know new co-workers. Its a dance we all do, I suppose. Finding the right balance with a sometimes extremely diverse range of personalities can seem like an extreme sport. Which people share your sense of humour, and which prefer a strait-laced work environment? Who are the process-driven workers and who are willing to play things a bit looser due to their customer-focussed approach?
I’m dancing this particular tango once again while I get used to my new part time job. Having worked in libraries before – albeit some twenty years ago – there’s not much about the job that is intrinsically new or scary in the way that I used to encounter when taking on new projects. With project management in local government I often had to assimilate an awful lot of information in a very short period of time to be able to understand the business requirements of the areas I was working with. These skills have proved invaluable in researching and producing articles for clients to tight deadlines. In comparison, the learning curve in the new job is a little more relaxed – but only in comparison.
This is where the dance analogy comes in. Its not so much that I’m learning new steps, more that I’m adjusting the timings to match a new time signature. Being a public-facing role, there’s a degree of pacing through the day that I’m having to re-learn. The biggest difference across the years though is in how stock is managed.
The last time I worked in libraries, there were a lot more professional librarians involved in the running of them. From managing the day to day service, through to cataloguing and stock repair and management, the professionals had the final say and a hands-on involvement that is rare to encounter in public libraries today.
Instead, I’m a lot more involved with the sort of back-room administration and stock control this time around. To a degree this is of course down to how the manager chooses to allocate tasks among the people available. This is where the dance of personalities is particularly interesting to me. I’m enjoying seeing both how existing task holders match the jobs that have been given them, and in working out what I am most likely to be assigned.
There’s an element of gamesmanship here: How I present myself and work will have, indeed already has had, an impact on what is being put my way. Conversations and demonstrations of my work ethic, as well as my ability to manage my own time effectively, are already showing fruit that is fascinating to me as a people-watcher. Its an intriguing dance that I’d almost forgotten as a solitary writer – and I’m quite enjoying relearning the steps.