my journey to the library: an update

The Big Life Change continues. [See here, here and here for background.]

I've been accepted to the University of Toronto Faculty of Information. I start in September, going part-time, to attain my Master of Information, surely the coolest name of any degree going.

My goal (as of now) is to work part-time in a public library system, preferably in my own town of Mississauga.

Ideally, employment as a librarian would replace my current day-job as a legal document production specialist, and I would still write. However, I'm not opposed to considering full-time librarian work at some point. I could see doing that for a few years for financial reasons, then dropping back to part-time work.

With this is mind, yesterday I met with the Director of the Mississauga Library System, for information and to start making connections there.

Everything I learned got me really excited about working in Mississauga, for so many reasons.

I really enjoy living in Mississauga. I love the diversity, the excellent services, the friendliness, the cleanliness. I don't love the ugly townhouse developments, but I do love the big-box stores (something I never thought I'd say!) and all the mom-and-pop restaurants hidden in the ugly strip malls. I love the dog parks, and the community centres, and my friendly neighbours who speak 25 different languages. I especially love the library system.

Working in Mississauga would be a joy for commuting, and I would be be proud to serve this community in the excellent, accessible system.

I was thinking along these lines anyway, but since my meeting this week, I'm even more certain.

The Mississauga Library System is very modern, very progressive, for both patrons and employees. It serves 26 different languages in 18 branches and an amazing Central Library.

It offers a vast array of services, from online book clubs, to story times geared for working parents, free computer workshops for seniors, teen poetry slams, a commitment to documenting local history... you can even borrow a pedometer as part of the Get Active Mississauga program.

Almost everything is state-of-the-art, and anything that's not is about to be upgraded. They have an enviable budget, plus a Friends of the Library organization that raises another $100,000 a year with book sales.

From the employee's point of view, the librarians are unionized (a CUPE local), so there's job security and a pay-scale agreement. But, unlike the older seniority systems that many city library and school systems run on, advancement in the Mississauga Library is merit-based.

I'm not knocking seniority systems in general, they were important gains in the early days of public employees' unions. But they have their drawbacks, especially for a person starting a new career in mid-life. In a merit-based system, I'll be able to advance and thrive.

I'll also have more control over my career. If I work in Toronto, I'll have to take whatever part-time job is available, because I'll be so far down the seniority list that I'll have no choice. I could easily have to work in branches that will be difficult to get to and have bad hours, but have no choice. In Mississauga, I'll have a much better chance of having my hard work and talents noticed and rewarded.

There's one drawback, and you can already guess what it is: lower salaries. But the salaries are still fine. They're certainly comfortable, and that's all I've ever looked for or expected.

The Director said the employment outlook is very positive. They're not expecting a wholesale retirement of baby boomers (there is no mandatory retirement, which is good!), but of course some people are retiring, and branches are expanding, and new branches are being built. There are also several nearby towns - Oakville, Brampton, Halton, Milton - that also have good library systems, and where the population is also expanding.

The Director introduced me to a few library managers, who were excited to meet a Mississauga resident about to begin library school. They've already put me in touch with several other resources: a current U of T FI student and a recent graduate, both working in the Mississauga system, the Director of Children's Services and several other relevant folks. They're all so friendly and helpful; it reminds me of our first weeks in Canada.

* * * *

Soon I have to get a student ID, fork over a bunch of borrowed money, and enrol in my September classes.

I'm fighting hard to take it one step at a time and not be overwhelmed. The same strategies that got me through the Canadian Immigration process will work here. Plan the next step, take that step. Plan another step, take that step. Step, step, step. Anytime I feel my stomach knot up with anxiety, it means I'm thinking too many steps ahead. Breathe and back up.

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