Returning to the Ranks

In January I “returned to the ranks” (I stepped down as an administrator and became a non-management librarian again). At least I think I did this. There might be some doubt.

Some context.

Having served as Chief Librarian and CIO at the University of Guelph for many years, I decided to stop being an administrator and go back to professional practice. I took a sabbatical and now am a librarian at Guelph who teaches in our First Year Seminar Program.

The prospect of returning to the ranks got me thinking about how faculty do this (relatively often) but librarians not so much. In fact most Chief Librarians/Library Deans/University Librarians either retire from the job or go on to other administrative jobs.

So I decided to interview a few people and see what was happening around this issue. I presented the results in a paper at the inaugural annual conference of the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians. This lead to a paper that has just been published in Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research.

Here’s the key point of all this: I was talking to a colleague about the paper (he had read it) and he said: “Do you think you’ve actually returned to the ranks?”

Say what?

Apparently while I may think I’m a “librarian” again, others may not be so sure. Once an administrator, always an administrator.

And perhaps that’s why the whole issue of stepping down from an administrative role and staying in the profession needs some attention.  A more holistic career path for librarians would see administrative appointments as part of a natural and cyclical progression: as a stage, not a destination. If you are interested in more about this, see “Returning to the Ranks: Towards an Holistic Career Path in Academic Librarianship.”


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2 Responses to Returning to the Ranks

  1. Mark Roman says:

    Great post. You have been on a very cool journey since I’ve met you. This post is a fascinating observation and I might suggest we think we are seemingly going full cycle, but in reality are travelling in an ever widening circle.

    • Mike Ridley says:

      Nice Mark. Thanks. I agree. The “returning” metaphor does seem limiting. The widening circle (ripples) is more positive and more accurate. However, there is something wonderful about reflecting a previous experiences with new eyes. A little Eliot seems appropriate:

      We shall not cease from exploration
      And the end of all our exploring
      Will be to arrive where we started
      And know the place for the first time.

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