A Librarian's Guide to Relocating to New York

 

Who hasn’t dreamed of moving some place new, some place different, some place exciting? Who hasn’t dreamed of making a new start in a new city, or state, or country? Who hasn't searched for jobs by title, without limiting by geographic region? Whether this has been your dream or not, relocation – for many librarians – is part and parcel of the job.  

New York City, and the surrounding metro area, has libraries and lots of them: public, academic, school, special… you name it. There are also library organizations, associations, networking groups, discussion groups, and special interest groups who organize and sponsor meetings, workshops, classes, conferences, symposia, panel sessions, webinars, tours, meetups, Bliblioballs, happy hours, and more. For a library professional, this city has a lot to offer. There are historic landmarks of librarianship like the New York Public Library, the Morgan Library & MuseumColumbia University and Pratt Institute; and long-standing and newly-developed institutions like the New York Society Library, the New York Academy of Medicine Library and Poet’s House, to name just a few. New York is also home to publishers, booksellers, law firms, financial institutions, art institutions, medical centers, design firms, technology companies and government agencies. So, if you can make it here (as a librarian)… well, you know the rest.

For those who get to do it, whether by choice or by necessity, relocating to a new city is both exciting-as-hell and scary-as-sh*t (pardon the language). So, for the newcomer and those thinking of relocating to the New York City area for work, here are a few tips, and a few related links, to help lessen the stress and smooth the transition:

 

Know your geography.

When you move to a new place, it takes time to really get to know the ins and outs of the city and the landscape. And when you’re in the largest city in the country, with numerous islands and bridges and tunnels to navigate, it might take even longer. So have fun and explore the geography and the history of the city both online and on-foot. New York City has five boroughs and a mélange of neighborhoods. And don’t forget Long Island, Westchester County, New Jersey and Connecticut, all in close proximity by car and train. Get to know the neighborhood where your work is located as well as where you end up living, where you would like to live, and all those places in-between. Learn the transit systems, check out the local eateries and amenities and talk to people you know and people you meet who can give you advice on where to go and what to see.

 

Be a joiner

Find local professional organizations and associations and groups that interest you and join some of them. Talk to your supervisor or director or colleagues at your new job and find out which ones they belong to, which ones the library belongs to, and which ones they think are useful. These memberships will allow you to meet and collaborate with professionals working in similar jobs in other libraries in and around the city. These organizations may offer classes and discussion groups and opportunities for you to get involved in committee service, research projects, outreach, design and development, marketing, and mentoring.

 

Use your social network. 

Connect with people who live in your new city (friends of friends, distant relatives, old acquaintances, people you’ve only met online) and do some research to locate local libraries and organizations that have online social networks. Find libraries and library organizations on blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook and read, subscribe, follow, encircle, and like them. Contribute to the conversations and keep yourself up-to-date on local news and events while you are networking and socializing.

 

Find a guide (or a mentor).

Navigating is always easier with a guide. At your new position, or in an organization you belong to, ask about formal and informal mentoring programs. If there are none, ask about the possibility of developing one or ask someone to be an informal mentor for you, someone who can answer your questions, someone you can use as a resource. Even if you have decades of experience under your belt, having someone who can help you adjust to your new position, new institution, and new locale can help to make your transition easier.

 

Put yourself out there

Honestly, it can be an anxiety-inducing process to move away from everything you know and begin to feel like you fit in to your new location and your new job. But try to think of it this way: you are starting fresh, and – if you are so inclined – you can reinvent yourself. You’ve already removed yourself from your comfort zone, so take some risks, both personally and professionally. Work on your elevator pitch and introduce yourself to people you wouldn't normally go up to; do things you wouldn’t normally do; go places you wouldn't normally go; and volunteer to take on things you wouldn’t normally take on. What have you got to lose? You might be surprised at the new opportunities and new relationships that will develop and evolve. The longer you stay, the more these relationships will help to transform your career and your professional outlook. You might wonder why you didn’t relocate sooner.

 

Susanne Markgren received her MLIS from the University of Texas at Austin, and then relocated to New York City for a job. She is currently the Digital Services Librarian at Purchase College, SUNY, an instructor at Manhattanville College, a co-author of Career Q&A with the Library Career People, and the mentoring program coordinator for ACRL/NY. She has also worked in public and special libraries and as a consultant.