June 21, 2018

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Library

I’d like to help you in your struggle
To be free
There must be fifty ways
To leave your lover – Paul Simon

We’ve all been there — or will be. You feel like you’ve come to the end of your time, or that you’ve accomplished what you can and need new challenges. Maybe you have an overbearing boss or checked-out underlings. Whatever the reason, you feel (often quite strongly) that you need to move on.

How do you do it? Well, there are many ways. Allow me to outline a few. What?! Not fifty like the title claims? Hey, if Paul Simon could do it, so can I.

  • Just slip out the back, Jack. No matter how ticked off you may be at how you were treated at your present place of employment, don’t go burning any bridges. It might give you a moment’s pleasure to tell off your boss before hitting the pavement, but resist the urge. Behavior like that can come back to bite you in the future. My best advice: Leave on good terms.
  • Make a new plan, Stan. The best leave-takings are those that are planned — often well in advance. Most organizations require a two-week notice before quitting, but if you can provide more, do so. Your former administration will greatly appreciate having extra time to plan for backfilling your departure. So, to recap: give plenty of notice.
  • You don’t need to be coy, Roy. Assuming you have worked in your present position for at least a year — often more likely at least several years — you will have probably formed some opinions about what could be fixed or done better. Request an exit interview if one has not already been scheduled, in which you can pass on some constructive suggestions for ways the organization could improve. In sum: don’t take your best advice with you.
  • Hop on the bus, Gus. Sure, but before hopping on the bus, make sure those who helped you through your time there know how much you have appreciated their help and camaraderie. Even if your job was tainted by bad situations you are escaping, there are likely at least a few individuals who deserve your personal thanks. Hunt them down and make sure they get it. Bottom line: Be a mensch.
  • Just drop off the key, Lee. If you’ve worked a long time with the same organization you may have formed the opinion that anything in or around your desk or office is yours. Well, unless it is a personal item you brought to work to brighten your cube — it isn’t. Remember: don’t take anything that isn’t yours.
These are just a few points to keep in mind as you make the transition from the place where you have been to where you are going. Most of it is simply common sense, although it bears repeating. Moving on with integrity and skill is just as important as arriving that way.
Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. It’s really not my habit to intrude
    Furthermore, I hope my meaning
    Won’t be lost or misconstrued…

    I love this – Wisdom mixed with great lyrics.

  2. Make a different plan: it is my experience lately that most employers want you out the door ASAP … so while you may plan a few weeks to help hand off tasks, etc., don’t be too surprised if they show you to the door that selfsame day (and you should plan for this as well).

    • Henry, good point. Although in my experience you usually know what kind of organization you have before you leave, so you can plan accordingly. What’s really rough is when you are let go that way, as then you often can’t even accomplish what is humane, let alone professional.