Starting a job in federal government can be a daunting experience. There’s a different office environment to adjust to and a wealth of knowledge to learn.
Fortunately for librarians and information science professionals starting out in government, now there is a new organization dedicated to helping those starting out in the field, called New Feds.
New Feds was created last year by new federal librarians Jessica Hernandez and Aimee Babcock-Ellis, with the goal of providing support and training for federal librarians and information science workers with five years of experience or less.
The group has held online training sessions, a virtual conference, and a talk on research software Zotero. New Feds also share information via social media and emails, organized quarterly social gatherings for new professionals in Washington DC and other locations, and created a strategic plan for further development.
New Feds has more than 100 members across the United States and some international members as well, including some at military bases, Hernandez said. The organization is a working group of FEDLINK, the Federal Library and Information Network, which is a part of the U.S. Library of Congress.
The group’s next event is Virtual Conference Redux, to be held on Aug. 26 at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. There, group members will recap the best practices they learned from various other conferences throughout the year.
Hernandez said she and Babcock-Ellis formed the group because they thought it would be valuable for new federal professionals to connect with one another and to share their experiences and “know-how to do the job effectively,” since working in federal government can be different in many ways from other work environments.
Hernandez said about working with the New Feds group. “It’s an opportunity, professionally, but also personally enriching for me, because I have developed friendships with other people in government information who are committed to public service.”
Both of the founders are fairly new federal librarians; Hernandez is a program analyst for the Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories at U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Babcock-Ellis is a program specialist for the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
While the group is aimed at any library or information science professional with five years of experience or less, Hernandez said the organization welcomes anyone with an interest in federal libraries to join, be it students who are starting out in the field or long-time professionals.
Caralyn Champa, an information technology specialist with the Department of the Army, said volunteering with the New Feds has been a great learning experience. “The crowd-sourcing piece of our group has expanded my awareness of the library community everyday from our Facebook page and our list serve. Someone from our group posts links to publication opportunities, new job opportunities, internship opportunities. It’s a great way to extend my awareness about what’s happening not only in the federal community but the library community at large,” she said.
Champa, who co-chairs the group’s professional development subcommittee, said she’s also learned a lot about creating a strategic plan and other forms of leadership.
“I get to advocate for libraries every day just by telling people who I am and what I do,” Champa said about her experience with New Feds.
That sense of a greater library community was important for Danielle Walker, an acquisitions librarian for the National Agriculture Library.
Walker joined New Feds last year while still a library student. Walker said she’s enjoyed networking with other library professionals and sharing her knowledge about technology and social media. She now co-chairs the group’s communications committee.
“A lot of times because we are newer librarians we are more familiar about technology and emerging themes, and we talk about how we want to bring new technology to our agencies, and it’s very valuable,” Walker said.
Blane Dessy, the New Feds mentor and executive director of FEDLINK, has been providing strategic support to New Feds, and called it an “amazing group.” He said he has been impressed by the ways they use new technology, the creative approaches they bring to their work, and the new perspective they bring to federal libraries. “It’s so exciting to see that much talent and enthusiasm in this group of young librarians,” he said. “That is very infectious, so they are a good role model for others in our organization.”