Friday, December 22, 2017

My 44 Year Journey Ends on My Terms

My 44-year journey started in January 1974 as I left the University of Rhode Island (URI) with a master’s degree in chemistry and has ended today as I have retired as a Science/Engineering Librarian with NJIT.  There was successes, failures, peaks, valleys, and plateaus along the way.  I shouldn’t make this entry too long or nobody will read it.  To quote the song The Way We Were – “What's too painful to remember we simply choose to forget”.   Since I have an excellent autobiographical, it is often difficult to forget the bad experiences.

When I left URI, I had no job prospects.  I was sending resumes out to chemical companies all over the country seeking an entry level position.  In early March when I still didn’t have a job, I went to a temporary agency called OTI and applied for a job.  They placed me at Bank Americard now known as Visa and did clerical work for them.  It was very boring, but it was better than staying home. In May 1974 I landed a position with Rhodia in New Brunswick, NJ.

I moved to a temporary apartment there where the landlord was a real jerk and just could not leave me alone.  A few months later I moved to a permanent apartment nearby.  I worked in the development lab where we modified processes in the manufacture of bulk aroma chemicals.  To make a painful story short, the situation did not work out.  If you are interested in reading more about my New Brunswick days there are two previous journal entries:

In June 1975, I landed a position with UOP Fragrances in Long Island City, Queens.  I had a very terrible commute from New Brunswick to there.  My intention was to do that for a year and then move.  This job involved synthesizing new chemical substances at a small scale to be evaluated for perfume ingredients.  In early 1976 the company was sold to a Dutch company called Naarden.  Some months later, they eliminated the research department and let everyone go from the bottle washer to the research director.  So, I was out of a job again.

This job search was long and painful.  One company actually wanted me to work for them for two days as part of my interview.  I refused and didn’t get that job which was for the better.  After being unemployed for 6 months, I had to consider relocation.  I landed a job at Pfizer in Groton, Ct.
I moved to New London which is across the Thames River from Groton.  At Pfizer I worked under a Ph D chemist to synthesize new substances to be tested for analgesic activity.  Disaster struck here as I realized that I wasn’t suited to work as a laboratory chemist.  Also, Southeastern Connecticut was not the right place for me to live.  I stayed in that area for one more year and then moved back to live with my parents in Queens. 

I worked with an outplacement consultant to help me “get my act together” to find a new career path.  I decided to pursue a career as an information scientist who would research the professional literature on behalf of laboratory scientists.  Some people suggested that I pursue a degree in Library Science, but I decided not to do that at this point.  It was a difficult job search, but In June 1979 a landed a position with Schering Corporation in Bloomfield, NJ.

Again, this necessitated a long commute from Queens.  My job was to look for documentation in the literature for chemical substances that would either be intermediates or final products.  There was online searching back then, but it was very slow and primitive compared to the internet of today.  We had to use a telephone modem to search DIALOG.  Those were the days. While I was at Schering I obtained a masters in library and information science from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. That job lasted for 3 years.

From there I went to H.W. Wilson in the Bronx to become and indexer for the Applied Science and Technology Index.  I hated that job and left after 4 months.

From there I went to the New York Public Library Science and Technology Division which then (1983) was in the famous building with the Lions at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street.  It was one of the biggest STM Library Collections in the world.  It was difficult working with a closed stack collection.  Users had to submit a call slip to the librarian and then a page would retrieve the book or periodical and bring it to the patron. “On the table tops there are seat number, write down your seat number and we’ll bring you the item.”  They could understand nuclear physics, but not seat numbers.  The hard part was finding the physical location of the item that the person requested.  After 7 ½ years, I felt it was enough.

I wanted to become an academic librarian and obtained a position at St. Johns University in Queens.  I was the Head of the Science Division for two years and then moved on to NJIT.

I could probably write a book about my experiences over the past 25 years at the Robert Van Houten Library.  I know many of my colleagues read Bruce’s Journal so I won’t say anything negative about the university or any of the people.  Any job has its frustrations, I had my share.  I had the satisfaction of reaching out to the faculty and students and winning their respect.  NJIT has grown by leaps and bounds in my 25 years.  There are many more buildings on the campus and the student body has increase greatly.  Reference librarians have to “compete” with Google.  Instead of searching the library’s database to find information, students will do a Google search and report websites in their bibliographies.  My biggest frustration was to see the reference transactions and research consultations decline.  Interested readers can check out my librarians blog.

I should also add that I am proud of my accomplishments in the American Chemical Society and the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO).  I am also proud of my professional publications.
I was frustrated not to get a promotion for 25 years, but at least I had the satisfaction of leaving on my terms.  My career difficulties were early, before I was married and had a family.  Being on a career plateau was frustrating, but I wasn’t let go.

After 40+ years of working, and 25 years at the same it was time to retire at age 68.  I will be 69 in 4 more months.  Thankfully I am in good health and hope to enjoy my retirement years.

1 comment:

Alok said...

Bruce it was interesting reading your bio. I too started my job search in 1974 as a PhD after two years of post doc work. We all , at most of us, have such experience.

The work that you did as reference librarian was very important for us who were into research. That is why I was co scantly bugging you and you were so cordial in providing all the information.

By the way, I landed my first NSF grant to study DIALOG in 1974 , how it interfaced with the customer and the industry was evolving.

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