Today's question is from radish: "Talk about being a librarian. Just general, but also were there any defining moments throughout your education that pushed you toward librarianship as a career?"
I can point to three events in my educational history that help nudge me on my path to becoming a librarian.
The first was during my senior year of high school, after a particularly annoying and contentious English class where we were arguing with a substitute teacher -- who happened to be a former lawyer -- about the picayune details of some text or another. After class that day, it hit me that I had no desire to follow through on my future plans, which up to that point had been to major in English, and then become a lawyer.
The second was during my junior year of college, after I'd finished up my year-long architecture studio course, and I realized that, at some point during the year, I'd realized that I really didn't want to be an architect, either.
The third event actually happened earlier, at the start of sophomore year, when I signed up to work two shifts a week in the Reserve Room at the main campus library. At the time, I was looking to get out of my food service job (all first-year students were required to work for Dining Services; I got lucky and snagged a job at the Campus Center Cafe rather than one of the cafeterias, but the library was far preferable), and the Reserve Room was in truth not the most exciting position I'd ever taken. But to round out my hours, I also signed up for a few hours per week of shelving duty, and I discovered that I really enjoyed doing it. The next semester, some hours opened up at the Circulation Desk, and that was much better: more stuff going on there than in the Reserves, and I got to know the Circulation Manager, a wonderful lady (and sister alumna) with whom I am still in touch. I kept my Circulation Desk and shelving jobs through graduation, and added on a few hours in the Cataloging Department a couple of semesters.
Although my library job wasn't technically part of my Bryn Mawr degree, I still consider it a key component of my Bryn Mawr education. Not only because I learned so many library skills there, but because a year or so after graduation, when I was working as a secretary at an architectural firm (having decided not to become an architect, I'd wondered if maybe I'd be interested in the business side of architecture, and the answer was definitely NO) and wondering what I might like better, I thought back to my previous work experience and realized that the library job was by far the one I'd enjoyed most. So I applied to library school, got in, and pretty much never looked back.
Is it odd that none of these formative experiences occurred during library school? Probably not, since the only reason I went to library school was to become an academic librarian. Although I certainly learned things in library school that I use in my library work, as far as I was concerned, the degree was the price of admission, the piece of paper I needed before anyone would even look at my resume.
So, now I am a librarian -- and I still say I'm a librarian even though I'm not working as one, because "librarian" is part of my identity even if I'm not employed by a library. As a former co-worker once told me (during her interview, and no wonder I hired her), librarianship is as much a calling as it is a profession. Maybe not for a librarians, but it's certainly true for me. Which is why I continue to apply almost exclusively to librarian jobs, even though after over a year of unemployment I probably ought to be branching out more. I'm not done being a librarian yet. So even if it takes me a while to get back there, I hope to keep trying. Being in a library, surrounded by the books and the knowledge and the people seeking same, is the place I belong.
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