I stumbled across the Library Routes Project after discovering Ned Potter‘s awesome blog, and saw an opportunity to reflect on my journey to Libraryland. Why library school? Why now? I’m not a professional yet, but I want to share my story so far (if you keep following this blog, you’ll know how the rest of it turns out!).
The idea is to document either or both of your library roots – how you got into the profession in the first place, and what made you decide to do so – and your library routes – the career path which has taken you to wherever you are today.
On the surface level, it may seem that I was yet another English major who realized that a B.A. in English = unemployable. That’s true, but that’s why I went to graduate school for English — not library science. Okay, I think I need to start from the beginning.
Looking back on it now, I realize that all of the roads I’ve taken have led here, but I haven’t always followed a direct route.
My elementary school librarian, Mrs. Dodd (no relation, except distantly through her husband–I’m from an extremely small town), embodied the stereotypes of librarians — gray hair, glasses, shushing, etc. But she was so sweet and encouraging, and I adored her. I used to tell her that I wanted to be the next librarian after her, another Mrs. Dodd, and she would laugh but also encourage me, telling me she would love that. She challenged me in reading from a very young age — I distinctly remember her asking me (in conjunction with my teacher) to read Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of my Life, in 2nd grade. It was a very thick book, but she knew I could handle it. She gave me hundreds of recommendations before she retired. I can’t remember where my love of reading began, but I know where it was nurtured.
My local public library was incredibly small, and I can’t remember any librarians in particular. I never went to any programming. I do remember begging my mom to take me there, and I would check out an average of 10 books a week (in the summer, at least), and return them the next week for more.
In high school, I told my guidance counselor I wanted to be an English teacher or a librarian.
At my community college, I began to work in the Learning Resource Center as a work-study student. I worked there for two years performing a variety of tasks (I was essentially another staff member), and I loved the library and everyone who worked there (and they loved me — I still visit every time I get the chance). However, my love of English grew by taking 6 classes with the best professor I have ever had (still, to this day–hi, Dr. Ramsey!), and so I started to think about becoming an English professor. My supervisor, Mrs. Middleton, still encouraged me to become a librarian, though she assured me that I would be successful no matter what I did.
When I transferred to Mississippi University for Women, I was unable to get a job in the library, and I started tutoring for English and philosophy. It made sense, anyway, since I was on track to become an English professor. I got lots of encouragement from my MUW professors to go to grad school for English, too, and so that was the journey I chose to take. In a sense, I thought I would be letting people down if I didn’t — I got lots of praise for my writing and analytical abilities, and my professors were very positive about my grad school prospects.
I ended up in the English M.A. program at York University in Toronto, Canada (that’s a story for another time), and while I loved my professors, my fellow students, and everything about Toronto, something was missing. I wasn’t passionate about my work. I felt out of place. But one thing did feel right – my research assistantship. I did a lot of work for the director of my program, as well as other professors, and I was constantly searching library databases, perusing the stacks of York University and University of Toronto libraries, and compiling subject bibliographies (on subjects I didn’t even know very well–but I apparently did a really good job). So when I told the director of the program how I felt, and left the program in good standing with the possibility of return, he let me continue my research assistantship for the semester.
I knew that when I left Toronto, I had a plan for my next step. I was going back to where I should’ve gone all along — librarianship. I took quite a large detour, but I would never change the way it happened, or I probably wouldn’t have ended up here, now, with all of the wonderful experiences I’ve had (like the USM British Studies Program). I considered applying to many schools, but after my sister had my nephew, I knew I wanted to be close to home for a while; thus began my journey at the University of Alabama.
I have a purpose now — a passion. I’m determined to never again pursue something I think I *should* — I’m pursuing who I am. Every job I apply to may not be the dream job, but if I’m applying, I know that I can see myself there, in that position, making a difference. I’ve never chosen a firm specialization because I don’t want to limit the possibilities. I know there is happiness for me in this profession, and I know that whatever position I end up in, whether it is on the front lines or in an office, whether I have “librarian” in my job title or not, I will be a librarian. I will facilitate access to information, help further research, and promote transliteracy at every turn (even if that’s on my own time).
I’ve heard that your work doesn’t have to define you, but at the very least, I want mine to say something about who I am. I love intellectual freedom, service, organization, promoting literacy and lifelong learning, research, knowledge, outreach, emerging technologies… you get the picture.
So how did you get here? If you’d like to participate, write up a post and link yourself to the wiki – and please feel free to leave your link in the comments. I’d love to hear about your journey to Libraryland!