Thursday, December 3, 2009
How I Became a Librarian
This is my contribution to The Library Routes Project, a wiki created to collect the stories and experiences of those of us in the library world and how we got here.
Here we go.
Sure my career in the library profession started from a love of reading and visiting my local library but it also grew out of the necessity to find a job. As much as I would like to say, "I always wanted to be a librarian", I didn't. I wanted to be a doctor when I was little because I thought that would afford me a nice condo on the water and lots of vacation time (giggle). I also wanted to be a mermaid, a mom, a teacher, an Olympic gymnast or ice skater, the person who created the exhibits at the museum, an actress, a socialite and British royalty. My 20's was spent raising my son, trying a dozen different jobs, traveling and finishing my college education. It wasn't until I was in my 30's that I realized what I loved to do, read, read, work with people, oh and read...could become a career. So I went to law school. Ha. I did. And it was awful. So I dropped out of law school and immediately applied and was accepted into a double graduate program, Public History at Loyola University and the Masters in Library and Information Science program at Dominican University. My goal was to become a museum curator/librarian but after 1 semester in Loyola's Public History program I realized the field of professional historical academic wasn't for me so I concentrated solely on becoming a public librarian.
During my second semester in the graduate library program I got my first library jobs. At one mid-sized Chicago area public library I was the Adult Programmer and at another small public library I was hired as the Interlibrary Loan Assistant. Both were part time jobs but I was thrilled to be getting my foot in the door at public libraries with no prior experience. After 9 months of working in public libraries I applied and was offered a job as the Program Coordinator at the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association. Working at ALA was great, I enjoyed getting to know some of the most respected librarians in the field and traveled to all ALA midwinter and annual conferences and a PLA annual conference. However (and rather ironically) working for a library association made me feel very removed from what was actually happening in the library world. Sure I attended a half dozen conferences at locations all around the country and I was directly in charge of the awards and programming for all PLA committees but I really had no idea what librarians were doing. I didn't work with librarians in the field, I just coordinated the time they volunteered with PLA. It was rather like working in a machine that wasn't adapting to the world around it. So I quit.
I was offered a job at one of the libraries I have previously worked at as the Interlibrary Loan and Volunteer Coordinator, a full time job I was thrilled to have. I'm still at that library but now since finishing my MLIS I am the Technology Resources Librarian and Volunteer Coordinator. Job responsibilities include serving on various committees within the library, collection development, reference and training. I absolutely love working in a public library and feel more connected to the profession than I ever did while in library school or working for ALA.
Since I started my career in libraries in the fall of 2002 I have participated in a number of professional development opportunities. In 2003 I was chosen to attend the Institute for School and Public Librarians through the Illinois State Library. The 5 day session was held at a University in central Illinois and immersed those of us involved in librarianship, training, brainstorming and mentoring. It was an excellent experience, especially since I was so new to the profession. This year I was chosen to participate in Synergy: The Illinois Library Leadership Initiative that was held over three 3 day sessions at locations around the State. I plan on blogging about my Synergy experiences here so stay tuned. In May of this year I attended a 3 week continuing education program on Libraries and Librarianship at Oxford University in England. Absolutely one of the best experiences of my life which I highly recommend to all librarians.
I often get asked how I ended up as a Technology Resources Librarian since that job description is rather new to libraries. My library needed someone to teach computer classes to patrons which I started doing once I completed my MLIS. From there the need for a technology librarian grew. I create and train the library staff on everything from Outlook and basic computer skills to using Facebook and new media. I regularly teach patron computer classes and host a computer group once a month. If there is new technology the library should explore I learn about it (Twitter, Facebook, MyMediaMall etc). If new computer software is introduced I learn it and implement it. When we hire new staff I train them on everything from email to using the catalog. My job is creating itself but I also have traditional librarian duties such as working as a reference librarian and collection development. My job allows me to combine new librarianship with a high standard of public service our patrons expect. So there ya go folks, that's how the "Lively Librarian" became one and I can't think of a cooler profession!