silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
[personal profile] silveradept
This entry is for The Library Routes project, encouraging all library professionals to post (and read others’ posts) of how they arrived at their current job, career, etcetera. When I came across it at first, I thought it was a fantastic idea, so now I’m adding my story to the mix.
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I’m not too far into my library career (2.X years as of this posting), so I guess now is the right time to talk roots and routes, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Start Loving The B.O.M.B. (The Big Omni-Media Bistro, also known as Your Local Public Library.)

I come from a family of library-goers, regular attendees at story sessions at a small branch of the local county system. I am told I was both the child who could not sit still in storytelling, and thus spent much of my time counting stones along the sidewalk outside the library while my older sister sat, and the child who could be depended upon to deliver the right line or action for the story to work. I suspect there is a gap of some years between the two. I don’t know whether my siblings or my parents are still in the habit of library-ness, and we certainly have the Internet to help us these days with basic research tasks and a lot of what the ready reference desk would handle. Mostly, though, my trips to the library were for fiction, not for schoolwork, and I quickly picked up the system by which books could be requested from other branches of the library system.

High school is where it happened, as it were, and mostly by accident. Thus, I follow in the footsteps of a lot of the other people talking about their roots and routes. I think librarianship is in some ways, a profession that gets new recruits by accident or by mentoring, but rarely by anyone making it a career decision from the beginning of their life. Anyway, the school librarian at the high school continued to help me with my requests for additional reading material. Here, too, is where I learned that librarians are awesome, because they get you material that your parents would Not Approve Of, and do so cheerily and without ever telling them it happened. That might be part of why I think Intellectual Freedom is something to be defended, because I have benefited greatly from it. In the usual worry about what to do for pay, my memory says that she suggested the profession as something I would be good at. Having thus had a direction suggested to me that I thought I would like, I resolved to become a librarian...

...and then I found out it was a graduate school degree, leaving me with four years of university to get through just for the opportunity to apply to graduate school and see if they’d take me for the degree program. This was oddly freeing, in that my undergraduate experience could be composed completely of courses that I found interesting, so long as I managed all the required elements for graduation. As it turns out, it took me until the end of my junior year before I declared my undergraduate major, mostly through a combination of luck and meeting the right professor at the right time, who demonstrated how I could turn the hodgepodge of courses I had into 95% of the required courses for an Honors major. After the GRE, I made my application to the two (TWO!) library schools in the state, one of which was at my undergraduate institution, I waited. By the end of the summer, both schools had accepted me to their programs. I elected to stay on at my current institution for two more years, looking forward to the iSchool-style education to follow.

I went into the School of Information fairly confident that I wanted to specialize in children’s services. (As it turned out, there was no children’s services track. Hopefully, that has been fixed by now.) It seemed a good fit - I enjoy reading books, with the voices and the sound effects and the lot, and children’s services is where that is at. Plus, as a children’s librarian, I could use all my energy and silly and weird and not be off-putting to the people who I served. Well, I hope not, anyway. For all I know, parents grasp the hands of their children a little tighter after an interaction with me. I don’t think so, but most people won’t tell you if they think you’re scaring them. What I received was two years of instruction on the library of the future, with the technology and the searching and the concepts, but I think I learned a lot more about the actual workings of a library in the summer internship I did at the local public library’s youth services department between year one and year two. Good, solid, practical hands-on experience. I highly recommend students take internships in the specializations they’re thinking about - it will tell them immediately whether they like it enough to continue or not.

So, after six years, and two degrees, the job hunt was on. But not in my state. The salaries weren’t big enough to pay the loans back, and well, there weren’t exactly a whole lot of jobs available in a state that was still in the middle of a decade(s) long economic crash. (Note: I got out before everyone else when to hell in a handbasket when the banks went belly-up.) There was a lot of driving involved for interviews of various sorts, and I even flew out to Washington state once to try and land a job with a really big regional library system (which, now that I look at it, would have only put me in the pool of potential hires, not actually given me a job) and with a smaller city library system. The rejection from the big system beat me home, and the city system and I found out we weren’t a good fit for each other through discussing the job and its requirements and duties. I felt that I had missed my chance to hit the region of the country I wanted to move to, but there were always other interviews and other library systems to try and get a job with.

Strangely enough, one more system from that area opened up a Youth Services Librarian position. Knowing full well that I couldn’t justify another trip out that way for just one interview, I managed to rope things together so that I would give my interview by videoconference. (Yay, technology!) I borrowed a conference room from the school, they borrowed a conference room from the local community college. I interviewed, and they offered me a job. Thus, the one job interview I did not actually travel for was the one that hired me. One very long cross-country car trip later, I started work for my current employer, and the longer I do this job, the more I love it. (Doesn’t hurt, too, that I ended up selling the Friends of the Library at my assigned branch to buy us a Nintendo Wii and then Super Smash Brothers Brawl, which I have put to good use in a program for those 2.X years so far.)

That’s my roots, and my route so far. I’m kind of hoping I don’t have to go to another library system. Plus, the city library system near me just hired on some Youth Services people, and they are more than eager to get with the collaboration part, including playing branch versus branch. Once our technology issues get worked out, that is. Which might be after the new branch gets built. And when the budget recovers. Exciting times in the library world, regardless of whether our budgets are growing or shrinking. Let’s see what the next years bring us.

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silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
Silver Adept

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