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Why I’m a Librarian

Rudy answered Barbara Fister’s call and then tagged me to be the next explain why I am a librarian. I’ve been putting off responding for a few of reasons. First, I was preoccupied this weekend with the beginnings of my Adventures in Japanese. (I now know how to say several random phrases that will never be useful in real life, but that thrill me to no end.) But even when I popped out the language CD and took up my laptop to think about this, I still couldn’t quite compose anything coherent. But I’ve come to realize that this is because I don’t have a coherent answer. So, setting coherence aside, here are some of the bits and pieces of my answer that form the framework on which my professional life hangs.

I stumbled into librarianship rather accidentally, and made it through to graduation by virtue of my rather entrenched stubbornness. I’d been working my way through a Ph.D in Literary Studies and even passed that crucial step of passing my masters thesis defense and being accepted as a full-fledged Ph.D student. What a point to reach only to find out you’re not very excited about the prospect entering the over-full ranks of semi-talented lit professors, and not talented enough to join the illustrious ranks of truly engaging and inspired lit professors.

Unfortunately, after casting about for a new calling for a while, I began to worry that I wasn’t cut out for anything else. That’s when my mom suggested librarianship. I remember the moment she suggested it. She was doing dishes in the kitchen, and I was lying on the family room floor with one hand buried deep in the family dog’s neck fur. I remember asking, “What? It takes a masters degree to be a librarian? Really?” And I remember thinking that this might be the perfect job to give me plenty of free time to pursue my other interests (this memory makes me giggle, now). What I don’t remember is how that suggestion blossomed into a grad school application, especially since I’d never worked in a library and never even asked a librarian a question. But it did.

So that’s the “why I became a librarian” part of the story. The next chapter, “Why I am still a librarian,” is almost as grounded in sheer luck. It started when my current director called me to offer me a job, and when I was introduced to a set of librarians that taught and continue to teach me what this job can become. And while there are all sorts of joys in my job (my friend, Boolean… the thrill of the hunt… thesauri… the way that everything from LC to citation styles grows out of a time, a place, and an ideology… the freedom I have to try almost anything I think might be beneficial to the library or my students… the MLA International Bibliography)… while these keep me happy in my current position, they aren’t my driving inspiration. No, what drives me to actually be a librarian is much more fundamental and much less specific. You see, I love helping students make sense of the mess that is our information universe. I love it when learning the language of research helps students think more clearly about the questions they confront, and present their ideas in a way that resonates with their audiences. That is why I’m still a librarian, and why I don’t foresee a future when I will no longer be a librarian.

Now I want to know why Steve and Rikhei are librarians.

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3 thoughts on “Why I’m a Librarian

  1. That’s so funny–my mother suggested library school to me, too, after I finished my MFA, realized I wasn’t going to get a teaching job, and was thoroughly unemployable for anything else. Go Moms!

  2. Apparently, ALA must have a campaign out there to infiltrate mothers’ subconscious selves and whisper, “Your child would make a great librarian… Your child would make a great librarian…” :-)

    So Steve… how’s the money thing workin’ out for ya?

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