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In hopes of making this A Thing where librarians talk about why they chose (or stumbled into) this profession, let’s tag these with “librarian origin stories” so we can all track them and enjoy?
In response to a question asked by a fellow librarian/archivist, without further ado, here is my origin story as a librarian (sounds very super-hero, no?)
As is the case with so many of these things, a little background is required. My undergraduate degree is in United States history, with a minor in studio art. I taught history in a high school in northeast Dallas, after I graduated and certified as a teacher. This was simultaneously so rewarding, but also ranks among the most exasperating and frustrating experiences of my life. During the spring semester of my final year of teaching, I started to think about changing careers, and possibly returning to school for a graduate degree. Many things entered into this discussion - where my passions and interests lie, employ-ability, salary, and my motivations for working in the first place (beyond the obvious ones).
My primary motivation for wanting to be a teacher is that I love helping other people. It is consistently the most fulfilling thing that I do on a regular basis, as cliche or trite as that sounds. That was the primary driver in this search for a new/better career. Also, later in my undergraduate degree and while I was teaching, I found that I was (am) a widely curious person, with a wide array of interests that I always want to know more about. Not just history, but art, literature, music, medicine, physics, and so on. So, what profession can fulfill the desire to help others, and professionally support a ravenous curiosity about a wide array of topics?
(Aside: don’t drink the kool-aid about the “amazing” job market the ALA tells you about as a new librarian. It’s very difficult to get a job in the profession, so be prepared to work hard to make yourself stand out.)
After this epiphany, I applied to several ALA approved LIS programs, and decided to attend Syracuse University. It seems to me now that this was an especially auspicious choice, as I met some phenomenal people who have become either friends or professional colleagues of great value. They also had some great cataloging, reference, and classification courses, and I felt that even though it was not cheap, it was well worth the money.
I would argue that for any student classroom learning and practice are only half of the “true” education of a librarian. Your learning has to be applied and supplemented with real-world experience - as a staff member, or even as a volunteer (as I was). I was extremely fortunate (a well-deserved superlative) to volunteer at the reference library at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas. The staff there (I am talking about you, Sam, Mary Jane, and Jon) were extremely patient with me - training me as a cataloger, reference librarian, subject specialist, technical services person, and archivist through a very wide array of experiences. My time there also exposed me to what a well-run library can do for the people that use it - entertain, enlighten, and educate its patrons.
Because of the experience I had at the Carter, as well as my learning at Syracuse, I am able to work in a new art library with the preeminent collection of American color books in the world. My work is both challenging and rewarding, and I truly feel that this profession is where I am supposed to be, as well as where I will spend the rest of my working life. And, I get to be a tumblarian. Not bad.
What about you, hmm?
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