Thing 10: Routes to librarianship

Whoops, y’all. One week of break turned into two, because the trip to see family bled right over into a cross-country move, and as it turns out, 12-15 hour days of driving aren’t that conducive to blogging, especially when you’re prone to motion-sickness and can’t read in the car. But I’m back! I’ll have a new book review soon, I hope, but this is a cpd23 post. Things 5-9 (yep, I missed that many!) included Google calendar, which I already use to organize my personal and professional lives; Evernote, which I already have on my phone and iPad; and a variety of social and professional networks, both real world and online. The cpd23 posts for things 5-9 are linked above and worth checking out if you’re interested in any of those tools. I’m going to skip blogging about them and jump in at thing 10.

Thing 10 is about paths to librarianship and professional certifications. The cpd23 post focuses on paths to librarianship in the UK, so it’s not particularly relevant to my experience. It is an interesting read, though, and for someone with an American education who might be interested in working the UK, it provides a nice introduction to the necessary certifications.

Anyway, the blogging assignment that accompanies thing 10 is to “tell us about why you joined the career, where you are now and how you got there and what you are planning to do next.” This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, especially with the whole unemployment situation. (I’ll admit that sometimes my thoughts veer toward “OH GOD, WHY did I spend SO MUCH MONEY on a Masters degree only to enter a TERRIBLE job market?! What was I THINKING?”). But in all told, I’ve loved my previous jobs in libraries, and I know I’ll love my future jobs as well.

I came into the profession sort of sideways, which isn’t uncommon for librarians, I think. I spent the summer after my junior year of college living in Chicago because that’s where my boyfriend lived. Through a series of lovely coincidences, I ended up with an internship in the archives of the amazing Newberry Library, where I mostly wrote finding aids and processed some small collections. Even though I enjoyed it, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be an archivist, and I graduated from college without much of a plan. I spent some time as an administrative assistant before, through another series of lovely coincidences, ending up with a part-time gig in the archives at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture. While I was there, I learned to use EAD and write MARC records – those skills lead to a para-professional position as a copy cataloger at the public library in my hometown. Although the work itself wasn’t particularly exciting, I got to see EVERY new book that came into the entire library system, which was amazing. That job cemented my love of children’s and young adult literature and public libraries and lead to my application for library school.

Although there are a growing number of paraprofessional positions in libraries, I decided to get a Masters because I thought it help me qualify for more positions. The program at UT, where I went to school, grants an MSIS (Master of Science in Information Studies) but the program is still ALA-accredited, so it’s essentially the same as getting an MLIS or even the traditional MLS. I did a huge variety of things in my two years in Austin. I was the photo archives intern at the Center for American History, I did storytimes at a local preschool, I  worked in several public libraries in children’s services, teen services, and reference. I did chat reference for a community college system in West Texas. I’ve found that I really love public services – my personal love of YA and children’s lit, and my fondness of teenagers (somebody’s got to have it, right?) have drawn me toward youth services, but my last position was general reference, and I liked that a lot. I’ve gotten more and more interested in ways that libraries can adapt quickly to new technologies while still providing basic services to the underserved. I love the diversity of public libraries – the huge range of people who come in, the variety of questions and materials and programs. That’s the reason I want to stay in public libraries, as opposed to going academic or special. The reference desk at a public library is pretty far from the quiet processing room of a special collections library or archives, but that’s where I started, and the reference desk is where I hope to end up!

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