Tom has tagged me to tell the “How did I get into this crazy gig?” story of my career, so I shall. I may have done this before, but I’d imagine I think of new details each time, so, well, too bad if you’ve heard this before. 🙂
When I graduated from college, I knew several things. I knew I wanted to stay with my boyfriend while he finished his last year of school. I knew I didn’t want to go home to Illinois. I knew that I was very well-educated. I knew that I had a BA in English Literature. I knew this degree was essentially useless. Some of those things that I knew were true turned out to be false — like the boyfriend, and the going back to Illinois. Some were very true, like a BA in English being essentially useless.
I have a clear and startling memory of being about 4 months from graduation, and thinking, “uh… now what do I do?”
So when the Shelving Manager at the Trinity College Library took a different job, I applied. I had been working for Alice Angelo, the Public Services Librarian, for four years at that point, as a student circ employee, shelver, and “In-Charge Student”, which meant that I worked the Reference desk between 10 pm and 1 am on rotating weeknights, and I also opened the library and supervised the circ desk from 8 to noon on Sundays. So I figured that I could probably do the Shelving Manager’s job.
It was a great first job out of college, and the incumbent had long tired of his work, so he wasn’t doing much… and therefore all my ideas were seen as being good ones. I struggled a bit managing student workers who, up to a month prior, had been my peers, but I had a great time re-organizing shelving processes, collecting data to monitor effectiveness, and working on the building re-design project. I learned how to use Excel on that project, counting stacks on the architects’ drawings and measuring collection growth and extrapolating shelf capacity at 5, 10, and 15 year benchmarks. I also had the support of a very friendly systems librarian who let me poke around in the reporting functions of Sirsi to my heart’s content.
When my ex graduated, I applied to library school. It was obvious to me that this was the right thing to do; I hadn’t yet had a better idea for a career, and my para-professional gig was kind of fun. Plus, all the project work Alice had me doing had given me a clear window into the fact that academic librarians did really cool stuff. They chose books. They worked with faculty. They did preservation work. They taught classes. They got to stay in college forever. I wanted to stay in college forever. (I was only 22. Cut me some slack.) Add on the fact that my aunt is also a librarian, and has always loved her work, and I wanted in. Besides, what else was I going to do? An English degree and a sense that the corporate environment wasn’t for me wasn’t quite enough of a light to illuminate a different path.
And so I went to library school, telling everyone I was going to be a public services librarian, as that was what I knew I was good at — I could manage students, work a circ desk, deal with a hostile patron, provide good directional reference, manage shelving and reserves… And somehow, I graduated a cataloger. (Don’t ask me, like so many other things, it just happened.)