Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Road to Librarianship (catch that meme!)

I read on another library blog, Guardienne of the Tomes, that there was a "how did you become a librarian" meme running its course, and although I also wasn't tagged,I thought I would write it up. It's fun to recall how things happened!

So my mom was a library worker (with a B.A in library science from Mississippi State College for Women) and my Aunt Mary ran the Blandford, MA library for years, so I guess I was fated to become a librarian! In fact, that’s what I told people I wanted to be in grade school (when it wasn’t being a fighter pilot). In fact, I actually kinda enrolled in library school in the late 80s – my first class was in the spring term and it jumped *right into* the MARC record. Honestly, I was kinda freaked out, and I had a job offer anyway, so I dropped out almost immediately.

The job offer was from Project Vote Smart, where I worked from 1989 to 1997, when I left to really go to library school. I was the first paid employee and for a long time I did pretty much everything, but eventually ended up running the Reporter’s Resource Center, among (still) many other things (OK, I have to boast a little – I was on C-SPAN once!). I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was doing Special Library work. Eventually I knew that I needed to leave and go do other things, and I thought I would get an advanced degree in public policy. But I actually never got around to taking the SAT, or applying.

So, in the fall of 1996 I got an invitation to be on a panel at Washington State University’s Foley Institute on How to be a Better Consumer of Political News. It was me and a bunch of journos, and the conversation quickly went into blame-the-media territory, which just wasn’t my deal, so I stayed pretty quiet. So someone saw that, and lobbed a question aimed straight at me, about access to information, and I just went to town on it (I can only say) passionately (I still have the video of the forum – haven’t watched it in years, but I should digitize it as part of my personal history!).

Flying back to Corvallis from Pullman, I started thinking. I had actually suggested librarianship as a possible career for my husband, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe that was really want I wanted to do – it was a career that embodied connecting people with information, leading to knowledge, often at a one-on-one level. So when I got home, I took Mark out to lunch and confessed that I wanted to go to library school myself, and *now*!. Luckily he was cool with it! Immediately I arranged to take the SAT, and applied to the University of Washington’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science. I got in, started in 1997, graduated in 1999, was *incredibly lucky* to be hired as an adjunct librarian at UW’s Suzzallo Library (a great experience, with absolutely great people!) and – should I say coincidently or ironically? – got hired as a social science and instruction librarian at Washington State University in 2000! Mark got a temporary staff job at WSU’s Manuscript, Archives and Special Collections in 2001, and then started working at Pullman's Neill Public Library. He enrolled in the UW’s MLIS distance program the year it opene , and got his degree in 2005 (he works at the WSU Libraries as well, now). Funny, how it all came together in a big circle in the end!

I'm so glad I went to library school. I love what I do!

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