I’ve been considering for a while what to write on this first post. It should be witty, thought-provoking, and special, right? Well, as I sit here dodging the projectile toys that my toddler is fast-balling around the kitchen, I realize it’s much more important to just be real. So, what’s been on my mind lately? My journey to here.
Through out my life, career has been something that has eluded me. I was born into a family in which half of us are notorious for taking the long way around life and typically not settling into a career until our 30’s (if ever). I have proven to be no different. One of my grandfathers held a variety of jobs throughout his life: he was a school teacher, a car salesman, a landlord to a trailer park in an army town, and (my personal favorite) owner/operator of a worm farm. He was a jack of all trades, master of a few. Later in life, he’d just fall asleep in front of Nascar races watching the stock ticker to find out if he’d lost or gained anything that day. It’s fairly normal for us to end up teaching deaf kids in Kenya, nursing, welding, consulting for businesses, curating in national museums, or thinking about Mars. We’re all over the place.
When I was young, I thought I wanted to be a vet. Luckily (or unluckily, whichever way you want to look at it), I was in a Girl Scout troop who took us around to visit the professionals who held careers to which we aspired. The second I saw the operating table in our local vet’s office, I was out. Done. No way. See ya. So, what next? Teacher. I loved school and quite a few of my family members were teachers, so why not. It wasn’t something I truly desired to do, I don’t think, it just seemed to make sense. I held this idea from the time I was in 3rd grade all the way until my junior year in college when I had an epiphany while I was trying to simultaneously outmaneuver a lightning storm and a mountain lion in New Mexico (I managed this, obviously, although I’m pretty sure if the mountain lion had really wanted to eat me, there’s not much I could’ve done about it). “If I actually live through this, I need to find something I actually love. I love showing others how to do things and seeing them succeed because of me, but does it have to be in a classroom?” So, when I got back to my university that fall, I dropped my teaching option (and, subsequently the Master’s program that paired with my BA), graduated with an English degree with a minor in Speech Communication and set out to find out what I could actually do with that. Admin work, if you were wondering.
After working for Mizzou off-and-on for about three years as an Administrative Assistant, I knew I had to do something different. I loved the people I worked with but I was bored a lot. When I’m bored, bad things happen. I either fall asleep and get very lazy or I start causing trouble or I get under people’s feet (ask my colleagues). So, I drug myself back to college and completed classes for a teacher’s cert and went to the classroom. It was during this part of my career that I bumped into my true love and passion: librarianship. I was teaching 6th Grade Reading and took my students to the library once a week. I have no idea why this career hadn’t occurred to me before. I suspect because, as much time as I spent in libraries growing up, there wasn’t anything inspiring about it. I adored my elementary library but the librarian seemed kind of mean and I was scared of her. My middle/high school library was boring and drab. The librarian was amazingly kind and never hovered but the space itself was quite uninspired and cloistered and I never saw her outside of that room. Small town Oklahoma didn’t have much cash for places like libraries.
After moving back to Colorado, I started an online program for my MLS while working full time as a corporate Executive Assistant. The work was still a bit tedious but my boss was fantastic. He would randomly use me as a sounding board for ideas, let me do my homework in slow moments, and make fun of me when I was grumpy. He encouraged me to follow my passion and shoved me back out into the world when it was time.
Then, reality set it. There are different types of libraries (why did no one take the time to explain this to me when I was in my degree?!) and each has it’s own personality. There’s an impression that each type of library demands a special set of skills and if you’re good at one, then you won’t be good at another. Well, it’s true that each demands a special touch, but most librarians are trained at a strong enough baseline that they can jump in and perform decently. Problem is – I don’t want to be decent. I want to be excellent. I was good at School Librarianship (I was in a college prep school with high schoolers doing college level work) but I found it difficult to deal with the idea that the library would be a youth canteen, especially when the Elementary Librarian was having class and students were trying to study. After that year, I jumped at an opportunity to open a brand new public library and became a Teen Librarian in High Plains District. I enjoyed my time as a public librarian for a variety of reasons but programming was not my “thing”. I found that I was really good at the planning, coordinating, and even the active parts of putting on the programs, but it didn’t catch me in the gut. It didn’t excite me as much as doing computer classes for the adults or even being out on the desk helping patrons find answers (to the most RANDOM questions!).
When my kiddo came along, my longing to be teaching information literacy became a bit overwhelming. I kept dreaming of working in a university library, working with students and faculty who are researching and learning. I kept thinking, “If my son had a passion, what would I tell him to do?” I’d tell him to jump off the cliff and run after it! How could I ever encourage him to do that if I wasn’t willing to do the same? So, toward the end of my maternity leave, I called my boss, got on the sub list, and threw myself into applying to academic jobs. I got this gig as a temporary Instructional Librarian at Auraria and I have loved this job every day. The work is straightforward but ever-changing and my past experiences have allowed me to jump into the deep end quickly. The most challenging piece has been learning the idiosyncrasies of the world of high education. Luckily, I’ve had phenomenal examples to follow and now feel comfortable with the scholarship aspect. I have felt my love, passion, and excitement for this type of librarianship explode. All of the research, the social media, the CV-building, the presentation applications: it all makes sense in light of what we do: teach students. We aren’t “teachers” but we teach. We help students see what information means, what it does, how it affects us, how we affect it, and what our responsibilities are with it, both in the academic world and in life and society and culture. It’s librarianship in its purest form – words matter. We’re guides and mentors and path lighters and walk with students for a short time on their own paths to their own destinations.
I love that.