I AM WHAT I AM

August 20, 2008 at 6:46 pm 6 comments

Since Julie tagged us over here at LG in the Superstararchivists meme on ‘how you got into libraries’ I am taking up the keyboard! I’ve really been enjoying reading all the other stories and seeing the similarities and differences, and reading all the comments!

I’m sure I’ve told this story to several people, but I’m not sure if I’ve written it anywhere… my journey to librarianship starts out with me never having had any idea what I wanted to be when I grew up!

I felt supremely jealous of the people I knew who seemed to know just what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. The college students who were getting degrees in something specific, something they could DO or BE at the end of four (or more) years … the classmates who were already planning to be pre-med, or go into business, or become teachers … the even younger friends from my early childhood (“I want to be a fireman!” “I want to be a chef!” “I want to be a mom!”) made me feel so left out.

Not having any plan in mind, I pursued “liberal arts” (like all other confused, direction-less sorts I guess) at a “liberal arts” college, hoping to stumble upon IT. IT, you know, what I would want to do or be forever! This allows one to keep all options open and to hopefully emerge as a well-rounded individual at the very least (though probably a very impoverished one).

I entered as “undeclared” my freshman year. I spent a brief time as a Sociology Major (until I found out we would have to spend a lot of time in a local prison for one course, and I was out of there). Then, not being allowed to return to “undeclared” status, I chose English (the safety net for all). This only lasted until I finished my first few Philosophy classes and found myself signing up for as many more as I could! I came to the utterly logical conclusion that if I were going to take so many Philosophy classes, I should major in it.

My thinking went like this:

I love Philosophy classes.
I am going to take as many Philosophy classes as I can.
Therefore, I will be a Philosophy Major.
(Okay, so my Logic is a little rusty!)

Of course, this created the corollary:

What the hell do you do with a B.A. in Philosophy!?
(Turns out the answer, given to me by one of my professors, is: ANYTHING YOU WANT TO, and it’s true!)
I decided to believe in the old “if you love something then you’ll be good at it and make money somehow” line of thought. I accepted that this would probably require an additional degree or two, but I was willing to face that future since majoring in Philosophy allowed me to love what I was doing during college! I naively thought I might go to law school…..

So, I graduated with my Philosophy Major* and could not stand the thought of ANY MORE SCHOOL (bye-bye law school)! I went to work in the publishing industry in Manhattan for several years. When this was ultimately unsatisfying to me (especially the NJ-NYC commuting), I began to look around for another career. I was willing to go back to school, but only for something that I really wanted and would really love. I took a job as a administrative assistant at an engineering company close to home (no commute!) while I (again) searched for what it was I would BE.

Fully convinced I had NO INTEREST whatsoever in anything related to ENGINEERING, I decided to look for a similar office job in a different setting while I continued the search for my ultimate career.

On a regular trip to my local public library one day during this time, I noticed a sign advertising for an administrative assistant in the library! Ah, same “just a job” job, but more pleasant environment! Ah, I could go to the library everyday – wonderful!

Now, I had always been an avid library-user and read my entire life. My mother and brother and sister and I were regulars and would routinely leave with bags and bags full of books. I had spent many hours in the library – both for pleasure and for schoolwork, but IT HAD NEVER OCCURRED TO ME TO WORK IN A LIBRARY. NOT EVER. NOT ONCE. I had never thought about who these people working in the library were, what their qualifications or jobs might be. I had NEVER in my entire life of library patronage ever considered being a librarian. In fact, I had NO IDEAS about that job at all (something that makes me wonder to this very day how it could be so and what’s so very wrong with that picture, and what needs to be done about it…..)

I applied for the library office job (and didn’t even get a call actually) but I also started RESEARCHING what this librarian job was all about. The main things I found out were:

  • It requires a Masters Degree, and is a REAL PROFESSION (what I was looking for)!
  • It has to do with books, reading, AND COMPUTERS (things I LOVE)!
  • It involves sharing INFORMATION and helping others FIND their INFORMATION (something I already did with a passion)!

PERFECT!!!!! I had found IT. IT – the thing I wanted to DO and BE for the REST OF MY LIFE!

I found out how to become a librarian (step 1: take the GRE – yikes! – step 2: commute to Rutgers for a long time) and started telling friends and family of my PLAN! The reaction was the same from almost every single person I told:

“THAT IS SO YOU!”

“YES, THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT YOU SHOULD DO!”

(Oh, duh, of course, well why didn’t any of you let me know sooner?!)

I began my library studies and soon after got a part-time job as an intern at the wonderful Clifton Public Library. (I had been hoping that I would LOVE the public library, even though I knew there were other possible types of libraries to work in, but public was what I wanted to love and, lucky me, I DID!) This position soon wbecame full-time while I continued with school, and then become a full librarian job upon graduation! I have since worked at the also-wonderful Paterson Free Public Library and now work for the really wonderful central regional library cooperative!

So, there really was no “one thing” that led up to my self-discovery that I was really a librarian deep down inside all along. It was just a series of regular little steps along the path of life that only prove to have been heading in an ultimate direction once you’ve arrived at the end and look back.

And, just to be clear, I do consider myself to BE a librarian. Even though my current job title does not include the word library anywhere in it, it is what I am, it is who I am, and I am so glad!


* Actually, I have since found MANY librarians with B.A.’s in Philosophy. Also, my sister went on to major in Philosophy and is doing just fine, thank you very much!

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6 Comments

  • 1. CogSci Librarian  |  August 21, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Great story!

    If I’m working with a patron who is really enthusiastic about the research / searching part of what I’m helping with, I always suggest they might consider a career as a librarian. I hope this helps people like you (and me) who always loved libraries but didn’t realize that you could be a librarian and do that kind of work for (some) $$. I’ve said this to several folks — no idea if they ever took me up on my offer, but it can’t hurt!

  • 2. lemasney  |  August 21, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Love this post! As a proud owner of a BFA in Sculpture, I have used my education every day since I got it, but anyone who finds out about my BFA wonders how it relates to what I do in technology. My question is how doesn’t it relate to what I do?

  • 3. rich  |  August 22, 2008 at 11:08 am

    As someone who majored in religion in college, I had fun reading about your journey :)

  • 4. Mberenis  |  August 22, 2008 at 11:04 pm

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  • 5. Andy B.  |  August 27, 2008 at 11:22 am

    AB, Philosophy, University of Chicago, 1986.

    My area of concentration was early 20th century metaphysics. My thesis was entitled “Solipsism in Wittgenstein’s ‘Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus’”

    I have an MS-LIS from Univ. of IL at Urbana-Champaign.

    I am with you, fellow philosopher.

    Andy

  • 6. Lisa Coats  |  September 3, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Hey Amy,

    It took me a long time (longer than you!) to figure IT out and A. my father was a librarian my whole life, B. I always seemed to end up working in libraries, and C. like you I LOVED libraries, books, reading, etc. Should have been a no-brainer, but I believe our profession gets a bad rep (low paying, boring, etc.) and not nearly enough positive press. I think we need to promote it wherever we go! I’m glad we both finally saw the light.


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