It’s not typical for a child to grow up dreaming of becoming a librarian.
Most librarians enter the field later after exploring other fields, and almost by accident, they later discover a career as a librarian. It’s not a career one normally sets out to do from the onset. I think it may be from some of the misconceptions and early stereotypes that were present about librarians when I was young. I remember asking a family member at a young age how one becomes a librarian. They told me that you didn’t have to go to school to be a librarian, that they were volunteers serving the community. It made me disregard it as a viable career option. The librarian stereotype that you saw portrayed at that time was also of a middle-aged woman with a bun and glasses that had the string attached with their head buried in a book. That distorted image didn’t help to attract young people to the field.
Many years later, as a junior in high school, I lived in two places at school…in the library or the guidance office. I was constantly at the guidance office exploring their shelves of beautiful college promotional books and pamphlets. Now everything is done online but I used to love flipping through the pages, searching for my dream school. The guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to go to school for and I mentioned to be an elementary school teacher and she told me that she thought I would make a good librarian. I was a little offended at the time, I felt like she only said that because I was quiet and shy. I felt like I could read her thoughts that, the library would be the perfect setting for someone so soft spoken.
Then during my senior year, I was working in a retail store connected to our mall and my librarian from elementary school recognized me and came to my space to check out. She started asking me about my career path and I mentioned that I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. She told me that I might want to consider becoming a librarian. She said she loves her job and wakes up excited to go to work every day and that she makes the same salary as a teacher, and she doesn’t have to have the same classroom all day. I loved what I was hearing. This time I wasn’t offended. The elementary school library growing up was amazing! They had just built a brand-new library when I attended with a second level. I loved going up to the second level and looking over the balcony with a view of the entire library. You mean I could hang out there all day? I thought. And, what??? She makes the same salary as a teacher. My whole life, until that point, I thought of librarians as volunteers serving the public good who didn’t have to go to school. Wait, there’s a thing called library school? After she left, I stood there for the first time thinking of librarianship as a real occupation. This one serendipitous encounter changed everything.
On one of those trips to the guidance office, I felt like I found my perfect school. It was within driving distance to home (just a four-hour drive) and was located within the same state making the in-state tuition affordable, it was nationally accredited, the campus looked beautiful, and they were one of the only ALA-accredited bachelors programs in library science with a dual major in elementary education. Additionally, they weren’t a division I school, so I had a chance to join their division II cross-country team. Running was the only sport that I excelled at, and I wasn’t ready to hang up my running sneakers after graduating from high school. So, I made another life altering choice, I emailed the coach and told him I was interested in running on the team and I sent him my stats. To my surprise, I heard back! He invited me for a tour of the college, a luncheon with the members of the team, and a chance to sit in on a real college class with some of the team members. In the mail, around the same time I also received a full-tuition merit-based scholarship letter. I guess all those guidance office trips researching colleges paid off, literally! I never thought anything so good could happen to me. The scholarship locked everything in for me. I didn’t have any trouble convincing my parents at that point where I was going to school.
After one semester of college, I knew that I wanted to be a librarian. I ended up dropping the elementary education part of my dual major, a decision my family frowned upon at the time. There was concern then, that I couldn’t make a good career out of being a librarian. They later admitted they were wrong, and right after making that decision, I stumbled on a little gem and a sign that I was on the right path, my elementary school journal which was labeled #3. It was a daily journal we were required to write every day in at school.
Here’s what I wrote in second grade at age 8 (my spelling was not quite what it is today!) in that journal.
“At home I am having a libery! And at the Libery we have a contest! Playing LiBery is fun! I am a good Liberyin! It is lots of fun to be a liberyin. But verey Hard! I would like to be a Liberyin when I groe up!”
The thing that shocks me the most about this entry is not only did I say I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up which I totally forgot about later, but it was that I said being a librarian was very hard! How did I know at such a young age that it wasn’t going to be easy like the perception usually is? Most people think a librarian is an easy job and you just sit around and read all day. How did I have that insight at such a young age to know that kind of thinking was far from the truth?
Thank you for reading post 2, stay tuned soon for post 3! In February, you can also take my online course Systematic Review Essentials in two different formats, in an online classroom setting or on you own in a self-paced setting. Go to courses and testimonials to learn more.