Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I am the manager/children's librarian of a small branch public library in Oregon. How did I get here? I've worked in retail, telecommunications, education--why did I choose to go back to school to get my MSLIS? Blame it on traffic.

I had an epiphany on the expressway driving home from work one day. I had a lot of time to think about what else I could do for a living that would not require 3 hours commute one way. I listed what I was good at: I loved books and reading. I was good with people. And I wanted to save the world. The profession "librarian" sunk into my skull with a sort of pleasant inevitability: of course I was meant to a librarian. Why had I never thought of that in the first place? But I hedged my bets and applied to Peace Corps too--just in case saving the world through reading fell through and I had to go for a more direct approach.

I got into library school and Peace Corps on the same day. I decided to postpone library school and spend a couple years teaching in Central Asia. I am glad I did because my experience with teens in Peace Corps Uzbekistan really influenced my career choices later.

To be honest, all my past jobs and careers have influenced my job as a librarian. Being a public librarian requires so much flexibility, problem-solving and new thinking that I think coming to the profession later in life is an advantage.

I focused on a general course of librarianship when I entered grad school. I had an idea of becoming either a public librarian or an international librarian. I flirted with the idea of becoming a school librarian--but frankly, the additional schooling required daunted me.

It was through an extra-curricular reading club that I found my true interest: Young Adult librarianship. I enjoyed the resources, and I realized I was one of a select few who truly enjoyed teens. And public librarianship was the best sort of fit for me--more informal than school librarianship, but part of that "saving the world" philosophy the Jesuits honed in me at a young age. Expecting the unexpected is part of the job description in public libraries. I would never be bored.

I looked for young adult librarian jobs before graduation. They were few and far between. But eventually I came across a library system looking for a teen librarian--and they already had two in their system. This showed me they were putting a lot of resources toward teens. I jumped at the chance to be part of this program.

Teen librarianship theory discussed ways to get teens into the library. From day one in my new job, that was never my problem. I needed ways to keep the over 50 teens coming into the small library every day after school occupied, safe and relatively happy. In short, I needed to create a third space for teens. So I as a teen librarian I became a disciplinarian, counselor, program director--and sometimes a reader's advisor. I was never bored.

I recently transitioned into the manager's position of my small library. The only catch: I had to give up my teen librarian position and become the children's librarian. This has been a constant adjustment. I keep reminding myself that I must now talk to the children, not step over them. The first time I performed a story time I brought in a Hellboy II (complete with scary graphic) bag to hold the stuffed animals. I know I will get the hang of it--eventually. Public librarianship is always a joyful challenge.

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