I’m glad for once to write about librarianship without attempting to defend the whole profession and institution. Workers’ satisfaction may or not have a place during the budget season discussions. But for the time being we are properly funded so I’m going to be selfish on this post. I’m going to list and explain two personal benefits I get from being a librarian. It’s all about me. Everyone can list the positive things they do for others at work, the impact on their community, and other productive stuff. I think though something has to be in it for the worker to be satisfied and think of his or her job as a career and not just a paycheck. I’m listing two things that I feel strongly about. However I’m sure other librarians could care less about these two things, and have other reasons that they see as personal benefits.
I’ve known the first reason for a long time but I talked about it recently in our writers’ weekly program at work. I got my English BA in 2000, and had literary ambitions. My first full time work after college was at a bookstore. Through coworkers and customers I was surrounded by books, and read a lot. I continued to read the classics, and had people to talk to about literature. Now, in 2013 with being a librarian for 9 years I’m proud that I’ve read a ton more literature compared to when I got that BA so long ago. Yes, I have a lot of other assignments at work, but there is no denying that books are a large part of librarianship. After college I turned down insurance agent work, and probably had other work directions I could have taken. I think outside of being an English professor, or working in the publishing industry, I picked a great career for a lifetime love of literature. I’m sure that people in a lot of professions can lose sight of reading from being busy or not working with books on a daily basis.
Along the same idea, I think I’ve kept up my writing ambitions because I’m a librarian. A lot of my colleagues are aspiring writers too, so I’ve always had people to talk to about writing. My roommate has been a big influence on my writing and literature tastes. I’ve known him since 2003 when we met at Kent State Library School. I still have some of my writing from college, and it was not that good. In grad school, and even a little bit later I shared my writing with others. I remember sending mass emails, and expecting glorious feedback. Lots of people never got back, others said nice things, and some were honest giving criticism. As a librarian around 2007 I got some works online, currently I write weekly in my blog, and sometimes I write fiction. The point is I’ve kept at my writing, and I have improved. I credit being a librarian for being able to stay motivated to keep writing. Let’s say I became a lawyer which a lot of English BA graduates go for, I’d perhaps write well, but not for myself and not creatively.
In addition to promoting literature the library profession promotes continuing education. I have a friend that is working on an additional Masters degree, and they are flexible with his time. Even though at first glance I think his degree has nothing to do with public librarianship. But he might be able to bring new ideas to the table from his courses. In librarianship the services and specializations are plentiful, so learning new things or different things is encouraged. Part of all library mission statements, not the only part, includes education so it makes sense for librarians and other staff to be knowledgeable. For me my continuing education has always been with writing and literature, but I’m glad that expansive areas of knowledge are appreciated, instead of a very narrow specialized area of expertise.
My second personal benefit of being a librarian is that individuality is encouraged and differences are accepted. I’m positive that no one thinks negatively of me being a skateboarder. I’m beginning to think the opposite is thought of me, and I should plan out skateboarding themed programs for teens sooner rather than later. I actually showed some of my skate videos at the staff talent show, and a few people mentioned I should do programs. Basically public librarians help so many people from varying backgrounds and walks of life. Tolerance in our profession is a must and anyone that judges’ people quickly will be miserable as a public librarian. Also the goal is to serve and reach out to as much of a community as possible, and having a diverse staff helps.
People question if a Masters in librarianship is necessary. The beauty of it though is that college graduates from any BA discipline can apply for it. This gives diversity of backgrounds in staff, and still an educated pool of librarians. Yes a lot are from a liberal arts background, but not all. I have a colleague who had a theater background, and that made for very unique and great children’s programming. One of my colleagues and a friend has an education BA but didn’t like teaching, so his programming leaned toward being strong on the learning experience. Also there are people going into librarianship who are techies more than book people. There are also ESOL teachers, and social workers. Differences in backgrounds are accepted. I think individual interests can be kept personal or creatively can be worked into programming and other parts of our work.
Lastly, I feel so fortunate to find a career I like, but I know I’m lucky from the timing that I got my degree. I hope people realize the potential libraries currently have and someday we’ll get funded better. I want lots of people to get the satisfaction of being part of libraries, but it’s tough to recommend this profession to recent grads when most of the systems in the country are still on hiring freezes. Sorry to end this on a sad note, and on an idea bigger than myself, but it’s true.
-And now for no real reason, here is a recent song that I like that Pandora told me about, enjoy!