After I graduated undergrad, I knew I wanted to go on the grad school, I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I worked a couple of non-degree related jobs and I knew they weren’t really what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but I couldn’t really figure it out. A little less than a year after I moved to San Diego, I was feel stressed and lonely and went to the nearest branch of the library. While there, I thought about how it was a place where I felt the most calm and happy. I thought back through the years and realized that the library had always been one of my favorite places, whether to look through books, to volunteer, or to attend programs. I started looking into going back to school for my MLIS. When I first started library school, I thought a lot about whether or not it was the right decision and why I wanted to be a librarian. Now that I’m going through the job-hunting process, I’ve been thinking about that question again. It’s something that’s not only important for me to be sure of, but it’s also a question that comes up in interviews frequently.
Recently one of my professors told an anecdote about a frequent answer to the question “Why do you want to be a librarian?” being “I love to read.” Obviously a love of reading is a common characteristic of library employees (and certainly one I share myself – just look at the title of this blog!), but I don’t believe it should be the sole reason for becoming a librarian. Sitting in a quiet room and reading may be the stereotypical view of a librarian, but it’s certainly not the realistic one. The decision to choose a career can be both the simplest and most complicated one made. My reasons for choosing librarianship are both.
I love helping people find the answers they need. A small anecdote: Among a particular group of my friends, I sometimes have the nickname Koogle – a combination of my name and Google – for my ability to quickly find the answers to their questions. I gained the same reputation among the members of the military family support site I helped run until recently. There is a thrill in the process of taking someone’s question and helping them discover the answer, like an information detective. Though we live in an age when it’s easy for anyone to get online and look for an answer, it’s also easy for them to come across incorrect information and problematic sources. It’s just as important as ever for information professionals to offer help in sifting through to find the best way to search for the best answer.
Along with that, I’m an information junkie with interests in many topics. There are very few career paths that allow for such a wide variety of interests in one job. Being a librarian allows for this variety.
I feel very passionately about literacy, especially in youth. Though reading among young people is making a resurgence, literacy rates and interest in reading are still not has high as would be ideal. I want to work with youth to help them be excited about reading, to realize that reading can move beyond what’s required for school ( and not just to novels, but to graphic novels, magazines, even online) , and to help them improve their schools and gain confidence in their abilities.
I get excited by new technologies and tools. Some of my favorite aspects of my courses have been learning about various platforms, tools, and programs that can be used to improve the experience of the patrons and the staff. Librarianship may be viewed as a stuffy, old-fashioned profession, but that is far from the truth. Librarians and information professionals are often in a position to try out new technologies and tools and to find the best ways to use those.
I get genuinely excited thinking about library programming and services. The other day, while waiting before an interview, I was reading over that particular library system’s programming catalog. I couldn’t keep a smile off my face reading the descriptions and thinking about what I would do if I was in charge of running those programs or creating new ones. My favorite course assignments involve coming up with creative new or improved ways to better serve the patrons through programs or services.
I want to work in a service position. In my previous employment and volunteer positions, I found I’m the most happy when I’m helping others. Obviously, there are many fields in which I would be able to do that, but librarianship fits with that desire and with my interests. With librarianship, I can help the community while engaging in something I enjoy and and passionate about.
Finally, probably the most simple reason of all, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Though it took me a few years to come to this decision – and though much of what I’ve read about the prospects of breaking into the field has been discouraging – I know I made the right decision. Whether I’m able to get a job I want next week or a few years from now, it will be worth it.