Experiencing LIS: Route to School

This is a collaborative post by multiple Hack Library School writers.

Brianna M.

I grew up basically living in the tiny Main Street library of the town I grew up in. My mom would take us there just about every other day, so often that I can still remember the precise layout of the building. I was an eclectic reader, checking out YA fiction, adult non-fiction, and children’s books all at the same time. One day I brought home Lolita. My dad looked at it and with a slight raise of his eyebrow said, “That is a very erotic book.” Matter of fact, no fuss… so, needless to say, I read widely. Around this time I even spent one Take Your Daughter to Work Day at the Poynette Public Library, where the librarian was kind enough to take me under her wing. However, I didn’t really foster dreams of becoming a librarian. I wanted to be a dentist. It seemed like a practical, helpful, and stable career. And I’d get to be a doctor! Well, when I learned how much chemistry it took to get into dental school I balked. I became an English major instead. It came easily to me. About a month into my freshman year of college, I looked up careers for English majors and I learned about archivists and academic librarianship from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Everything clicked into place. Suddenly my hoarding of random ephemera from my childhood made sense. I was a born collector. I spent my entire undergrad experience knowing I was headed to library school, so I was able to gather up some volunteer experience. I started library school immediately after finishing up undergrad and haven’t looked back since.

Britt F.

I am and have always been a huge bookworm, and my friends always used to tease me (in a bad way!) that I was going to be a librarian when I grew up.  I always used to huff that just because you like to read doesn’t mean you’re going to be a librarian.  My “epiphany” came while sitting on the floor of the San Francisco Public Library, doing research on gendered portrayals of violence in children’s literature.  I looked up and looked around at the diversity of the patrons using all these resources for free, and realized the library is for me. I felt an almost physical shift in my body, and I swear, there was a beam of light shining down on me.  Angels sang.  Pages looked at me funny.  I was meant to be a librarian, and my third-grade self was right: my decision to become a public librarian had nothing to do with books, and everything to do with politics.  My personal beliefs align perfectly with I feel the library represents at it’s best, what I saw in SFPL that day: open, democratic, non-corporate, non-Capitalist, citizenship-status blind, locally active.  The creativity, the daily interaction with people, the continuing education, all just icing on the cake!

Heidi S.

Some (so-called) friends tricked me into going to library school! Tricky librarians! I’m sure there were other influences, but essentially, I got a student job at the computer help desk at my undergrad library at the end of my first year. I LOVED THE JOB (the librarians, atmosphere, students, work, etc.) and continued working there until I graduated. The summer before my final year, I was given some “special projects” to do for the library. Working on these fascinating projects (a scanning project, inventorying, creating reports, making a wiki, etc.), the summer flew by and suddenly my senior year was starting and I told my (so-called) friends I was headed for my MLIS. They snickered quietly (they’re librarians, remember?) and said, “Yeah. We take complete credit for that brilliant idea.” They totally set me up! Tricky librarians! (Thanks, ladies!) So, where am I now? I’m about 20 days short of graduating! I’m heading back “home” — to provide library services for people in small, rural libraries. I’m all about service, folks. If there’s one thing I’ve learned these past couple of years, it’s that the best resources are the people you serve! Who knows! Maybe I’ll be a “tricky librarian” and set an unsuspecting person in the IS direction.

Julia F.

I grew up loving books and libraries; I was an avid reader and big library user. The idea of librarianship as a career path lurked in the back of my mind for a long time, competing with everything from paleontology and illustrating children’s books (my elementary school aspirations) to publishing and editing (early college). But I first thought really seriously about librarianship during my sophomore year of college, while completing a library instruction research lab required of all English majors. Unlike many of my classmates, I got really excited about learning to use the library and its resources more effectively, evaluating sources, and developing my literature-related research questions. When my librarian instructor jokingly suggested that I should teach the class instead of her I thought, “Oh! Wait, I could actually do that!” During the rest of college, I spent time volunteering and interning in libraries, talking to the librarians about their work, working as a writing tutor, and paying attention to my growing love of research and information. Based on these experiences, I felt confident that librarianship was for me and I for it, so I jumped into library school straight after completing a BA in English. Any qualms I’ve had about being young or lacking in professional experience have been powerful motivators for me and I’m happy with my path.

Julia S.

I have a dirty secret: I didn’t start out wanting to be a librarian. Or an info pro. Or anything close. I started out majoring in Drawing after a lifelong obsession with creating art. After one semester, I realized that I shouldn’t turn it into a career (although I still make plenty of art). I switched to Psychology, hoping to work with sexual assault victims. I volunteered and lectured and did many exciting things. And then I applied to 12 PhD programs and was rejected from all of them. Hindsight being 20/20, this was a really good thing because it saved me from jumping into a field I thought I loved, but now realize was not a good fit for me. Around this time one of my best friends suggested library science. Another one of my best friends had suggested it for years, but for some reason it took two people to make it stick. I remember applying and when I got the letter I told my cats (yeah, I live with lots of cats–big surprise there!) ‘well, here’s rejection #13.’ I opened the envelope and was so excited, I even called my poor friend and woke him up to tell him about it! Like Britt, I had always been famous for having my nose stuck in a book, and was often found quietly tucked away in a corner either reading or drawing. I have an unhealthy obsession with special collections, but beyond that I wasn’t fully sure what I wanted to do when I got to my LIS program. I wasn’t sure why I was learning computing and I felt swamped with information. I finally found my niche through opening up and interacting with other students and forcing myself to branch out and try new things. Now I get the best of both worlds–I get to do art and bury myself in special collections materials, but I also get to connect with people worldwide through social media and OA publishing!

Lauren H.

From a very young age, I thought that I wanted to be a teacher or a librarian. My elementary school librarian, Mrs. Dodd (no relation), embodied the classic stereotypes of librarians–gray hair, glasses, shushing–but she was so sweet and encouraging, and I adored her. She challenged me in reading from a very young age, giving me scores of advanced reading recommendations before she retired. I’ve since found that I do not want to be a school librarian, but her love of service sent me an important message – librarianship was about people, not necessarily reading or books. I worked in my community college Learning Resource Center as a work-study student for two years, performing a variety of tasks—circulation, reference, government documents, and more—and was essentially another staff member. I loved the college atmosphere and helping both patrons and faculty with their research needs. This shifted me toward academia, and eventually toward academic librarianship. I took a bit of a detour, thinking that I wanted to be an English professor, but when I finally realized that that wasn’t my path, I knew exactly where I was headed. Librarianship wasn’t my back up plan – it was what I had really wanted all along. I could not be happier with my soon-to-be profession – it contains the perfect amount of service, teaching, and research. Now that I think about it, I should probably give Mrs. Dodd a call and thank her for her service and inspiration!

Micah V.

I went to library school because I didn’t know what else to do, and the application deadline was late in the summer. I enjoyed books as a kid, did well in college as a Humanities major, and went on to a Masters program in American Studies simply so I could write a thesis on punk rock. Which I did. I had the pleasure and honor to work with Dr. Wayne Wiegand in my MA program, and as the doom of graduation started to hit me, Dr. Wiegand took me aside one day and said, “Hey, we could use folks like you in librarianship.” It was not until halfway through my very first semester, in a Digital Media Concepts and Production course, that I realized that LIS involved a lot more these days than books and Dewey. And I was hooked. I have warmed to the idea of books, and enjoyed learning about the history and theory of the profession, but to be brutally honest, I’m still not really sure “librarian” proper is what I’ll end up being. The things I like are all on the outskirts of Librarianship (cultural heritage, digital archives, digital humanities, tech journalism, web technologies, information technology, communications media, etc), and so I think my place may be mediating relationships between these different (yet similar) fields. The best part about all this though is that I do well in communities, and it seems that the LIS field is a community-focused profession, and one I’ll be proud to represent and contribute to, whatever job title that ends up being.

Paul L.

I have always been wanting to become a librarian, but other things kept getting in the way. In college, I found a job as a copy cataloging assistant, and I greatly enjoyed helping make a substantial dent in the backlog of books that had been purchased but not yet added to the large university library’s cataloging system (and thus not made available in the stacks). I knew then from my brief experiences with the behind-the-scenes work of academic libraries that I could be happy doing that type of work for a career. After college, I almost went to library school but was seduced by literary studies to pursue graduate work in English and a teaching career first. After a decade-long detour, I returned to the idea of working in libraries and finally took the plunge to obtain my MLIS degree. I had a clearer understanding of academic libraries’ place in academic research and how I wanted to be a part of those networks of research, teaching, and publishing.

Rose C.

I basically grew up in my local public library. My parents didn’t have the money for activities like gymnastics and dance, so I went to the library instead. I never thought spending my free time at the library was unusual until high school, when I stopped by the library with a friend. I was picking up a book on hold, and the librarian didn’t need to ask my name to retrieve it. My friend just couldn’t understand the bond between a librarian and regular patron. While my love of reading kept me going back to the library, it’s ultimately my desire to help others that led me to become a librarian. I didn’t even realize you could become a librarian until I had already started a doctoral program in anthropology immediately after undergrad. I quickly realized in my first semester that while people fascinated me, I didn’t want to study and observe them in an academic vacuum — but to work with and help them. And then it hit me: becoming a librarian is an actual career that I could pursue! Before I jumped into another graduate program, I did my due diligence and spoke with a few academic librarians to get a solid understanding of their daily work. Those conversations roped me in.

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