Hello everyone! Leah here and I figured it’s my turn to write something on the Young Librarian Series. Although it’s a cliché interview question, I have always found people’s paths to librarianship to be telling. So I thought I would share mine, encompassed in what I’d like to think is a tiny bit of my manifesto of why I am a librarian. In case you don’t already know, I am a 27 year old librarian at the Pritzker Legal Research Center at the Northwestern University School of Law. You can follow me on twitter: @leahlibrarian. Enjoy.
My mother was not a librarian, and although she taught me to love books, she is not the reason I decided on this career. In fact, it was something that today I find rather amusing considering my sincere devotion to technology and new media. No, my career as a librarian began with a stamp. It was the old fashioned stamp at the circulation desk, the one with the dials that changed to a specific date and made a little mechanical thump when applied to the card in the back of my book. While I cannot explain my fascination with this stamp, I can tell you that I longed for a position where someday I too would be the bearer of such awesome responsibility. I will never forget when the Parchment Community Library switched to a barcode and computer system. Gone were the days of the stamp and now began a time of blips and pings with the scanning of ugly barcodes that had disgracefully been placed on my Amelia Bedelia books. The idea of becoming a librarian vanished from my thoughts for many years.
While slogging away at my English degree in college, I worked as a part-time server at a slow food café. My shifts were mostly lunches, the kind that required lots of smiling and customer service, two important work skills that I came to realize I rather enjoyed. Coincidentally this café happened to be the favorite lunch spot for many librarians from the Kalamazoo Public Library. Being the chatty person that I am, I spoke with them about feeling lost in a sea of academia and my conviction that the profession of English Professor was not looking so hot these days. I found a great deal of encouragement and camaraderie from these men and women. They encouraged me to enter the library profession and helped me secure an internship at the Kalamazoo Law Library. They brought me to luncheons and meet-ups, introduced me to many librarians along the way, and showed me that there was a profession that combined my English degree and my love for providing great service. This mentoring and encouraging attitude inspires me to this day.
Ducking my head and following the crowd doesn’t sit well with me. I have been told this makes for a natural leader but my mother would say she raised me to follow my heart. While she may not be the reason for my librarian career directly, she has always encouraged me to speak my mind and stand up for what I believe is true and right. I am not ashamed in my belief that some libraries are struggling to make progress and preserve their rightful place in this changing environment. When I hear news about libraries closing off access to social networking sites or read opinion pieces in local papers written by information professionals about the fall of the proper library to the sin of technology, it makes me that much more determined to change people’s minds.
I believe this is a new era for libraries. That we will only grow stronger as new librarians come into the field and as progressive, established librarians guide us into a positive frame of mind for assisting the generations to come with their informational needs. I have hope.
Interested in submitting something to the Young Librarian Series? Check out the submissions page or send an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week!