On Being a Librarian

Trends, Achievements, and Perspectives

Thing 20: Path(s) Taken, Stumbles Along the Way

How did I get to librarianship?

When I applied to the University of Western Ontario and the Master of Library and Information Science degree program, I did so out of desperation, exhaustion, disillusionment, disappointment, and the fallout from a collision of catastrophes.

Desperation: I was near the end of Employment Insurance Benefits and with no work opportunities pending.

Exhaustion: Unemployment tears at emotional, physical, and spiritual reserves. A totality of depletion ebbed near.

Disillusionment: I had experienced ageism in my workplace and during job interviews. My belief in professionalism had waned.

Disappointment: In myself: I had failed to succeed. In others: I had witnessed huge dollops of bewildering unkindness demonstrated by my peers, colleagues, and friends.

Catastrophe: Over a period of approximately 10 years, I had experienced the death of a sister, fractured relationships, a physical injury, compromised housing situations, multiple job changes, children relocating to their father’s home, a promise of love that mercilessly rescinded, and a myriad of many other problematic, potentially life-crunching dilemmas.

At the time I applied to Western, I could not  see the nadir of life experiences. Surely there was a bottom to be found. Through the groggy mist of  perplexing circumstances, I was met by a close friend. Her act of compassion, generosity, and kindness proved a balm for my career recovery process. She remains a stalwart friend. Earnestly developing a reflective practice at her behest, I found that my life was rather pock-marked with regret. One raw regret sat squarely on my decision in 1992 to take a low-paying job rather than accept a position into the MLIS program at Western. I chose work over education feeling rather dire at times when raising two young children as a sole-support parent, a telling toll on both myself and my family. At that juncture, I had been in school for 6 years and felt that a job needed and more schooling was unrealistic. I succumbed to not-so-subtle pressures from my family to get a job. The allure of income trumpeted education and clouded my ability to critically think about my future professional life.

Sixteen years later I sat in a classroom of other MLIS students and pondered about how I arrived in this seat and who might be sitting beside me. Over the next two years, I learned that librarians choose the profession for a wild array of reasons. Some knew this was their career when handed their first library card. Some ambled into librarianship after completing an undergraduate degree when a clear career path was not evident. Really, they were there because they could not get into another program nor land a job. A few were of my generation, had other graduate degrees, were re-entering the workforce, or had met a glass ceiling at their current institution where advancement demanded a MLIS degree. I felt very welcomed in this program, valued for my work experience and appreciated for the career scars I carried. Yes, my route to librarianship was similar to that of so many others. There was comfort in that brand of typical.

That’s where typical ended. Librarianship in 2011 has no room for typical. In my view, typical connotes staid, static, sedentary, flat. Librarians have no truck with typical. A day in the life a librarian reveals no markers of  typical service, typical interaction, and typical utility, typical technology. Every day is populated by a new service experience, engagement with different users, trying out technologies, creatively seeking solutions to diverse information needs, and planning for alternative services designed to adopt new formats and technological requirements.

Librarianship is not about books. It rankles me that so many people associate librarians with books and only books. Geesch.  I identify myself as an information scientist. While books are central to the physical library, information-seeking process fascinate me, gets me up in the morning, and drives my professional interests.

One comment on “Thing 20: Path(s) Taken, Stumbles Along the Way

  1. Evelyn N. Alfred

    This post resonates for me.

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This entry was posted on 11/07/2011 by in Web 2.0 and tagged .
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