Monday, June 28, 2010

Why am I a librarian?

This is a response to @gigglesigh's and @fionawb's question, 'why am I a librarian'? I've only been a librarian for two years and I guess the why part will keep changing over time but right now this is what I've come up with.

I started my academic life at art school which involved trying to force order onto chaos and disarray. It can be hard to organise creativity and I don't think I was very good at it back then. At some point I turned from Sculpture and installation to printmaking and I think this was a turning point that in part led to my becoming a librarian. Why, I hear you ask? Well, printmaking is a very precise skill involving etching with acids, resins, fine tools, inks, and papers. I learned to examine every detail of an etching and organise my sketches, ideas, tools, and supplies with care. I became a master at the craft and loved using my skill to create new effects, layers, images, ideas. It was the precise and detailed nature of the work that I loved and I think is one thing I love about being a librarian. I started teaching printmaking after a while and loved sharing my experience with students. This too is something I love about being a librarian.

After art school I worked in a new and 2nd hand bookstore for many years. It was a great part-time job with great people, flexible hours and an endless supply of books! I loved reading, looking at, touching and smelling books. Talking books with customers and colleagues was a real pleasure but above all I loved helping customers find what they were after (another thing I love about being a librarian). Being a second hand dealer, you have no idea how obscure some of the requests would be. But I'd wander through the shelves searching and sure enough find a book on a rare breed of poultry or a historical figure of Tibet. It was during this time that I decided I needed to do something more with my life. I felt I had more to offer (society? the world?) and needed a new way to express that. I thought to myself, what do I like? and the answer was: books and helping people. So I thought: I should be a librarian. So naive.

So it was that I started 'library school' and discovered that the idea I had of a librarian was long gone. Thank goodness because I soon embraced my new notion with gusto. I really loved studying so much more than I had the first time. I was learning new things everyday and consuming it all like I'd woken up after a long deep sleep. By halfway through I thought there are so many jobs I could do after finishing - one of my last choices would be librarian. However, after some work experience in a public library I wasn't so sure. I enjoyed helping people and felt a sense of purpose but there was still something niggling at me. I wanted more...

After finishing my studies I worked in a social research centre library for a while and really loved supporting researchers, building databases, websites, teaching them skills, and all the basics of librarianship. The only thing was, I was the only librarian and felt professionally lonely. Being a newbie, I felt I needed to be around other people so I could learn more and be supported and encouraged to find my feet as a librarian.

Now I'm at an academic library and loving it. I feel like I'm in the right place at the right time. What I currently love the most is: helping people learn new things that will help them (staff or clients), feeling supported and encouraged by a great bunch of colleagues, sharing ideas and making ideas a reality, constantly learning new things, meeting like-minded librarians through social media and conferences all over the world, pondering the future of the profession and libraries. That might seem a bit vague but it means a lot to me. I know I've been lucky in my short career. I can only hope my luck continues!

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