Hello and welcome to Stacking Up, a blog for the "modern" librarian! The great thing about today's librarians is that we are so diverse: different ages, backgrounds, personalities, looks... this blog is here to share this diversity with ideas, insights, stories, experiences and opinions for anything and everything having to do with being a librarian!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Librarian Outside the Box (I am not a "bun lady")

So I have decided to start writing about my own personal experiences as a young, newly-graduated librarian who is now out in the world, trying to meander my way through the many different pathways, opportunities and pitfalls of my field. Do you know that feeling of having about a gazillion things to learn/discover/experience and yet not knowing where the heck to begin? Yeah, that's me to some extent. Well, I will begin with establishing who I am and what I have under my professional belt so far...

OK, so my educational experience goes something like this: I graduated from high-school in 2002 with typical pie-in-the-sky dreams of going to some prestigious school, getting a degree in who-knows-what and then living happily-ever-after, making lots of money and having some grand purpose in life. After graduation, however, I took a detour and lived in France as an exchange student for a year, partying hard and acting French (whatever that means). When I got back to the States, I continued along the same lines of not applying myself to anything that serious for another 4 years, studying as an undergrad at SUNY Geneseo (Majors in History and Art History). Around my (second) senior year I finally did start to get serious and reached that "oh crap" moment that probably many undergrads have (especially those majoring in the humanities) when they realize they now need to figure out what to do with their degree.

This is the point where I decided to go to library school and become a librarian. I had spent the last 5 years doing research and studying in a library, and I had met librarians who were really nice and seemed to like their jobs, and plus I loved reading and I had an interest in things like preservation, information literacy, etc. so library school seemed the most logical next step. This, I know, is very cliche: I went to library school because I love books. Not terribly profound, but hey, that's what got me there. (As a side note, though, I also am very passionate about public service and helping people, so that also added to my career decision).

So off to Syracuse University I went (my acceptance being what I considered a miracle considering my sub-par performance at Geneseo up until my last year there) and I spent the next two years learning the basic principles of the Library and Information Science profession. I enjoyed grad school, and yet I did struggle during those two years, trying to figure out 1.) How I wanted to use this degree and 2.) How serious I was about the field. Don't get me wrong- I was working hard but I was also worried that I wasn't applying myself enough, that I wasn't pursuing my career-- all-out, full-steam ahead-- the way I thought I probably should. I wasn't terribly involved while a library student: I had my free memberships to ALA and NYLA, but I never did anything with them. I got A's in all of my classes (except that darned management class) but I never really did anything extra to stand out above the rest, and I think I struggled with feeling somewhat inadequate among my fellow classmates, many of whom were older, returning students who were already veterans of the working world, or others who were my age, but seemed a lot more... excited and driven than I was-- they just seemed to have more direction. I worked hard to do well at SU and graduated with a 3.8 GPA when I received my MSLIS in May 2010. Now the hard part began.

What do you do when you are armed with not much more than a Master's degree from a really good library school (that cost you vast sums of money btw), and now you have to go out and impress employers? Does this MSLIS really make someone "qualified?" Is it even enough to be merely "qualified" in today's job market? Eh, not really...

It's now March 2011 and I am in a good place. I have been working as a part-time Reference & Instruction Librarian at a smaller adult-education college since October (so 6 months now) and also as a substitute Public Librarian for the city I live in since September (7 months). So I'm getting that experience that is essential to not only building my own identity in my profession but also increasing my value as an asset in the job market.

Now I am working on discovering exactly what my "niche" is (if I even have one), and finding out what my strengths, passions, and my purpose are in this field that I've chosen to work in. These things seem like they should be obvious, but they really aren't. I want to be insightful, innovative, creative, committed, and all of those other qualities that I see in people who are truly successful and happy with what they do for a living. And so this is what I want to record: my journey as a librarian, trying to stay relevant in today's mad world, where the majority of people think that libraries are as outdated as VHS tapes or the clickety-clack of typewriters...

I would call myself a Librarian Outside the Box because I don't fit any kind of "librarian mold." As much as I love the humorous stereotype of the "bun lady" who "shushes" everyone, I'd like it if more people saw us as being individuals and professionals with ideas, opinions and personalities. I think there are many librarians outside the box. We're kind of an odd breed-- there really is no stereotype for today's librarian: we like to read Jane Austen and learn about emerging technologies as much as we like hitting up the local pub and going to Lady Gaga concerts. We like the idea of permanency over long periods of time as much as we like exploring the newest trends and being "cutting edge." I think that's what I like most about this field: there are no two librarians alike!! This profession is constantly evolving and we're all together in trying to reshape how we see our jobs and ourselves and looking to new ways that we can be important in today's busy, dynamic world.

I want to explore as many different areas of library development as I can, and hopefully get ideas and insights from other librarians as well about "stacking up" as a modern-day librarian...

So that's my introduction! Nice meeting you :)

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