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The Library Routes Project

How did I become a librarian? Well, it's not a terribly surprising story. I grew up the "reader" in my family. It seemed like I always had a book in my hand. My parents would get mad when I'd forget to do my chores because my book got really good and I just couldn't put it down. My aunt happened to be a librarian and I always looked forward to her birthday presents, which were always books I ended up devouring.

So far it sounds like I might have always wanted to be a librarian. Not really. Before I knew how to read I wanted to be an artist because I loved drawing pictures with my crayons. Unfortunately my artistic talents never developed much past the stick people stage. Then I wanted to be a nurse just like my mom. Then my 2nd grade teacher nurtured my love of words and started my desire to become a writer, which lasted through most of my childhood. Somewhere along the line, though, I realized that I liked writing for myself a lot more than I liked writing for other people, so I spent most of high school and college not really knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up. I still read voraciously and knew I loved words and stories and sharing their magic with other people, but I had no idea what kind of job that would lead me to.

I briefly toyed with the idea of working in a museum or archive after a job shadowing experience. Then, my work study job at college ended up being in the college archives and I loved it. I got to spend 5 hours a week organizing chaos. It was a dream come true. Still I wasn't sure exactly what this meant for my post-graduation aspects. I wasn't sure I could handle 40 hours a week locked away in the archives. Even though I'd always been shy, I'd noticed that I really missed working directly with other people.

Over the summer I decided to help out at the library's circulation desk and suddenly the light turned on for me. I was getting paid to help people find good books to read. What could be better? I still got to get my organization thing on by reshelving books, and I got to talk to people. I also discovered just how much I loved helping people. I was disappointed when someone had a difficult question I couldn't answer and I had to send them upstairs to the reference librarian. I desperately wanted to know what sorts of things the librarian did to help them. I wanted to be the librarian.

So I finished my undergrad career working at the campus library as much as they'd let me. I stayed in the archives during the school year and moved out to the circ desk over the summers. I took a month off my senior year to do an internship at my aunt's library because I knew I wanted to work in public libraries and as yet I hadn't worked in a strictly public library environment (my college's library also served as the public library for the town, but the clientèle at a small college town library is not very representative of the average public library). I applied for grad school even though I suddenly became sick of school my senior year of college. I suddenly felt like going to class wasn't worth it unless it was 100% relevant to me personally and really just wanted to get out into the real world and have a full-time job, but I knew that in order to do the sort of heavy-duty librarian work I wanted to do, library school was a necessity.

When I started grad school the next fall, I had the same problem with going to class, luckily there was enough to intrigue me in my classes that I got through grad school essentially unscathed. During that time I has all sorts of different jobs. My journey came full circle when I returned to my undergrad library on weekends to finally work at the reference desk I had envied as an undergrad. After my first semester I picked up a few hours at my grad school's health sciences library, which had a great trainee program for library school students. More than anything else, that job taught me how intertwined libraries and technology are and gave me the skills to be comfortable with integrating technology into library services. In fact, while working at there, I stumbled onto a brief job quality rating for Google. I thought I knew how random the web could be, but that job blew up my expectations and expanded them tremendously.

After graduating, I found myself in the position of many new graduates: I could not find a job. I wasn't interested in moving, so I was pretty limited for which jobs I applied for. Over the summer following my graduation I applied for several jobs that seemed at least somewhat related to what I wanted to do in libraries, but nothing felt like a super great fit, so unsurprisingly, I spent a year outside of libraries and honed my skills in the private sector. I still managed to be a librarian (albeit unofficially), reorganizing the document library for the company I worked at, as well assisting in the implementation of a new document delivery system. It was a great company and if they actually would have recognized my work as corporate librarianship (which it mostly was) and paid me accordingly (instead of seeing me as just another secretary) I would have been tempted to stay.

But the perfect librarian job opened up as a reference librarian in a larger medium sized public library. While not everything about the job has been perfect, it truly has been the perfect position for me at this point in my career. I have so many colleagues who teach me new things everyday. While major flooding in 2008 destroyed our main building, causing the word "normal" to leave our vocabularies, it's also been an unexpectedly rich learning experience. Now that we've mostly settled into our long-term temporary quarters (it will still be a few years before we get a new main facility built), I split my time between cataloging, YA programming , collection development, teaching computer classes and just generally being an all-around awesome librarian.

Just realized that I forgot to link to the Library Routes Project, which served as the inspiration for this post.
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