by Jenny, Guest Blogger
(Note: I have heard that May, one of my oldest and dearest friends, often refers to me as her friend Jenny the Librarian, so when May asked me to be a Guest Blogger, I had to start from there…..)
Years ago, as I was nearing the end of my undergrad degree in English, I began to consider what I was going to do with my life.
Great time to start thinking about it. But I come from a family that never thought too much about careers, and I could never clearly see myself doing anything in particular….I wanted to do something, sure….something that let me think a lot, because I like doing that….something that was pleasant…..and that allowed me to be in places I liked to be….and that used whatever talents I had….but what that something was, I didn’t know, and I didn’t give it that much consideration.
It feels good to admit this, because aIthough I am not dumb, I’ve always worried that this characteristic is not one that “smart” people should have. My friends are valedictorians and salutatorians and doctors and PhD candidates and writers and musicians and teachers of all persuasions. And many of them knew exactly what they wanted to do. They laid the groundwork for their future careers, they applied to the best colleges, they mapped out their course loads, and they built resumes with all due seriousness. While I feel fairly confident that my brain works well, I always felt as if I lacked whatever intellect it took for them to launch so confidently down those chosen roads. Why didn’t I know what I wanted to do? Why wasn’t it more important to me? Was it possible that I was a carefree hippie disguised in a black cardigan and that I was more suited to meander through the world in the passenger seat of a VW bug?
So I looked around me in the Fall semester of my senior year and thought about the English degree I was so close to receiving and I realized, “I don’t know what to do with this.”
Undeterred at age 21 by a realization that would paralyze me at age 32, I began mulling over graduate school. Graduate school, that blessed place of respite allowing young adults with Big Thoughts to deter a big, scary decision just a little bit longer.
And once graduate school was decided upon, the path was clear: I would go to library school.
Yes, chuckle if you will. But deep down, doesn’t a part of you want to go to library school, too?
And, surprising as it was to me, I had stumbled into my perfect career.
Now, it wasn’t easy to allow myself to come to peace with librarianship, because being a librarian in this world is an exercise in developing a thick skin. Is there a profession that carries with it more stereotypes? Or one that is the butt of more jokes? It doesn’t help matters that I still haven’t married, making me not only a librarian, but, dare I say it, a spinster librarian?? Just typing the phrase makes me cringe.
And yet, all told, I love being a librarian. I get to wake up every morning and go to the LIBRARY. Every bit of knowledge, no matter how random, is useful in my career. I rock at Jeopardy. I can check out more books at a time than ANYONE. Heck, I don’t even have to check them out! If I want a book that the library doesn’t have, I can just buy it with library money! I can delete my own fines!! At one job, I could go back to the Archives anytime I wanted and freely peruse a 3-volume copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs from the 1600s, complete with a dedication in the front to Elizabeth I. At another, I got to eat lunch in a room housing the largest collection of Tiffany glass anywhere in the world. And at my current job, teenagers come up to me and ask me what book they should read….I love that. And not only do I know more about technology than my school’s technology specialist, I also know how to explain it to people so that they can actually use it!
And the possiblities for the future are endless….librarians are everywhere! In hospitals, schools, museums, working for newspapers and network TV stations, in tiny, rural public libraries and huge urban ones…..I love that my career could take me to any of those places.
So I write this blog post not to recruit new librarians, but rather to proclaim that I really do like what I’m doing and that somehow, even with no clear direction in mind, I ended up in the right place.
And don’t we always?
And doesn’t realizing that make it much easier to enjoy this crazy ride?