April is National School Library Month. With the new hashtag #whylib created over the weekend by some of my favorite librarian bloggers, this seems like the time to share how I came to be in the library. (For more stories, visit the #whylib Padlet!)
Growing up in the Deep South, I was an early reader. My elementary school years were full of popular series / authors: Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys, Sweet Valley Twins, and The Babysitters Club (oh, how I loved BSC!). My bookshelf was packed with paperbacks that I read and reread. I loved playing school and I knew – I KNEW – I’d be a teacher one day.
Middle school was a blur (Sweet Valley High! VC Andrews!), but high school was a whole new world. I don’t remember reading for personal enjoyment, but I do remember the safe haven of the library and the wonderful media specialists who turned a blind eye to my blatant breaking of library protocol as I stealthily ate lunch at the study carousels on entirely too many occasions.
At a small liberal-arts college in NC, I majored in elementary education and was convinced I would be a lifetime classroom teacher (this is the career I’d wanted since I was 9, mind you). Three years after graduation, though, I was at a crossroads. I’d happily taught 4th grade math/science in Baton Rouge for 2 years, but I’d moved to Orlando, taught for a half-year in a very challenging classroom, and I was burnt out. My then-fiancée and I had just moved back to NC for his new job, and I had to figure out what to do, career-wise.
During the move, I kept thinking about the librarian at my school back in Orlando. Mostly, I thought that I could do her job…but way, way better than she was doing it (think drill-and-kill). I loved teaching with books, I loved reading, and the idea of melding both was very appealing. There was just one problem: a MLIS was required for school librarians in NC and SC. But not at the public library. I found a job as a children’s assistant in small-town SC that spring, and I started building my knowledge of literature and libraries and serving youth from the ground-up.
After a year of intense reading, youth programming, and overall library happiness, I made a decision: it was time to get the MLIS. With the University of South Carolina only 90 minutes away, I took the entry exams, earned passible scores by the skin of my teeth, applied, and gained acceptance into the MLIS program. During my time there, I read hundreds (thousands?) of books, wrote hundreds of reviews, and was surrounded by people like me: book-loving library nerds. I was at home in library school.
Within 6 months of finishing my MLIS, my husband’s job moved yet again – this time, to the Pacific Northwest. Some of the best public library systems are out here, and I assumed I’d find work in one of them. Not quite. No jobs were available. But one day, while searching yet again, I wondered: what about a school library? After all, I had the BA in Education and the MLIS…surely I’d be qualified. And it turns out, I was. An elementary school had an opening, I interviewed, and I knew – I KNEW – this was the career, the job, the life for me. And it is: I was hired as the teacher-librarian for my school in October 2004.
Here’s the kicker, though: way back in high school, all students took a career-aptitude test. When the results came back, I fully expected my top career to be “elementary school teacher”. It wasn’t. It was “librarian”…by a lot of percentage points. This result was horrifying to my 16-year-old-self. It turns out, though, that I aced this test. I didn’t know it then, but I do today: I am a librarian, through and through.