Today, I am a librarian.
Gosh, that feels good to say (and type)!
I’m surprised to look back and realize that I’ve only been working in libraries for about 3 and a half years now. It feels like I’ve been in it for much longer, but it’s within this short time that I’ve received my official training while working as a library paraprofessional and pursuing my MLIS.
Now that I’m done with my studies and have been given the moniker of librarian, I ask myself, “What does it mean to be a librarian?”
Here are the 5 things I’m thinking about as I grapple with this question and start the next leg of my journey in the profession.
Jokingly, I told my friends that I expect a lot of library-themed gifts for birthdays and holidays from here on out. It’ll be a change of pace from all the Harry Potter paraphernalia I’ve received over the years, because, you know, I’m obsessed and everyone knows it! (I have Harry Potter t-shirts, vinyl dolls, posters, scarves, and even a lunchbox if you need proof.)
And now, as I prepare for the onslaught of texts featuring library cakes and gifts with card catalogs printed on them, I realize how so many people don’t realize what I do. Friends joke that I’ll be a professional shusher and no one’s quite sure what I do all day if I’m not reading books. I’m guilty of this too, because I had no idea that librarians did so much to provide for their communities until I started working in one.
My mind was blown when I learned about all the things librarians do. I hope to blow all the minds, too.
Libraries are all about resources, right? Well, the people who work at your organization are an invaluable resource to you as a librarian.
Recently, I was giving a tour of my public library to a group of high school students interested in librarianship. At each area of the library, we were lucky enough to meet with staff who told us a bit about what they do. The teacher smartly asked each staff member we encountered to tell us about the path they took that led them to libraries. The answers were AWESOME. I had no idea that our library was staffed by actors, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, musicians, artists, inventors, and so many more identities. It was amazing to think about how these varied personalities and paths could lead these people to libraries, and how it was important to realize that staff were experts on so much more than their part in our organization.
I suppose I should have realized this sooner. After all, my past lives as a web developer and English teacher served as a resource many times during my work in libraries.
So FYI, Tom Haverford, a librarian is more than just a punk-ass book jockey. They’re a person with a myriad of experiences and interests who also knows how to find information. They’re basically a superhero.
I hate the word networking so much. It gives me the shivers when I hear it. But meeting librarians and library supporters is kind of vital for working in libraries.
I know for many teen librarians, they are the sole “teen” person at their library. In which case, it’s super important to meet and talk to other “teen” people to share ideas, collaborate, and support each other. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
C’mon, fellow introverts! Put on a brave face and introduce yourself to fellow library lovers. They’re all pretty awesome!
I’m grateful to have grown up in a diverse community that excelled in celebrating everyone’s backgrounds and identities. But even within that community, I didn’t see many (if any) librarians of color when I was a kid. I’m sure that in some unconscious way, I internalized that fact and it shaped who I thought a librarian was.
Thankfully, things have changed and we are seeing more and more diverse staff in libraries. And lucky for me, I was named an ALA Spectrum Scholar last year and was immediately surrounded by a diverse group of other MLIS students and librarians who cared about diversity in the profession. It made me realize that recognizing diversity in our communities, collection, and staff can be an essential part in making the library an inclusive place for all.
As someone who works with teens, I’m glad that I can help shape their idea of who a librarian is.
The last piece of advice I received from a professor in my MLIS program was that librarians have “an obligation to be change makers.” But what does that mean?
When I think of changemakers, I picture people protesting and being active…activists. That’s when I start to get anxious because, well, I don’t see myself in that way.
But maybe that’s not the sole way a changemaker can be defined. Maybe it can mean not being complacent. Maybe it can mean taking a stand for what you believe or helping others take theirs. Maybe it can mean helping an entire community thrive or affect just one person for the better.
I’m still not sure. I’m still grappling.
Today, I’m just glad to be a part of this profession and recognize that I’m still learning about it. It’s a field with the most incredible people who do a lot of good. Again, we’re superheroes!
What advice do you have for a new librarian? What do you think defines the job?
This post about my first day as a librarian is oddly my last post for TSU. It has been a great ride! Keep serving those teens, everyone!