“This mixture is the most powerful love potion known to man. Whatever you do, don’t drink it.”
In hopes of making this A Thing where librarians talk about why they chose (or stumbled into) this profession, let’s tag these with “librarian origin stories” so we can all track them and enjoy?
In response to a question asked by a fellow librarian/archivist, without further ado, here is my origin story as a librarian (sounds very super-hero, no?)
As is the case with so many of these things, a little background is required. My undergraduate degree is in United States history, with a minor in studio art. I taught history in a high school in northeast Dallas, after I graduated and certified as a teacher. This was simultaneously so rewarding, but also ranks among the most exasperating and frustrating experiences of my life. During the spring semester of my final year of teaching, I started to think about changing careers, and possibly returning to school for a graduate degree. Many things entered into this discussion - where my passions and interests lie, employ-ability, salary, and my motivations for working in the first place (beyond the obvious ones).
My primary motivation for wanting to be a teacher is that I love helping other people. It is consistently the most fulfilling thing that I do on a regular basis, as cliche or trite as that sounds. That was the primary driver in this search for a new/better career. Also, later in my undergraduate degree and while I was teaching, I found that I was (am) a widely curious person, with a wide array of interests that I always want to know more about. Not just history, but art, literature, music, medicine, physics, and so on. So, what profession can fulfill the desire to help others, and professionally support a ravenous curiosity about a wide array of topics?
(Aside: don’t drink the kool-aid about the “amazing” job market the ALA tells you about as a new librarian. It’s very difficult to get a job in the profession, so be prepared to work hard to make yourself stand out.)
After this epiphany, I applied to several ALA approved LIS programs, and decided to attend Syracuse University. It seems to me now that this was an especially auspicious choice, as I met some phenomenal people who have become either friends or professional colleagues of great value. They also had some great cataloging, reference, and classification courses, and I felt that even though it was not cheap, it was well worth the money.
I would argue that for any student classroom learning and practice are only half of the “true” education of a librarian. Your learning has to be applied and supplemented with real-world experience - as a staff member, or even as a volunteer (as I was). I was extremely fortunate (a well-deserved superlative) to volunteer at the reference library at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas. The staff there (I am talking about you, Sam, Mary Jane, and Jon) were extremely patient with me - training me as a cataloger, reference librarian, subject specialist, technical services person, and archivist through a very wide array of experiences. My time there also exposed me to what a well-run library can do for the people that use it - entertain, enlighten, and educate its patrons.
Because of the experience I had at the Carter, as well as my learning at Syracuse, I am able to work in a new art library with the preeminent collection of American color books in the world. My work is both challenging and rewarding, and I truly feel that this profession is where I am supposed to be, as well as where I will spend the rest of my working life. And, I get to be a tumblarian. Not bad.
What about you, hmm?
Since this is ostensibly the place for it, here’s a short view on Open Access Federal Goings On in the U.S. during the month of February and boy have there been a lot so far.
On February 14, 2013, both houses of Congress presented bills that would mandate open access for all works funded by federal agencies with budgets of $100 million (Thanks for the Valentines gift, Representatives Michael Doyle (D-PA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ron Wyden (D-OR)). Works would be available 6 months after publication through federal or related databases for free access for everyone. This bill included works in the Humanities, as well as science and technology (Biomedical research funded by NIH has been under an open access mandate for a few years now that is slightly more conservative with a one year embargo).
On February 22, 2013, in response to a We the People petition, the White House mandated Open Access for all scientific, technological, and data driven works. Works would have to be made public 1 year after publication, and applies to federal agencies with budgets over $100 million a year.
The Association of American Publishers prefer the White House’s plan. Librarians seem to like the White House’s plan, but prefer Congress’s plan. Why is this?
Details are everything:
The main difference between the two is that Congress’ version has a 6 month embargo, and applies to all federal agencies regardless of science and technology status, and since it is not a presidential order, it can’t be overturned by the next administration without significant political cost on both sides.
The President’s order also bypasses the humanities, neatly avoiding the outcry from the arts community, which would have greater economic impact and political fallout.
By posting this now, BEFORE FASTR can get to the President, it saves a great deal of political fallout for the President, should he sign the more liberal bill presented by congress. Rather than fighting both the publishers and the larger creative economic machine (potentially some movies, music, TV and other media funded in part with grants would fall under Congress’s version of the bill)(Sidenote: It is no coincidence one of the most recent updates and expansions of copyright in favor of rights owners was named the Sonny Bono Copyright Act).
So, was the overall net gain worth it?
Yes and no.
By losing access to creative works, it doesn’t help the underlying inequality in the arts system, where the borrowing of ideas, imagery and repeating of plots is norm, but only for those who can afford awesome lawyers (Disney, I’m looking at you). However, wider access to technology and science is always a good thing in my book, so this isn’t terrible. It’s just not as good as it could be.
Head Librarian R, 2013.
I am in an uproariously bad mood, but this made me laugh. Thank you, Internet. Thank you.
Our new reading promotion.
Beyoncé’s inner sanctum also contains thousands of hours of private footage, compiled by a “visual director” Beyoncé employs who has shot practically her every waking moment, up to sixteen hours a day, since 2005. In this footage, Beyoncé wears her hair up, down, with bangs, and without. In full makeup and makeup-free, she can be found shaking her famous ass onstage, lounging in her dressing room, singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” to Jay-Z over an intimate dinner, and rolling over sleepy-eyed in bed. This digital database, modeled loosely on NBC’s library, is a work in progress—the labeling, date-stamping, and cross-referencing has been under way for two years, and it’ll be several months before that process is complete.
BEYONCE ARCHIVISTS. BEYONCE’S PERSONAL LIBRARIANS.
One of my favorites! You all know Wendy’s on Tumblr, right?
Storybook gown constructed entirely out of recycled and discarded children’s Golden Books. Designer Ryan Novelline created the bodice from the golden spines of these classic children’s books and sewed together the skirt from their illustrated pages.
Must put book gown… in book…
Kabul, Afghanistan: Mohammad Saber Yaqoti Hussaini Khedri, the calligrapher of the world’s biggest copy of the Qur’an, turns a page of the book
I can hear the processing units yelling “Not it” from here.