November 22, 2009

Library Routes Project

I got wind of the Library Routes Project through Twitter and thought it would be great to contribute. I wish I had found something like this when I was applying or just starting library school!

Welcome to the Library Routes Project!

The idea is to document either or both of your library roots - how you got into the profession in the first place, and what made you decide to do so - and your library routes - the career path which has taken you to wherever you are today. As well as being interesting of itself, it will also provide much needed information and context for those just entering the profession or wishing to do so.

My path of becoming a librarian was definitely brewing in the background over a few years before I realized it. I wish it had hit me sooner, but I think a series of events led me to this career:
  • 2002-Read Punk Planet article (article not available online, unfortunately, but I have the paper copy saved in my files) about radical librarians and how social change and activism are possible within librarianship
  • 2004-Saw friends working at libraries during undergrad and kept hearing positive things
  • 2005-Started to really enjoy research and finding information for courses in my major and in general on the internet
  • 2007-Began working at a health food/supplements store and excelled at providing reference services for people having questions about health conditions and remedies

After graduating with a B.A. in Communication Arts, I started looking for marketing/outreach positions, mostly with non-profits. There was a lot of competition, and since I didn't have a degree specific to marketing or advertising, it was even tougher. I applied to a couple corporations for somewhat similar or management positions, but found I didn't have enough interest in any of those jobs to make myself go to the next round of interviews because it just didn't feel right. I then saw a notice that the natural health food store near my apartment was hiring, and I wound up there; I figured in the meantime at least I'd be helping people and I would get to learn a lot about Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). I started to think about going back to school since I felt my degree was too generalized to find a more specific career, and everything libraries just started sticking out for me, including noticing how much I liked helping customers find information. Luckily, I had just moved to a city with a library school at a major university, so I applied and now here I am. I obtained a position in my program's department first, and then a graduate assistantship at the library, so I left the store and immersed myself in LIS.

As far as my route to my current position (Part-time Outreach Information Specialist at the Community Outreach & Education Core at the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center at the University of Arizona) -- which entails outreach, web design, and reference -- started off as an internship during my last semester of school, and turned into a part-time/temp position until I find permanent employment. It's a great fit for me since I have a background in outreach and an interest in design and technology -- not to mention the experience in reference for health resources from the health food store. Most of my tasks involve web design, for making the sites look nicer, for organizing the information and resources better, and to design and organize in a way that would obtain the interest of the community and researchers (outreach).

When I first started library school, I was more focused on trying to figure out what kind of library I wanted to work in, rather than what kind of position I would want; I think the latter is more useful unless one really wants to specialize in a certain type of librarianship.

For new or potential students, I'd really recommend first figuring out what you'd like as far as positions or even just position duties, and then look at related job advertisements, which can tell you where to fill in the gaps for what classes to take or maybe where to do an internship. It's also great to have an internship that is flexible where you can get nearly any kind of experience you want, as mine had been. I was able to suggest to my supervisor that I create a tutorial for students in Keep Engaging Youth in Science summer internships, as well as present instructional sessions about how the designated librarians for their course (myself and a SIRLS student) could assist them in research. I've also been able to be very creative with web design and making the sites more interactive and up-to-date. Although I'm not fully settled yet in a permanent position, I love what I'm doing now and am gaining valuable experience as well as tangible work samples to add to my portfolio.

That about sums up how I became interested in librarianship and wound up at my current position; not the most romantic story, but I suppose it was a logical journey!