How did I get here?

Eva —  August 12, 2013 — 1 Comment

And you may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here? – “Once in a Lifetime,” Talking Heads, written by David Byrne, et al.

My community is situated pretty much smack-dab in the middle of two LIS schools, so I am asked “What was your career path?” a lot, usually as part of an Intro to Library Science course.

My previous stock answer was that librarianship brings my two favorite job experiences together: Customer service and research. But now, I add a third item to my answer: I get to use my leadership skills.

As a librarian, connecting patrons with information meant I would learn something new every day. When I worked as a researcher in the publishing industry, one of the things I enjoyed most was the discovery process: Putting pieces together to answer an editor’s question, gathering resources for publication and attribution, or checking a fact. For those of you old (and esoteric) enough to remember the TV show Herman’s Head, that’s pretty much what I did. I felt intrepid, curious, determined, and optimistic–like a detective solving a crime (oh, how I loved Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, and Agatha Christie growing up!). When I became a librarian, most of my friends and family said the leap made sense to them–I always liked to read (because that’s what we do all day, amirite?) and I am curious.

I was also drawn to librarianship for what I call the “craps table” or “Russian roulette” of working with the public. I have a strong retail background and enjoy the quirks, foibles, highs, and lows of working with the general public. While there is stability in the library–in knowing the people I work with and the desks I work at and when I am scheduled to work them–working with the public provides enough uncertainty to keep things interesting (who will walk up next? who will call next? will it be a homework question, an investment question, readers’ advisory, or a paper jam?).

The mash-up of research and customer service is what drew me to public librarianship initially, but looking back on my career trajectory, I see that there was something else that got me here, too–my leadership orientation. While I would not have identified myself at the time as a leader in either publishing or retail, looking at it now I realize that I worked my way up into leadership positions in both. In retail, I started as a Cashier; when I left, I was the equivalent of a Supervisor. In publishing, I started as an Assistant Researcher; when I left publishing, I was an Editor.

I could plan, organize, marshall, manage, motivate, problem-solve, and inspire before I was fully cognizant of having these skills. When I decided that I wanted to become a library director and asked myself, “Well, how did I get here?” I realized that I’ve exhibited leadership skills in some way, shape, or form for most of my life. Directing a library allows me to bring my leadership skills to the forefront while also satisfying my love of learning and customer service.

How about you, Library Lost & Founders? How did you get here?



Eva Davis is the Director of the Canton Public Library in Canton, Michigan--not Canton, Ohio, or Canton, Massachusetts, or Canton, Mississippi. (It is an easy mistake to make.) Eva honed her supervisory and management skills working in customer service, research, and publishing before heading to graduate school at the University of Michigan School of Information. She became a librarian in 1998. She was an intern and then the teen services librarian at the Plymouth (MI) District Library before moving to the Ann Arbor (MI) District Library, where she was Head of the Youth Department at the Downtown library, Head of Youth Services for the system, Head of Branch Services, and finally Associate Director for Public Services. Eva has held her dream job as the Director of the award-winning Canton Public Library since 2008. She received the Michigan Library Association's Frances H. Pletz Award for Excellence in Teen Services in 2003, and is a graduate of both Leadership Ann Arbor and Leadership Canton, where she learned that she is moderately Affiliative according to MAFF, her color is "Green" on the Four Color Personality Test, and her Myers-Briggs Type is INTJ (although she has worked diligently and consistently on improving her Sensing, so she now leans ISTJ). Follow @CantonLibrary and @EvaDavisCPL on Twitter. (Photo credit: Susan Kennedy)

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  1. Found: August 5 – 19, 2013 | Library Lost & Found - August 17, 2013

    […] We reflected on how we got here. […]

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