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?