So I Wanted to Be a Librarian. . . .

Posted by OrdinaryJoe - April 13, 2019 - Books, Features, Jobs - No Comments

National Library Week ends today. My name is Ordinary Joe, and I am a recovering librarian.

I didn’t become a librarian because I loved shelving books, smelling the odor of musty documents in the morning, or saying “Shh!” to noisy patrons. Nor was it because I fantasized about becoming the second coming of Melvil Dewey who would be the Grand Poobah of the American Library Association. Nor was it a way to meet members of the opposite sex, though few lady librarians look like a Victoria’s Secret model.

Instead, it was something more simple–I was a failed wannabe historian who needed a job.

Since The Paper Chase scared me off from law school, since most employers were not exactly doing handstands over my resume (in fact, they probably laughed at my credentials and wondered why I didn’t study something more “practical” like business or basket weaving), and since I wanted to do something besides driving taxis or flipping burgers at the local Mickey D’s, I decided to go to library school at a large Midwestern university. I loved working in archives when I was a graduate student at Corn Belt U*, and I spent countless hours in libraries doing research for term papers.

Library school was fun. I enjoyed hearing my professors discuss the type of reference questions I would encounter as a reference librarian; and arcane subjects like collection development, personnel supervision and the history of book publishing were quite fascinating. Even though I don’t have a mind for numbers, learning the Dewey Decimal Catalog was quite interesting. Even better, my cataloging professor was an elderly Southern-born farmer who had plenty of hilarious stories when she worked at Columbia University’s library.

I also enjoyed my internship in the interlibrary loan department. It was invigorating delivering books at a moment’s notice at a moment’s notice to scholars and students across the world. Although my supervisor looked like a stereotypical librarian with her granny glasses and pageboy haircut, she was quite friendly and gave some good advice on handling patrons.

And my fellow library students were by and large great people. Some of the most enjoyable moments in my life were we discussed the foibles of library school in the–where else?–university’s main library. One student, Mary Mikes*, laughed hysterically whenever I discussed mystery meat entrees in the school cafeteria and my squabbles with my siblings. I occasionally fantasized about having a romance with Mikes, but she fell in love with a plug-ugly and dropped out of library school. I learned love is not like those fairy tale romance novels that pepper the fiction sections of libraries–sometimes, it ends unhappily.

After I spent a year and a half in school, I graduated with a spiffy master’s degree in library and information science. Look out libraries, I said to myself during the graduation ceremony, here I come to save the day.

Unfortunately, thanks to the Recession of 1990, I would discover the job market was as bad for librarians as it was for historians. But I will discuss my job hunting follies in the library world for another day.

Joe’s Maybe Memorable Quote of the Day

I try to live my life by the book, but I always forget to look at the footnotes.


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