Barbara Fister at Free Exchange on Campus tagged me to participate in the meme sparked by Dr. Crazy’s fantastic Why I Teach Literature post. She did this a long time ago, as the blogoverse counts time, but I hope not too long ago to participate.
I see two different questions in this meme, why I am a librarian, and why I became a librarian. First, why I became a librarian.
I started my path studying religion, and while studying for my doctoral exams and teaching I realized that the subject matter inspired passion in me, but the subject matter wasn’t what I wanted to impart to my students. For them, I wanted to use the study of the ways that people shaped their lives (and ours) through the beliefs and practices as a vector for critical thinking. And the critical thinking, the ability to see from multiple perspectives, to avoid judgment until different perspectives had been identified and thought through, this was my Course Objective. I also realized that the professorate was a long shot, and settling down was several years down the road, and would entail adding a zero or so to my student loan balance. I reconsidered my options, saw that librarianship was a path where I could play my strengths and sidestep my weaknesses (the Real World with cubicles and “Office” politics are my kryptonite. A dozen years on college campuses has ruined me for that kind of life).
As a librarian, I could pursue my academic interests as a generalist, and that generalist bent would be an asset. I could stay on a college campus. I could surround myself with intelligent academic colleagues and their conversation. And books — I would still be surrounded by books and get to buy them (with someone else’s money!)and read them. And I could continue to be an educator.
There was very little about my preconceptions about librarianship that remained true in the end. Librarianship engages more office politics than I would ever have imagined possible (and I suspect more than other tracks in academic outside of administration). Continuing the ‘life of the mind’ has escaped my grasp so far, and I suspect for always (but a girl can hope, eh?). I rarely handle books, more often just scanning their reviews on Choice, Amazon, H-Net or JSTOR. But I am an educator, and I have avenues for teaching that I had not truly grasped Before.
And being an Educator is central to my identity as a person and as a librarian. My passion, my career path, my intellectual pursuits, my approach to collection development, reference desk staffing, outreach to and interactions with students -one on one and institutionally- the arrangement of the catalog and the web page and to the implementation of new tools is all undergirded by the fact that I am an Educator.
It has been a learning experience for me, and accepting and acknowledging this unbreakable and unshakable center of my professional identity will be the star by which I will steer my career.