Thursday, September 10, 2009

Madam Librarian

Lately I can hear the sirens' song, and it's about books. The tune is forever in the back of my head, tempting me to read in much of my spare time and making me long for a job in which I'd be surrounded by writing.

I have loved books for as long as I can remember. My parents tell me I learned to read before I was three years old and I never stopped. Many days of my childhood were spent flipping through my books, my brother's books, my parents' books, library books... I spent dinners sneaking glances at novels and magazines, while my parents scolded me: No reading at the table!

As I got older, I read even more. In middle school we were required to read at least eight novels each year during our "silent reading" period; we then had to take tests to "prove" that we had read them. Some kids never finished. Most kids read eight to twelve books. I read 140.

Shortly thereafter, I got my first summer job as a librarian's assistant at the Carnegie Library in my hometown. Each day I'd get there early (some days before the other librarians), eager to get started. My working hours were filled with checking out and shelving books, updating the card catalog (which was still made up of cards and in triplicate, since our library had other branches) by pulling out the cards of books we no longer carried and replacing them with new cards. I spent my Friday mornings helping with the children's story hour, my afternoons helping patrons, and much of my time feeling blessed that I was fortunate enough to score the perfect summer employment.

The best part about working at the library was access to all the books. I read dozens of books that summer. I read lots of young adult fiction, worked my way through law novels of all stripes, and even managed to read all 1,000+ pages of Gone with the Wind, which smelled musty and had thin pages like a bible and felt weighty and substantial in my hands. During lunchtime, most of the librarians would go home to eat and I would stay at the library, sitting outside in the warm sun with my back pressed against the hot brick or snuggled inside on cloudy days, wedged underneath the giant moose head on the wall or tucked back in the stacks sitting on a footstool, my book in my lap and a sandwich in my hand.

While all this may seem to make me a bit of a nerd, I always maintained a social life and other interests. I don't suffer from the debilitating shyness that is sometimes linked with being bookish, and though I often prefer to get lost in a book, I enjoy parties and get-togethers a great deal.

I've always pondered what it would be like to be a librarian. Lately (since I'm finding less and less satisfaction with my work), I've been considering this whole librarian thing a bit more seriously. And when I read (in the New York Times, no less!) that being a librarian is suddenly cool, I began to think that maybe a career change is in order. After all, there's nothing I love more than a cardigan and a good book!

Good books aside, becoming a librarian will require more school. I'm not sure if I'm ready for more school. While I love to learn, I don't love being broke or being overbooked. Life as an undergraduate is relatively simple; you take out some loans, focus on nothing but school and extracurriculars, and spend your summers living at home, rent free. Graduate school is another animal entirely; you have to hold down a full-time job, take out even more astronomical loans, and pay for your own rent and groceries.

I haven't yet decided if I'm up for the challenge of library school, but it's certainly always nagging in the back of my mind. For now, I'll continue working my way through mystery series, memoirs, and non-fiction and will pepper my life with young adult novels (which I still love wholeheartedly). Maybe I can volunteer at my local library (which, alas, is not the library of my youth and does not feature a giant moose head on the wall) and live vicariously through a friend who just started library school.

And at the very least, I can keep reading. In fact, I think I might start right now...


Miss Sandra said...

I did not know you worked at the library. I must admit, when I moved to TF I visited the library to register for a library card but they were very rude to me and I never set foot in it again.
I've always thought I'd like to be a reference librarian. You're right, the schooling is brutal.

(my word verification is lystrobi, sounds like a bacteria)

Cassandra Mortmain said...

Something to consider re:library school. While I opted for Simmons, because I wanted the schooliest school experience and a chance to forge the best professional contacts I could in NE, an MLIS is one of the few degrees that is really sensible to get online. It's a lot cheaper, and a lot easier to fit in around a hectic schedule. My friends Dana and Mat are both getting their degrees that way, and so far they seem to be relatively happy with their choice.

With a monumental passion for books like the one you're talking about here, it really does seem like the best choice for you. As I get further into my library school career, and you get more curious, I'd be thrilled to gran lunch with you and answer some questions about it.

Helgagrace said...

When I started my degree at Simmons, I not only worked a 9-5 job, I didn't tell my boss what I was doing. It was manageable--I took two classes that first semester, and got the bulk of my homework done. It's basically like taking on another job that eats up at least 10 hours a week of your time. At some point, you may start to prioritize things and skim more than you read. If you're looking for a dreamy school experience in which you meet a lot of people and exchange ideas, this isn't the way to do it. I went in for classes only, missed out on most of the social activities, and continually struggled with readings on reserve that required me to actually be in the library. After the first semester, I ended up with a part-time job, which suited me much better.

Margaret is right in that an online degree might be more cost-effective, but there is something about actually being in class with all those budding librarians that is motivating and builds a sense of common ground. If you can, you might want to sit in on a few classes with her to get a feel for how it goes. I wouldn't trade my library degree for anything.

Danielle E. Brown said...

Thanks for the advice, all. I'm still thinking about it and am now weighing brick-and-mortar school against online school. Decisions, decisions.