14 January 2014

How I Became a Librarian

Short answer? In my last year of college, my mother said I could go to graduate school, but it would have to be a public school. I had two options -- International Relations or Library Science. Like any good future librarian, I consulted the Peterson’s Guide to Graduate Programs and discovered that library school did not require a thesis. Ding, ding, ding! That’s why I chose library school.

Although the above answer is true, there is more to it than that.

When I graduated high school, I went to Texas Lutheran University (then it was still Texas Lutheran College; the name changed after my second year there). I was a communications major and hoped to eventually be a film critic. For my four years at college, I served as the arts and entertainment editor for the university newspaper, the Lone Star Lutheran.

But TLU changed the requirements for communications majors and overhauled the department. I thought the changes actually weakened the degree. Let me be clear, the newspaper advisor was excellent. Many of the things she taught me, I still use today (yay, library marketing!).

At the time of the overhaul, I was taking an American government class that I thoroughly enjoyed. I decided to double-major in communications and political science. That lasted about a year before I realized I wouldn’t be able to graduate in four years. I was attending a private university. Although I had several scholarships, I also had some pretty significant loans. I had to graduate in four years.

So I dropped communications. By that time I thought about joining the U.S. Foreign Service.

But I was also working in the school’s library at this time. It was fun work, and I adored seeing the new books. I also rediscovered my love of children’s literature through the library’s small collection of titles, mainly used by education majors.

When Mom said I could go to graduate school, I had a decision to make.

Foreign service or public library?

I chose librarianship, and one of the biggest determining factors was not having to write a thesis. But the fact that Texas has three American Library Association-accredited library schools helped. Of those three, I chose the University of Texas and earned a master's degree in library and information science.

Looking back at how U.S. foreign policy has morphed over the past fifteen years, I know I made the right decision.

Despite the fact that my path to library school was circuitous, some of the classes I took at TLU have proved useful in my professional career.
  • Newspaper Writing -- I have to write, read and review press releases. I also have proofread signs, online ads and plenty of other written documentation.
  • Public Administration -- I work for local government, so this is easy to understand. Most important thing I learned in this class? Never answer a question with “I don’t know.” Always say, “I’ll have to get back to you about that.”
  • Statistics -- For those of you who don’t know, librarians actually love numbers (whether they love math is a different matter). We use statistics to justify adding programs, dropping programs, increasing budgets, our entire existence basically.

You never know what the future holds for you, and the things you learn along the way may prove useful in ways you never imagine.

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