Friday, April 25, 2014

How I became a school librarian #whylib

I think in a way my profession chose me.  I think about my choice of career every once in a while, but I don't really reflect on it.  I was inspired by the twitter conversation #whylib and then read some stories by other school librarians posted here.  So, I thought I would write down my own path and I guess, share with the Internet.

Going to the public library is one of my first memories.  I remember selecting large of piles of books to take home with me and watching my mom hand write the check out forms.  She never said "no" to the amount of books I wanted to take home.  Once I learned how to write, I was excited to fill out my own slips.  Then the wand scanners came, with the laser red tip, and barcodes.  Talk about libraries being on the cutting edge; even the grocery stores did not have scanners yet.  This was the old West Bloomfield Public Library I remember:

The building is still there today...but it houses another organization.  The best part of summer was the Summer Reading Program at the library.  I remember the satisfaction of stamping each line for every book that I read.  I'm not sure I remember the prizes, but I remember that I had many sheets of paper logging each book that I read.  (Some things never change as this is my current book log.)  There were days that I spent reading from the moment I woke up until I couldn't keep my eyes open.  It's possible that my mom was a little concerned that I was not outside playing but choosing to read my piles of books.  I think I remember there being a prize for the child that read the most books.  I was always disappointed that I never got it because I was sure I read more books than anyone at the library ;)

I remember being one of the few kindergartners who could read and the beginning of the school year.  My kindergarten teacher let me do a few read alouds to the rest of the class during storytime.  I have vague memories of sitting on the teacher chair reading to my friends from a book with a yellow bird flying around the pages. I am surprised I didn't get beat up for this!  I was super excited to give up recess to be a library helper.  I even roped my best friends, Jenny and Rhonda, into being library helpers with me.  It was thrilling to know that I was trusted to put the books back on the shelves.  At this point, I was supremely proud of myself for being able to help a librarian.

I was also one of the first students to try out the school's first computer - an Apple IIe.
I got to draw the name of students out of a hat to be the "Twin Beach Elementary Student of the Week" and then make a flyer for them in the original PrintShop program.  The school had a dot matrix color printer, which took about 20 minutes to print 1 flyer.  I would stand there and watch it.  Then a year or two after the first Apple IIe, the school library got a 6 computer lab.  I learned to play Oregon Trail:

I also spent a lot of time playing "school" with my brother and sister.  I came up with lessons, worksheets and grades(!) for them.  I'd love to know what they were thinking when they sat in my "classroom".

By middle school, we got a fancy public library.  
I learned how to find articles on micro-film and the old ProQuest research database where you had to put the right CD in to find your article.  I was actually taught how to do that in my high school library.  I thought it was the best thing ever to find old articles!  I was always worried that I would not get the research spot in the library because the ProQuest computer might be too busy (I never saw anyone use it) and it cost 10¢ a page to print.  This still required a physical dime to be dropped into a coin box connected to the printer!  

By my senior year of high school, I had all the credits I needed so I signed up for a independent reading contemporary fiction class.  I basically read books in the library for a class period my 2nd semester.  It was awesome!  We had a beautiful media center, but unfortunately, I do not remember ever interacting with the school librarian.  The book suggestions all came from my English teacher.  But I was still reading a lot and useing the public library for school research.

When I went off to college, I still did not have a career path picked out for myself.  I definitely did not have a clear plan, although I sort of envisioned myself as a foreign diplomat and decided to get a BA in International Studies.  I loved all my classes, all my professors and the academic world in general.  I had a library connection from Day 1 at Saint Joseph's College.  For my freshman orientation class, I was put in a section with Cathy Salyers, who was one of the librarians there.  We met once a week that first semester to make sure we were doing ok with our new college life.  Because I met her that first year, I was not afraid to ask for research help.  I participated in research symposiums, Model UN and became the editor-in-chief of my college newspaper.  I spent HOURS reading (for class only) and studying in the Robinson Memorial Library at SJC.  I hid in the study carrels in the basement because no one could ever find me there :)  It was quiet and warm and I made myself do all of my assigned reading down there before I did anything else.  I became pretty familiar with the microfilm and microfiche machines, which were somewhere in the back of the library.  As I was getting closer to graduation, I realized that the reality of the political world was a crushing disappointment to my idealistic self.  I didn't want to leave the academic world, but it still hadn't occurred to me that being a librarian was my path.


I worked for about 3 years after college in totally random jobs.  Managing a Sunglass Hut, Kaplan test prep center, summarizing depositions at a engineering firm, being a customer care specialist at a reiki center and working part-time in a pharmacy.  It was a state of unfulfilled flux.  My mother-in-law would talk about her job as an elementary media specialist and I was desperate for a new job.  I started considering the possibility of working in a school library. She made a phone call and I got an interview the next day for a Media Tech position.  I was quickly hired to assist with the technology needs in a school and right away started researching the Library and Information Science Program at Wayne State University.  I realized that I liked working in a high school.  So, I submitted my grad school application, was accepted and enrolled in classes within about a 2 month span.  Working full time and going to school full time was not the easiest commitment I have ever made, but I survived.  In 2002, I received my Masters in Library and Information Science.  Unfortunately, I was still short a degree in order to be a high school librarian. I slowly worked towards a degree in Education to get my teacher certification and finally in 2009 I was officially a Teacher-Librarian. (In addition to being a librarian, I can be a history teacher too).  Mr. DeZwaan let me be his student teacher for a whole semester.

I've never left that one school I started at.  I have been fortunate to work as a librarian in a amazing school with the best students and staff.  I'm in an academic setting, where I knew I belonged.  I teach others how to research and share my love of reading.  I'm thankful that Mr. Okma hired me after Mrs. Miner interviewed me.  I'm pretty sure they know my story, but I would not be at the IA if it wasn't for them.  Because of my school library background I have had the opportunity to travel around the Americas for the IB to teach other teachers about the Extended Essay.  I get to review books for publishers.  Every day is different, sometimes a bit crazy, which makes for good storytelling.  It's all the little things that come together during the journey.



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