Tuesday, April 15, 2014

#WhyLib | My Journey to Librarianship

In honor of School Library Month, lots of folks are telling the story of why they became a school librarian.  Here's mine:

In short, I became a school librarian because libraries saved me.  Twice.

I stole this image from Andy Plemmons!
When I speak to groups I often recount my experiences as a kid who moved around a lot.  My brother and I counted it up once when we were kids, and by the time I'd reached 7th grade, I'd been to 26 (give or take a few) different schools.  You wouldn't know it now, but I was (and still am to a large degree) terribly shy, so starting at a new school was always incredibly traumatic for me.  And often, I found solace in the library.   I know it was CS Lewis who said that "we read to know that we are not alone," but I feel as though I've lived this.  Once at a new school, I'd find the library, locate the Judy Blume books and find myself in one of the few safe places I knew.

Later, my life was transformed forever by a classroom teacher who took an interest in me and helped me believe, for the first time, that I could do things like graduate from high school and even go to college.  I became an English teacher because of her.  And loved every moment that I spent working with children hoping beyond hope to make the kind of difference for one of them that she'd made for me.

Ten years later, I still loved teaching, but I'd found myself at odds with a system in which all teaching and learning was becoming standardized.  I felt like I was no long teaching children, or even content, but was rather being forced to teach The Test.  Everything was about The Test and that simply wasn't what I'd signed up for.  I felt lost and alone - as though the profession I loved had abandoned me.

Then, on a particularly stressful day, I saw a flyer for the Masters of Library Science program at Appalachian State posted above the copier in the teacher's lounge at school.  I swear, it was like a moment out of a Hollywood film. I felt the heavens part, the dramatic music queue up and one thought beating through my brain in time with the sound of my own heart beat, "of course."  I literally ripped the flyer from the wall, walked into my principal's office (who was somewhere else on campus) and used his phone to make the call.  As fate would have it the, then, director of the program (Dr. Rob Sanders, who would become a trusted friend and mentor) answered the phone and, within a few minutes, I knew what was next: I would be a school librarian.

After that, things moved fast.  REALLY fast.  Literally, one month after being accepted to library school my husband was offered a job almost 300 miles away, so we put our house up for sale and he moved away.  In the year that followed I lived in a hotel, worked as a full time teacher AND took classes all over the state of NC (and only 2 virtually, as this was before the days of entirely online degree programs) so that I could finish the degree in 1 year.  (Little did I know how much that year would prepare me for the work I do now!)  Before I knew it, I was in my own library, with absolutely no clue what I was supposed to do. Luckily, I had lots of good friends to help me figure out.

So... #whylib?  Because I have a debt to pay.  It's no exaggeration to say that libraries, reading and one rock star teacher saved me.  I'm here because of them.  I shudder to think what the alternative might be.  What's more, I feel the weight of that debt in everything I do.  I know that I owe to them to be the best I can be... but, frankly, that I debt I'm eager and happy to repay.

2 comments:

  1. What a wonderful and inspiring story, you are such a credit to our profession! Love you girl come on back to Alabama when you get the chance!

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  2. Thank you for this inspirational story. I was able to hear you give this account in person last summer at a conference in Alabama, and I've followed your blog ever since because you left such an impression on me. You definitely are making an impact on others, including myself, in ways I'm sure you don't realize, so the debt you are repaying is one you've paid many times over. Personally, when I became a librarian, I vowed never to be like the one I had in high school who was the typical "Lotta Scales" BEFORE her transformation! Thanks for being a great librarian as well as an awesome role model.

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