Library Routes Project: My Journey into Librarianship

The Library Routes project is collecting stories from librarians and other information professionals about how they came to the profession. They are looking to “document either or both of your library roots — how you got into the profession in the first place, and what made you decide to do so — and your library routes — the career path which has taken you to wherever you are today.” The project started in the UK, so it features a lot of posts from across the pond, but it’s broad in both geographical and professional scope.

I first became interested in librarianship as a freshman in college. I’m not sure what made me look into it, but I did some research on how to become a librarian and applied for a marketing internship at my school’s library. Luckily, I had a great mentor who set me up with a job in the interlibrary loans department in the fall — a job I kept until I graduated. The librarians there were very encouraging and gave me a lot of responsibility for a student worker. I also volunteered at a local elementary school library, which was lots of fun. Throughout college, I was still weighing a lot of career options. I also really wanted to get into newspaper or magazine publishing (I worked as an editor at my school paper for four years), but I was wary of the declining job markets in those fields. The librarian field was supposed to be growing, so I applied to library school. I chose to go to UCLA because of the in-state tuition and the full-time, on-campus nature of the program.

As I started library school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on. Since I’d worked in an academic library, I ended up getting a job as a reference desk assistant at UCLA’s undergraduate library, where I stayed for the duration of the program. I was also still pining for journalism, so I tested out news librarianship by interning at the National Public Radio reference desk over the summer. But I fell in love with children’s and YA librarianship through coursework and UCLA’s amazing young adult and children’s services student group. Through that group, I volunteered reading books to kids at the campus hospital and participated in a juvenile detention center outreach group.

After graduating in 2008, I started the job search. I had heard the horror stories of endless searches, but was in denial that it would happen to me. I still couldn’t make my mind up about what type of library I wanted to work in, so I applied to the gamut of library jobs. I tried to boost my resume for public libraries and interned for a total of eight months at two branches of the San Diego County Library system while I lived at my mom’s house. Those internships gave me a lot of great experience working with kids and teens. During that time, I aced a few public library interview exams, but by that time the economy was in the hole and the open positions were few and far between. By May 2009, I had been on the hunt for 14 months with still no prospects in sight. My boyfriend, who graduated from UCLA’s program a year after me, did manage to find a job after graduation, so I made the decision to move with him to Santa Barbara, CA. So, I was tied down to a location with an extremely limited selection of library jobs in the toughest economy in years. Without much hope of a library job, I actually managed to land a really nice position at the University of California Santa Barbara that lets me utilize a lot of my librarian skills. For now, I work full-time in research development helping faculty find and secure extramural funding.

Since I still hope to eventually work in a library, either when something local opens up or we decide to move in a couple years, I do a few things to stay involved with the library world. On a broader scale, I read library blogs and publications, participate in committees (just finished up with the YALSA Great Book Giveaway Award jury), attend conferences when able, and do research and write articles for this blog. Locally, I’ve made contact with some public librarians and volunteer at my local branch. I’m also working on some projects at my job with transferable skills like creating online guides to funding sources, planning and presenting database workshops, and developing outreach plans to promote our office’s services. We’re also working on collaborating with the university library.

When I first started exploring the library profession, people always emphasized the unexpected routes the job could take you and the need for flexibility and adaptability. I never would have guessed this is where I would be right now, so I’m very much looking forward to the other twists and turns that await me in my (hopefully) long career.

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