Why I became a librarian

by Tiffany Newton, Head Editor, INALJ Missouri

Why I became a librarian

TiffanyNewtonMy interest in libraries started when I was very young. Some of my first memories are about me reading books (or at least looking at the pictures) at my local library. I still remember my library card number. We didn’t have actual cards, just numbers to remember and tell the librarian when we were ready to check out the cards. Mine was 3-16-C. I remember my mom trying to read Dr. Seuss books to me, but she kept getting tongue-tied and I would giggle at her. I remember the first book I read on my own was The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss.

In Elementary, I remember reading the Boxcar Children books when everyone else was still reading picture books. I have always loved reading. I kept a book with me everywhere I went (sometimes two or three) and would read it if I had just a few spare moments. I read in the car, on the bus, during class, on weekends, after school, and yes, I have stayed up all night finishing more than one book.   All these books I generally got from the library.

The middle school librarian was my neighbor, so after school (and sometimes before) I’d go into the library and help her shelve books. Between classes, or if I had free time during class, I’d go to the library and help her. I even learned how to use her check out station and began helping her check out books to other classes that came in while I was in the library.

In high school, I worked in the school library for two years. I mostly shelved books, but occasionally I would run errands, or help the librarian choose new books to order.

I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to keep attending school. So, I went to a community college and got an Associate degree in general studies. While doing that, I worked at the public library.

I was really touched by the library director there. Everyone loved her, and she was an awesome boss. I knew I wanted to be like her. I also knew that I loved my job. It was my first paid job, and I was doing what I’d been doing for years in my school libraries as a volunteer. I couldn’t believe I was actually being paid. My favorite part was shelving books. I had a chance to look at each book as I shelved it, and the books around it. Soon, I knew a lot about the collection and about the books. When someone asked for a book, I was easily able to help him or her find it. I loved talking to all the strange and unique people that came into the library. It really was my dream job.

Now, in case it is not obvious to you (because it sure wasn’t obvious to me at the time), I was destined for librarianship. Sure, I had always loved libraries and reading, but what I really wanted to be was an artist, an art teacher, or something relating to crafts. You see, when I wasn’t reading, I was drawing, painting, and doing crafts.

I knew professional artists didn’t make much money, and no one besides family members had ever bought any of my art. After I got my Associates, I still knew I wanted to keep going to school, but I didn’t know what. I majored in education for a semester, and then decided I didn’t want to do that. Then I majored in information technology because I’ve also always loved computers. None of those really seemed to fit and I was getting frustrated.

When I talked to my academic adviser, she asked what I did in my spare time, what my hobbies were, etc. When I mentioned that I loved reading and learning, she recommended that I talk to the campus librarian. I talked to her and thought I’d try librarianship. I decided that I wanted to be a library director of a public library. I think it just took a few years of me not working in libraries to figure out how much I missed them. Since that university didn’t have an undergraduate degree for library studies, I decided to get my bachelor in Organizational Leadership. While I finished that degree, I looked for a school to get my MLS.

I applied, and got in. While there, once again, I worked in a library. I’m finishing my MLS now. Looking back, it does seem obvious that I should be a librarian, but I didn’t even think about that possibility until just a few short years ago.   So here I am, with an MLS, just as I never imagined.

What’s your story? When did you first know you were going to be a librarian?