During my second semester of library school, a professor of mine made an interesting little speech about librarians. She said that you don't have to work in a library or have an MLS to be a librarian. We have our own subculture: our own inside jokes, references, jargon, and code of conduct. We value freedom of information and encourage questions. There is so much more to librarianship than a few extra letters after your name on your business card and a place of employment. So although I do not yet have my MLS and although I have spent the last twelve months working menial jobs including secretary and daycare worker, I have long considered myself a librarian. But now it's for realsies.
I officially started work at a public library on Monday as a children's programming assistant and, whoa, did I fit right in. There's an unwritten code among readers and librarians that can't even be put into words, which is a strange thing given that words are our raison d'etre. Being around a group of librarians--and children's librarians at that--was a gratifying and refreshing experience.
I make stupid jokes and awkward gestures. There is a certain gangly-limbed swinging-armed pirate jig that I fear will forever be associated with my name and face. I am often at a complete loss as to what I should say or how I should act, especially around new people. But an hour into my very first day at the library, I felt vaguely comfortable. Part of this, I am entirely aware, is due to the fact that library school has been incredibly good for my self-esteem. As an awkward teenager, I was never destined to be prom queen. But amongst my comic-book-reading, Tolkein-quoting, Doctor-Who-obsessed and sometimes-unshampooed contemporaries, I am not only accepted, I'm kind of cool. How in the halibut did that happen? (Another detriment to my coolness-factor: I've never been able to shake the faux-profanity habit I picked up during my years as a nanny.)
But I think a large part of why I was so comfortable on my first day behind a reference desk is that I felt, for the first time in years, that I was in exactly the right place. I was even able to help a few people. Okay, so the questions were just about the time of this program, where that book can be found, and whether this other series is in the collection. None of the questions I answered were exactly life-altering. But still, I helped someone in a small but definite way. And it felt awesome. The service-oriented aspect of the profession has always been what attracted me to the library, which is strange since I'm so awkward around my fellow human beings. I worried, though, that I would be no good at it. Maybe I'd be unapproachable or cold, as I can sometimes seem when I'm uncomfortable (a dear friend in college told me I had a perpetual F-off stamped across my forehead).
And here's the thing: the questions I answered may seem basic and uncomplicated to me but the fact of the matter is, those patrons didn't have access to the information I gave them. If they did, they wouldn't have had to ask me for it. The boy who wanted to read the first two books in the Gun Lake series didn't know where to find them or how to use a computer catalog or what the JFic section of the library actually is. I forget that sometimes given the fact that I spent a large portion of my childhood among the universally dusty stacks. So no, the questions I answered weren't complicated but they were, nonetheles, important.
(My library. Isn't it gorgeous? Pics of the children's department--which is even more gorgeous--still to come.)