I became a librarian because I love books. Well, that's not entirely accurate. I became a librarian for a plethora of reasons, not the least of which was my mother's advice. But a big part of it was that I have always identified as a bibliophile and that my favorite place to be as a teenager was the public library. I loved that squat old building. I loved the two measly shelves of YA books and the way the whole place always smelled like a mixture of paper, glue, dust, and--strangely enough--lemon. If someone could bottle that scent, I would spray it around my whole house. In library school, I pictured my future career like something out of the Music Man: me twirling around with big stacks of books wearing a full skirt and high-heeled Mary Janes, good-naturedly shushing rowdy children, and peering down at a dusty tome through my cat's eye reading glasses. I imagined that scene from "Beauty and the Beast" where Belle rides across the bookshop on one of those rolling ladders. I thought I'd be able to steal at least an hour a day to read peacefully--after all, books would be my job.
Oh how times they have a-changed.
Most days I find myself walking a strange line between tech support and janitor. I'm constantly cleaning up spills and reordering books and the rest of the time I find myself in front of the computer screen. Our cataloging software is on the computer, all of my reader's advisory interviews involve the computer in some way, and I keep in constant contact with my staff and students via email. The most common question I get from students include "Do you know why I can't get on the internet?" and "Can you look up my email password?" Yes I do and yes I can.
|My desk these days.|
Most importantly, my job comes with a hearty serving of tech support, which isn't something I prepared for in library school. I can format a Word doc with the best of them and I even know some <i>very</i> basic HTML coding but beyond that, I'm just like any other tech savvy millennial. I'm not even sure I know what a firewall is. The thing is, I love technology as a tool but I've never loved it for its own sake, the way I would a book. So to fill in the gaps of my learning, I attended the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) conference last week. I thought it would be a cool if a bit boring way for me to learn about some new resources for my teachers. I have got to work on my preconceptions.
MACUL was, well, cool. It was, as one speaker put it, a geek's paradise. It was like ComiCon but more intellectual, ALA Annual but geekier. There were sessions on using Twitter in the classroom and on how to use Google Docs to decrease your school's carbon footprint. My only complaint about MACUL was that there was too much interesting stuff to see and no one has yet invented a way to split consciousness and make it possible to be in two places at once. But when they do, expect to hear about it at MACUL. Bonus: In the interest of collaboration and all things tech-related, I've made my notes from those sessions public on Google Docs. So if you've found yourself in a similar situation or you're just interested in learning more (because isn't that the whole point, after all?), take a look.
The library field is changing. Ebooks last year outsold paper and ink volumes on Amazon. I myself, a professed lover of the physical book, caved and bought a Kindle and I haven't looked back. Libraries are more than just book warehouses these days, they're information portals and our roles must change, too. Does all of this make me nervous for the library? Absolutely not. The first libraries held clay tablets and papyrus scrolls. We were here before books existed and we'll be here after books disappear (although I don't think that will be for a very long time) as long as we adapt to a new information climate.
I don't have the glamorous, dignified job I pictured. Today, the biggest crisis I faced was catching a stinkbug and setting it free outside so that none of the students would smash it and stink up my library. I spent 95% of my time staring at a screen. The list of books I want to read continues to grow faster than I can read and now includes dozens of books I normally wouldn't go near (urban lit, in particular, is huge with my kids). This is definitely not what I thought I was getting myself into but I wouldn't have it any other way.