Librarian by Day Bobbi Newman | I'm not that kind of librarian

What’s a Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? Or How I Came to Work in Libraries

12.07.2009 · Posted in Librarianship
Shoe heaven

photo by me of my favorite shoes

My library roots, or how I got into libraries for The Library Routes Project.

I’ve worked in libraries for years I volunteered in the library during Junior High, mostly to get out of study hall but also for the books. When I turned 16 my first “real” job was as a clerk at the local public library. A tiny library, we had less than 10 staff members, 4 full time.  As a part time clerk I worked the reference desk on the first floor alone every other weekend.

Throughout High School I thought I wanted a degree in psychology, I even took classes at a local college. When I got to college full time I decided it wasn’t for me, but wasn’t sure what I did want to do. I had a history class I really enjoyed with a great professor, so I decided on history. At first I thought I would teach High School, but luckily my program required a 1 credit practicum at the beginning and I quickly realized I did NOT want to teach teenagers.

Enter two more great History professors, the first being my adviser, John (he’s my Facebook friend & I hope he reads this) who encouraged me to continue my education after graduation. He was a kind person and a wonderful advisor, generous with his time, advice and encouragement. The second was a teacher who was willing to do independent study with me in the field I was interested in as there were a not many classes on it where I went to school.

Looking back, this independent study was crazy I read a book of her selection every week and gave her a written and oral report. I took Spanish and became fluent, flirted with the idea of adding Portuguese, but didn’t. I did independent study in the anthropology department where the area of my interest overlapped between history and anthropology. The work I did was amazing and fascinating but I wont bore you with the details even the eyes of other history majors glaze over when I start talking.  :-)

I got into the grad school of my choice however, I deferred my enrollment for a year to spend time with my boyfriend while he finished his degree, then we’d move so I could go back to school.  I think  you know how this ends, we didn’t last the year. At some point I decided I didn’t want to pursue the masters in history (I don’t remember why), so I stayed in Pheonix and continued to work. During a conversation about our futures, one of my friends, V, said to me why don’t you become a librarian? I asked why she’d made the suggestion, I didn’t remember telling her I’d worked in libraries when I was younger. She said she just thought I’d be good at it. Just like that it clicked. I saw her last year in England and I mentioned it during a conversation about my career and her credit for my success, she laughed because she didn’t even remember saying it.

I wish I could say my masters advisor was as wonderful as my bachelors, but I can not. Thankfully there was a wonderful librarian, Lisa, working in the offices who was very helpful (she’s since moved on to get her PhD). I also had some wonderful colleagues during graduate school.  During grad school I started interning at a corporate library. Before I graduated they offered me a full-time job managing the library, I accepted, completing my degree was a priority for them and me, and I graduated on time.

The years I spent in the corporate world both before and after my degree have stuck with me.  I can often tell my thoughts and approaches to issues are not the same as colleagues who have always worked in a not-for-profit environment, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

That’s my story of how I got into libraries. If you haven’t shared your story with The Library Routes Project go do it! You share your library roots– how you got into the profession in the first place, and what made you decide to do so. And/or and your library routes – the career path which has taken you to wherever you are today.

I’d like to thank Ned Potter for inviting me to post my story and I apologize for not doing it sooner.

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7 Responses to “What’s a Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? Or How I Came to Work in Libraries”

  1. Great story, Bobbi!

    I always find it fascinating how people got to where they are now. The culmination of events, the right people at the right time, and lucky accidents make for wonderful tales.

  2. Camilla B. says:

    Like the story. I also ended up in grad. library school at the suggestion of a friend. What a happy accident. btw, love the shoes. :]

    • Thanks Camilla, I’ve been looking for a chance to show them off on the blog other than – look at my cute shoes :-)
      Its interesting how we end up somewhere much different that we planned

  3. If 4 fulltime/6 part time is tiny what are we? With one full time and 3 part time we must be less than tiny. And there are two libraries nearby who have one part time employee.

  4. Bobbi this is fantastic, thank you! There’s no time limit so no need to apologise at all (in fact, one part of the Library Day in a Life methodology we so far *haven’t* been able to steal from you is the annual element; we’re working on it…).

    I’m really interested in the way library jobs change by the time people end up actually doing them. Your friend said you’d be good at it, and it turns out she was right – but really can she have had much idea of the kind of things you actually do in your job in 2009..? It is, as you say, funny how things work out.

    • Ned – I think my friend thought I’d be good at it because she considered me bookish and she thought being a librarian means what most of the public thinks that you get to work with books. What’s interesting is at this point in my career I have very little contact with books, of any format, at work. Maybe I just got lucky ;-)

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