Before I knew that I wanted to be a librarian, I had studied to become a psychologist. I completed a BA in forensic psychology and 27 credits of an MA in psychology. I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do with it, but I knew I wanted to help people. I started working in a public library in 2005, when I was an undergrad. The job was just to pay for my commute to and from New York City for school. I continued to work in libraries throughout all of my undergrad and into my graduate studies. Still, it was just a part-time job to pay for my commute. Around 2009 I began to work at the college and by 2011 I was working there full time while I continued to work on my psychology MA. Once I started to work full time I stopped working in the library. Things were good until they weren’t. Now, I’ve always, my entire life, struggled with depression. I was born with sad blood; it’s just who I am. In April 2013, however, it deepened into something that I could no longer manage. I had been getting help, I had been on medication, but it wasn’t enough. On April 15, 2013 I almost killed myself. A few days later I checked myself into a hospital and got help. I ended up not going back to my job at the college and found myself to be unemployed for about four months. The days, weeks, and months following that event I found myself with a lot of free time. I was applying for jobs constantly but not hearing back from anywhere. While I waited for something, I tried to keep myself busy by going to see movies (I grew very fond of the first showing of the day on a weekday morning when the theater was empty), going for long drives, and visiting the library. I would visit the two different libraries that I had worked in to sometimes use the computer, to sometimes take out some books, to borrow tons of movies (I watched A LOT of movies during those months), but mostly to reconnect with the people who worked in those libraries, the people I had worked with, the people who were the reason I had grown so fond of libraries. In July 2013 it occurred to me to check if any libraries in my area were hiring. I applied to one and, in the same week in mid- to late-August I found myself with two part-time jobs. One was working the 5am (sometimes 3am) shifts at Michaels unloading trucks and replenishing the shelves (I was constantly covered in glitter for the three years that I ended up working there) and the other was working at the circulation desk in a public library. In my time of need, a library came through for me. Not just in the job opportunity, but in the way that it helped me to reconnect with people after the incredibly isolating experience I had just a few months earlier.
A year later, a job opened up at a library that was closer to home and that offered more hours. Still trying to recover financially, I applied for that job and ended up getting it. It is also the library that I am still in today. Taking this job at this library is what finally made me realize that I wanted to be a librarian. All roads have led back to the library for me. What really solidified the idea for me, though, was my interactions with patrons when I would work the reference desk. I was able to see how I could really help people as a librarian, how even the simplest of things that I help someone with (like setting up an email account or showing them how to respond to comments on Facebook from their iPad) can have a larger impact on their life. I have had people come back in after helping them to tell me that now that they’re able to log on to Facebook, they can see more pictures of their grandkids that live far away, or that when I helped them upload some documents to an online job application that they couldn’t figure out they ended up getting that job. It’s little things like that sometimes and it just made me realize that my initial gut feelings for wanting to pursue a career where I helped people were spot on; I can do that as a librarian. And this is what shapes my ideas on what libraries and librarians should be. I’ve talked a lot this semester about connections and community. Those are the things that I build my approach to helping people on. It’s about connecting people with the information/books/people they are seeking and building a sense of community. I also approach my job with a deep sense of empathy and compassion. We never know what someone is going through at any given moment. Libraries and librarians were there for me when I was going through a difficult period of my life. I want to build a library space and be a librarian who is there for every single person that walks through the door to help them in whatever it is they are going through, small or large, even though I will more than likely never even know what that might be. I have always been an incredibly empathetic person. I carry that though with me into my work.
Gill Corkindale’s article The Importance of Kindness at Work really resonated with me. Corkindale writes “I have developed a greater awareness of just how many people are dealing with similar personal shocks. I have been humbled to realize that this is happening all around me, all the time,” and goes on to write: “although I always knew that support is important for those affected by loss, illness, or tragedy, I hadn’t fully understood until now how critical it is in helping people get back on their feet.” This is especially true for libraries. Libraries are the safe places in communities that people can rely on to find free Wi-Fi and computers, resources to help them find jobs, learn a new language, or learn new skills, and discover things that can help them through difficult times.