How Did I End Up a Librarian?

How Did I End Up a Librarian?


Hi, my name’s Peter, and I’m a librarian. Now, if you’re watching this video, it’s probably
because you are looking for one of three things: You want to know more about me, you want to
know more about yourself, or you want to know more about librarianship. And I don’t know if I have all the answers
for any of those. But I wanted to make a video about how I got
to where I am now, because I think that it is important context for who librarians as
people are. The truth is there’s no single template for
what makes a good librarian, or what makes a bad librarian, so I just wanted to share
with you my own story of how I got here, in the hopes
that it is helpful for you. So. Before I was a librarian, my other big career
of my life was, I used to be an intelligence analyst for the US Navy, very specifically
I was a military linguist. I speak Mandarin and I speak Spanish, and
those are the things that I used when I was in the Navy. I was in the navy starting at age 21, I joined
when I was 21, thinking that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself, but I knew
that I had a few special things, a few skills. One was that, well, I’m really good at language,
so I wanted to do something with that. And two, I really like people and understanding
who they are, so I can help them. Now the reason I ended up joining the Navy
is because when I was growing up, I didn’t really come from a family of means, as it
were, and also I had horrible grades. I was the kind of kid who went to class and
participated in class, and ‘got’ everything (obnoxiously), and also never did any homework, which meant that for the first two years of
my high school career, I failed, like, two thirds of my courses. And then what happened was, in December of
2003, my mom died fairly suddenly, and that is as traumatic and life-changing
as you would expect. What happened as far as me and my, like, future
goes, is I went from failing like half my courses in
my junior year of high school, to passing all of my classes six months later
when summer started, with A’s and B’s. And that felt really good. And that’s when I learned that I dealt with
grief by throwing myself at work. I didn’t go to the library as a child. I think I went once. And I borrowed a few books, and I think I
got them back late, or I lost them, or something, and I had forgotten about that until my local
library sent a collections notice to my house. And I was terrified. If you didn’t grow up poor, this… welcome to the world of growing up poor: I
felt personally responsible for my family’s lot in life. I was the youngest, and so almost anything
to do with money or where we were at, or what we had or didn’t have, I felt that it was my fault — to a degree,
not completely — because we had less than everyone else. And that was viscerally clear to me. And so when we got the collections letter
from the library, I decided at that point that I could never go to the library again, because I didn’t want to risk it. I didn’t want to put my family through something
they didn’t have to go through. This may seem a little extreme, but it’s important
to understand that, like, when you’re poor, you *know* that you’re poor, and there are a lot of messages in society
that get sent to you, that you are a burden. And kids are not stupid. They pick up on these things as well. And so I never went back to the library, because
I didn’t want to hurt my family. So! That was an aside. Let’s go back forward! After I graduate high school, I went to a
community college for… about two and a half years and I worked a retail job to put myself through that, and I had a little bit of scholarship money
because poor but smart, but pretty quickly after starting community
college, I started failing my courses again because the skills that other people learn
in high school — you know, studying — I didn’t get. And so… about two and a half– well, two
years in; so I was 20 at the time, I’d just turned 20, I kind of had this early-life crisis where
I realized that I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, and I’m working in this retail, dead-end job,
and I don’t want to keep doing it for the rest of my life (although, like, I loved working with people. Very important information. Very relevant to what I do now.) But by and large, I felt like I was wasting
my life, and I wasn’t sure what to do about that, so I considered my options, and that was when I realized that what I wanted
to do with my life was… Join the Navy. [laughs at self] Sorry, I thought that was hilarious. So in 2007 I decided to join the Navy because
at that point in my life, that was the only way that I could see myself getting out of where I was at. The Navy promised me a roof over my head,
food, clothing, a sense of belonging, education which up to that point I had failed. And not just college education, which was…
cool, but at the time I didn’t really care about that. What I DID care about was that the Navy told
me that if I joined the Navy, they would teach me another language. And at that point in my life, I spoke Spanish
and I spoke French — French, passibly — but Spanish, fluently. And so I knew that I had something going on
with my language ability. And I figured I should foster that. So after that, 2007, I went to a recruiter
and I talked to a Navy person, and I signed my name on the dotted line, and then in 2008 I shipped out to boot camp,
and that’s where I started my career. And over the next six years, I learned that
being an interpreter for the Navy is not what people thought it was going to be, which I’m not going to go into here! But, I learned some really cool things: aside
from now speaking Mandarin, I learned about how people and information interact with each
other. I learned how sometimes the most important
question you can ask is the clarifying question, understanding what a person’s trying to get
at, and I thought that that was super useful. I learned how to be a part of a team; I found
a huge sens of belonging that I haven’t found since getting out of the Navy, and I probably will never have again, but
that’s part of life. I got an Associate’s, and then I got a Bachelor’s,
and I lived in Hawai’i for four and a half years! And that was a blast. But I also got a sense that I didn’t want
to be in the Navy. There are some cultural things about the US
Military, and probably militaries around the world, that I just… [sigh] I fundamentally disagree with, and they rub
me the wrong way. I applaud the people who decide to stay in
the military and try to fix those, but I wasn’t one of those people. And so between that, and a few other things
— and just a realization that office work was not for me, I got out of the Navy. But, when I was getting ready to get out of
the Navy — that was around the same time that I discovered this thing called ‘Crash
Course,’ which is another channel on YouTube, which
you should go check out; very interesting. And I found someone named Lindsey Doe, who
had a YouTube channel all about sex education, and I thought to myself, “wow, these — this
YouTube thing is really cool, and it gives a lot of really good opportunities for people
to share the knowledge that they have with the
world. And it’s a really good way to help people
in the world get knowledge that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to!” Um, a reminder: I didn’t have a Bachelors
degree at that time; I could not afford college, and I only but by the grace of my rich Uncle
Sam could afford to go to school, and get that Bachelor’s. Which is in Mandarin, if you were curious. Bachelor’s in Mandarin. So I got that degree when I got out of the
Navy, and I started thinking to myself, what can I do with my particular set of skills
to help this information that’s out there to help these folks who are making educational
YouTube channels — what can I do to help make them succeed? Because I really really really admired what
they were doing for the world. I knew that I had a particular set of skills
that not everybody had, and it was important to me to pass those on. So, in 2014, the year that I got out of the
Navy — cuz I got out in February — I then spent that summer traveling around
North America and Europe, talking to folks who make educational YouTube channels. If you want to see the end result of that,
you can go check out the channel; it’s still up, I don’t update it anymore, but it’s called Go Verb a Noun. And as I did that project, I realized that… honestly, the folks who were making the educational
YouTube channels were pretty well taken care of. So I re-thought about what my idea was and
what I wanted to do, and what the problem was. I asked a clarifying question. If the people who were making this content
were already being taken care of, then is it a problem of supply, or is it a
problem of demand? And so I stopped asking what can I do to help
these people making content, and I started asking myself, what can I do to help people *find* this content,
and how can I help make it meaningfully accessible to them? So, I looked at various Masters’ programs
because I hadn’t used up all of my education benefits at that point — I hadn’t started
yet, and I found this field called ‘information
science,’ which I thought was really interesting, whose main concern was how people and information
interact with each other. And I thought, ‘oh, huh, THAT sounds familiar!’ So I started looking at schools, and I learned
that most information science programs were co-located with library science programs, and at the time I was like, ‘oh, libraries
— yeah, libraries are cool I guess,’ still very skeptical of them because childhood stuff
sticks with you for a long time, but I thought, you know, at the very least,
if I go for this Masters degree I can go for one that is accredited both in library science
and in information science, because you know what, maybe librarianship
will be the fallback. It’s always good to have something to fall
back on. So I got out of the Navy in 2014, worked another
job in tech for a little while from 2014-2016, and then I started my Masters in Library and
Information Science here in Vancouver in 2016. Uh, and… Then things got a little wild. In September of 2016 is when I started, and
at UBC the way it works is everyone takes the same four core classes. And one of them was like, ‘Contemporary Issues
in Information and Society,’ something like that, and in that class we talked about how information
and people interact, for better or worse. And then I learned about all of the really
cool things that libraries, and librarians, were doing. And that was the first moment that I realized
that, ‘oh, you know? Actually, this librarianship stuff, I think this might be for me!’ So I went through my university degree, and
you can learn more about that in this video, yeah, link’s there, and the more I learned about librarianship
and what librarians were doing around the world, the more I got a better understanding of what
librarians do *broadly,* the more I fell in love with the profession to the point that, gosh, a year after starting
my Masters, I was like, “I’m going to be a librarian.” Full stop. That’s it. That’s the joke. Except it turns out that all the way up until
even I graduated, I was definitely banking on being an academic librarian. I wanted to work in a university, and help
people do research, and I wanted to maintain access to those sweet, sweet journal databases, and so that’s what I spent most of my MLIS
doing is learning how academic libraries work. And so because of that, my education ended
up being a little more technical-heavy, and because my background, I focused a little bit more on the tech side
of things. And then I graduated. And then I needed a job. [laughs] And then I got hired at a public library as
an auxiliary librarian. And… Holy [bleep]. [laughs] I love the job so much. All I do right now in my job is, I make myself
accessible to my community and I help them answer any question that they
can think of. We talk about things like finding jobs. We talk about things like finding something
good to read. We talk about early literacy skills, and how
to parent, and how parents can facilitate those early literacy skills. I facilitate ESL Conversation circles — I
help people for whom English is a second language learn English, which as somebody who speaks multiple languages,
is incredibly gratifying because I know what it’s like to have to go and learn another
language. And how hard it is! I talk to the community — I just go out on
the streets, and I talk to folks cuz I’m trying to find resources for entrepreneurs and small
businesses, I love my job. And none of that was really expected, and
I think that that’s important to put out there: is that, there’s — again, there’s no single idea of
what a librarian is. So that’s how I got to where I am today. If you’re a librarian, maybe leave a comment
below and tell us how you got here? Let us know your own journey, cuz I think’s
worth sharing these stories. I am so in love with my profession and what
it lets me do for other people, and I feel so grateful to be here. That’s not to say that the career doesn’t
have its downsides, because it definitely does; librarianship is in a bit of an upheaval at
the moment, for better AND for worse, but I’m so glad that I am an accidental librarian;
that I ended up where I am, because I honestly can’t imagine myself doing
anything else. So. That’s it, thanks for watching as always, and don’t forget to ask questions. Okay, bye! [outro music]

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  1. I’m in my first term of my MLIS and also had a bit of an unconventional journey to this profession, so I really appreciate hearing your story. Thanks!

  2. Can i assume that being a librarian or study in library science is kind of 'destiny' ? My lecturer keep saying that belongs in this program is 'lost in the right path' :'))

    I choose library science because of accident >< BUT im enjoyed it really well… Thanks Peter, what a great video!!!

  3. I'm one semester away from finishing my Masters in Information Science. And Two semesters for Academic Librarian.

    I'm scared of the job landscape, but I do miss working in a library. Currently I work as a journalist, and mixing it with this will be gratifying.

  4. I'm almost finished my MILS and I just feel like giving up. It's so hard to get a job, even just an entry level job especially when you have disabilities. 😔

  5. Thanks for this video! Enjoyed it. I am currently halfway done with my MLS degree to be a school librarian and I just got offered a position at an elementary school for August 2020! I have loved my journey and I am excited to transition from classroom teacher to school librarian 🙂

  6. I am doing a Future Ready Librarian certification, and one of the very first questions was to write about how we ended up as librarians.
    It is fascinating to know the different routes and journeys that lots of librarians had experience before they entered to this amazing field.
    I have been an educator for 18 years (and 3 as School Librarian) and I am proud and honored to be a librarian and assist people in their reading, learning and researching needs (my patrons are elementary students and teachers)
    Muchas gracias Peter por producir estos videos acerca de los bibliotecarios (Thank you Peter for producing these videos about librarians).

  7. Hi Peter,

    I was scared to teach because I don't like disciplining others. I did do teacher certification courses, but did not earn certification because I didn't finish the program. I had the travel bug and went to teach English in France instead of finishing teacher certification. I got the idea to become a librarian from talking with a former library manager and librarians at Georgia State University. I also loved working in libraries. I always felt confident. I earned my library degree at San José State University. I've been a Youth Services Librarian for almost three years.

  8. I have been working as a librarian for 5 years already. My story is really unusual as well, because I never thought I would end up being a librarian one day. Back in 2014 I was just a girl with scanner personality and two university degrees: one in theology, and another one in engineering, who've just came back from Turkey where she took Turkish language courses for almost a year. So I returned to my home country and desperately needed a job, just any kind of job. While looking through job ads, I found one saying that a librarian who would know a foreign language is needed. I was like: "Ok! I'm not a librarian, but I know three foreign languages, so let me call them." I called, and they asked me what are the foreign languages I speak, and when they heard that one of them was Turkish, they told me to send my CV immediately and invited me to the job interview the next day. It turned out that they needed someone to work with thousands of books in Turkish, but no one out of 300 employees of the library knew any Turkish, so they were ready to hire anyone who spoke Turkish, even without a degree in library science. And since then I work in the library and am in love with this job. 😁

  9. Hello Peter!

    I'm currently a Canadian senior in high school and I wish to become a librarian. The only thing holding me back is my fear of librarians (or libraries in general) not existing in the future. The idea of that scares me not only because I want a career as a librarian, but because libraries are like my second home. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

    Take care of yourself and keep learning 🙂

  10. Sir plz make a video about higher education of library and information science. ..and i want to phd in library and information science. … .
    Sir i want your contact number…..

  11. I also fell into the library system by accident. I have two undergraduate degrees. The first one's in business because I dreamt of a very basic job as a file clerk or CSA.

    When that dream did not materialize, I began working for three and half years as a production clerk for Goodwill. Near the end of my time in retail, I got admitted to Southern University, in Baton Rouge. I think the shift toward library work began in the spring of 2016, when I was a volunteer clerk for the University Registrar. I think that experience allowed me to see that I had some untapped passion for records management.

     WHAT AN AWESOME bunch of Humanities instructors I had!

    As I edge closer to the 3 year mark with the library system, I am incredibly grateful for my position with East Baton Rouge Library. I'm grateful to be a library worker with Cerebral Palsy who works in reference and information services. I've conducted at least 2 library programs for adults. And I'm excited to start my master's study this SPRING. It's a dream come true for me to become an LSU Tiger next year!! I'm a Library AIDE. But I love my job. I love the people I work with. And I feel more at home with the system, as my experience increases.

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