As I mentioned in my last Shameful Book Club post, I will be starting the incredible MLIS program at the University of Pittsburgh next month, and I can’t wait. No really, I can’t wait. I already bought my text books and am getting a head start on the reading (yes, I’m a Rory Gilmore). I thought I would write a post about all of this because people have been asking and it’s going to cause a change in my blog, so might as well explain that!
I’m pretty sure my taking this path makes sense to most people who know me. My mother is a librarian, I grew up in the stacks, I love books, and my professional skill set is very skewed toward program management and public interaction. Therefore, a librarianship doesn’t seem so out of place for me. There are multiple paths I could take as a library professional that would compliment my experience, interests, and skills: film archival to get that undergrad degree in play, music librarian because that is a bit of an obsession of mine, academic librarian because I love higher education and researching obscure topics, museum work for much of the same reasons, or public librarianship, which is what I’ve decided to focus on.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of covering your bases, so I’m taking classes in all kinds of things like academic and digital libraries and the role technology plays in the lives of children and senior citizens. I’m excited to learn and be ready for any opportunity, but I truly feel that my calling is in a public setting helping those who really need it. Many people, especially in rural areas like where I grew up, don’t have a computer or an email address. They don’t know how to look up information on taxes or medical issues. They don’t know where to find resources that could help them live better and happier lives. There are kids who don’t have anyone to read to them or anyone to play games with. Educational programming becomes incredibly important for communities like that because it’s free/cheap and easy to access. And I get to talk to people all day instead of being locked in a dark room.
This is not the most glamorous path I could be taking. I could be a medical or law librarian and make six figures. I could focus on data structures and digital libraries and work for Google (and make six figures). Even academic or film archival work would probably pay better (who knows, I might head that way after all), but I have always been someone who values connecting to people face to face. The best jobs I’ve ever had were either customer service related or at non-profits where I could do outreach and marketing to help reach the communities we served. You hit a point in your life where you realize you want your work and your life to mean something more than a paycheck. Most people fulfill that in different ways that mesh best with who they are. For me it’s spreading books and movies and music and information and valuable resources to the community I live in.
I have had several people warn me that libraries are dying, and librarians along with them. In a sense it is true that what we know as libraries are changing and maybe dying, which is why I believe in being well-rounded, but honestly we need librarians more than ever. Digital libraries are exploding right now and need all hands on deck. Archival work is incredibly important to our society, and with new technologies emerging that help us preserve the past more effectively, more opportunities have opened up. And with the digital divide getting wider and wider and technological illiteracy growing, we need people like librarians in the communities to help people navigate stuff as simple as online banking. You’d be surprised how many people don’t know how to turn on a computer or work a copier.
I also have to mention that I have met many people this year alone at different weddings and social events who are or know people who are librarians or do archival work. Librarianships are not dying, they’re evolving, and I am definitely one who adapts to change.
I decided to move in this new direction over a year ago at the beginning of 2014. I was unhappy at my job as a media producer and hadn’t really been happy in the media/film/entertainment world in general. I realized that my undergrad degree was not going to be the thing I made into a career, and while I love writing, I know I can’t live off of it. Nor do I want to. It ruins writing for me. I started examining what kind of career I wanted to have, what I wanted my work to mean and what would fulfill me. I was dancing around the idea of a librarianship, but it felt weird because my mom is a librarian. I didn’t want to be a copy-cat. But then one day as I was talking about how I wanted a career change but I wasn’t entirely sure to what yet, and she actually said, “Have you thought about library work?”
That was like the starting gun going off in my head. I actually passed the point of saying, oh yeah that’d be great, and jumped right into researching library schools. If you don’t know, librarian work is one of those careers you actually need an MLS to do. I looked at Syracuse University, UCLA, University of Pittsburgh, UNC, University of Texas at Austin, University of North Texas, LSU, SUNY Albany, SUNY Buffalo, and University of Kentucky. I narrowed it down to five: UNC, UT, UNT, Pitt, and Albany. Even though Syracuse is one of the best, I didn’t apply because I generally don’t like Syracuse and they are incredibly expensive. My mom, who is a school media specialist and librarian, got her master’s there and, while she loved it, she was unhappy about the cost.
I was accepted into all five schools, including UNC (which is ranked second in the nation right now), and UT (which is my dream school). The decision-making process was the worst thing I have ever done in my life. I could cross out a few because of cost, and a few didn’t have the exact program that I was looking for (Albany was focused more on their school media specialist program, which is not something I’m interested in). It came down to University of Texas, which I had been dreaming about attending for years, and the dark horse contender University of Pittsburgh. I had never thought of Pitt before for anything. I have an aunt and uncle who live outside of the city, so I had visited Pittsburgh before, but it just didn’t cross my mind much. I went to visit campus and immediately fell in love. The program was exactly what I wanted, where UT was way more focused on the information tech side of things and didn’t offer much in the way of librarianship courses. The move would be more manageable to Pittsburgh as well, and I have a few childhood friends who live in the city. So, at the end of the decision-making process, I shed a tear for UT and accepted my admission to Pitt.
I cannot stress enough how the excitement for Pittsburgh and my MLIS has exploded in my head. The city is a perfect fit for me and my boyfriend, and since we have had to live the past year apart from each other, the move to our new apartment in Shadyside is going to feel like a massive victory and homecoming all wrapped into one.
Exciting things I already have lined up are a paid internship with a public library system (the People’s Library) in New Kensington, which is like 30 minutes outside of the city, and a job at the iSchool itself as a communications specialist in their marketing department. Both jobs will last the entirety of my time at Pitt and will both be a great help to me after I graduate.
So this is all really amazing stuff. We have less than ten days before we move, which will be filled with stressful last minute details and the wedding of our best friends, and then our new adventure begins! I will probably write a lot more about librarian work and Pittsburgh in this blog. I’m completely giving up on this thing having a focus. I can’t focus on anything to save my life haha.