Library Routes Project: How I became a librarian

This post comes to you as part of an ongoing series developed by @theREALwikiman called “The Library Routes Project”.  I urge you to check it out and add your own story!

I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life until around 2005.  I tinkered with being a video game designer when I was growing up and then once I got my first guitar I decided that I’d love to be the Brian Wilson of my generation. It took me some time but eventually I realized that none of that was for me.  I wanted something where I could interact with my community more, something that made me feel like a worthwhile human being.

My father is a self employed optician who built everything he did from the ground up with the support of the optical community in Pittsburgh, PA.  My mother helped my father and was also a full time mom.  I learned a lot from my parents about hard work and community and how it all plays a role in being successful at what you do.  Still, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  Music+video games+books+pop culture…there really wasn’t anything that popped into my head that fit that job description.  Until…

I met my wife Haley in 2005.  It was all love, rainbows, and good stuff.  We just clicked.  Little did I know that our marriage would have a major impact on my future.  I met Haley’s mom Jill only a few weeks after I had met Haley.  In the usual getting to know each other chit chat she mentioned that she always worked in libraries and was working on getting her master’s in library science.

I can’t lie.  The clichéd YOU HAVE TO GET YOUR MASTERS TO BE A LIBRARIAN?!?!?! response came next.

We talked about it more and more and it started to make sense to me.  A librarian wasn’t just about books.  It could be about anything and everything.  THIS WAS IT!  THIS WAS WHAT I WAS SEARCHING FOR!

It didn’t hurt that at the time I just went back to school to finish my undergraduate degree in Creative Writing.  I had a lot of trouble finishing up my first time around in college and once I met Haley I realized that now was not the time to fuck around.  I had a plan and I had a purpose: GET MARRIED, GET MY UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE, AND THEN OFF TO GET MY MASTER’S TO BECOME JUSTIN THE LIBRARIAN!

The next few years were spent in school and working at libraries.  I shelved/circulated/relabeled/worked on a bookmobile/etc.  I crammed just as much as I possibly could into those few years.  It really paid off and gave me such a great sense of what actually happens in a library.  I learned that it isn’t really all just about one person, but instead the whole group working together.  I worked at a smaller urban library (Erie County Library), a small village library (Cooperstown Public Library), and then my first break as a teen librarian at the Clarion Free Library.  This was where it really all made sense to me…this was where I decided that being a teen librarian was what I wanted to do.  It was at that library that I got to experiment with the teen collection and teen programming.  That experimenting was key to my development as a librarian.  Without that, I don’t think I could be doing what I do today.  I urge all librarian to let their staff experiment!  The library is your sandbox!

I graduated from Clarion University of Pennsylvania with my MLIS in May 2008.  In March 2008, I accepted a job at the Cape May County Library as their Teen Librarian.  Haley and I packed up for New Jersey and moved there just 2 days after we both graduated.  Less than 2 weeks later, we found out we were pregnant with our first child.  Finn was born January 17, 2009 and continues to rock your body disco dancing style to this day.  The Cape May County Library was also another great place to experiment.  I was lucky enough to have Deb Poillon as a director.  She inspired me to be myself and try things out for the teens.  I got to help start up the excellent Game Night Central program at the library as well as develop the Teen Library Lock In program.

However, New Jersey really wasn’t for Haley and I.  We longed to move back to Pittsburgh, PA to be around family or to the great wonderfulness that is Maine (Haley was born and raised here in Maine).  Given that Maine is like its own country (many, many different and diverse areas), we narrowed in on Portland, ME as being the place we wanted to end up.  I specifically remember this saying this quote when we talked about Maine:

I want to live in Portland, ME.  I want to be the Teen Librarian in Portland, ME.  That may not happen, but we can at least wish for something like that.

And boom, it did.  I started as the first teen librarian at the Portland Public Library on March 23, 2010.  AND I LOVE IT.  The community in Portland is super strong and exactly what my family was looking for.

And now I’m done because I’m tired of typing.

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