If someone had told me a year ago, that the first professional librarian job I would have is at Brown University as the physical sciences librarian, I would have laughed. Hell, if someone had told me even 10 years ago when I was finishing high school (my 10 year anniversary of graduating is literally this week), that I would end up working as a librarian I would have stared at them in utter disbelief.
About 10 years ago, prior to going to college (I went to Oberlin College), I was pretty sure I wanted to either study environmental science or english. In high school, almost all of my electives were in the sciences, and when I say almost all, I do mean that. I was enthralled by science, with my second favorite subject being history. So naturally, my eventual choice to major in geology (basically just the history of the entire earth), made sense as it blended both of these two loves. I just hadn’t figured that out yet.
I came late to the geology party. In my second semester of my sophomore year, I was a wreck. I needed to choose a major, and while I would have loved to do art history or studio art, I didn’t love it enough to go through the struggles of being an artist or trying to figure out where I went from there. It was at this time, in need of filling science requirements that I decided to take intro geology, a recommendation I had gotten from several of my friends who’d taken the course and loved it. Somehow it had never occurred to me until I was taking that class that geology was the very logical move all along. I was all in. I loved the class. Everything finally started to make sense, and after meeting with my professor, who became my advisor, I was hooked and ready to buckle down. (Here’s a link to Oberlin College Geology, for any of you who are interested)
During my senior year, I wrote an honor’s thesis, a decision I made over a miscommunication (which is a funny story for another time). Working on my thesis made me realize however, that I wasn’t interested in getting a Master’s or PhD in the field. I wasn’t excited enough by the job prospects I’d have with a master’s or PhD, and if I am being entirely honest, I did not want to have to go back and relearn calculus.
Leaving was hard. I spent a lot of time after college struggling with depression and not really knowing where my life was headed. I started and quit a master’s program in teaching, due to poor fit, a realization that I loved teaching but not the bureaucracy and overwhelming anxiety and depression. I moved home, and tried out some other things including a year serving with AmeriCorps. It was during this time that my mom (thanks mom!), suggested I look into library school.
Library school was probably the last thing I had ever considered doing. I know that for a lot of people who go into it, they know that that’s what they want to do, or knew exactly what kind of librarianship they wanted to go into. For me, I was just looking for something to help me get a job that sounded interesting and aligned with my interests; in this case books and informal learning.
Part way through my master’s programs (I was working on 2), I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my degrees. I had some really miscellaneous experiences, most of my grad school jobs focusing on archiving, and my coursework , well it was all over the place. I knew that I didn’t want to be a school or public librarian, which really only left being an academic librarian or working in a corporate library.
When I started to look at jobs in my last year I was discouraged. Many of the positions that seemed interesting to me, I felt that I was lacking skills or knowledge that were essential to job functions. (I have since found out that in most cases, women won’t apply to jobs unless they are ~90% qualified, whereas men will apply to jobs they are ~30% qualified for. I am not sure if those numbers are correct, but I’d believe it). At the end of grad school, I made a decision that was totally right for me, and I decided to hold off on applying to jobs until I was ready/ found something I actually wanted to do.
I cannot *stress* this enough, that giving myself a break after finishing school was entirely essential for me. At the end of grad school I was so drained emotionally and mentally, I needed time to rest and just do something else to figure out what it was that I really wanted to do. By the time the position at Brown came up, not only was I finally ready to start looking for jobs again, but I was excited to.
Applying to Brown was one of the scariest things I’ve done. I didn’t feel prepared, but I thought might as well take a chance on myself. I am so glad I did. For me so often, I haven’t felt worthy or qualified or I psych myself out before I even give myself a chance to be excited or ready for something, or worse I get excited about something only to not get it. I still have days where I feel grossly under qualified or that I don’t know what I am doing. But I think everyone feels that way. I just have to remind myself that I am here, and that they chose me, and that I am totally capable of my job.