Thursday, August 18, 2011

Librarianship as a Second Career

As yet I have no personal experience to verify this, but I've been told that many of the people you encounter in library school are coming into librarianship as a second career. This is true of me as well. Initially, upon graduation from university, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go into teaching or librarianship, so I decided to teach abroad for a while to help me with the decision. Of course, I eventually learned that teaching and librarianship are so closely interrelated that it's easy to combine them. In no way does it have to be an "either/or" situation! That's why I want to become a teacher-librarian.

Even so, I'm really glad that I spent some time in the workforce before starting library school. I recently read Graham Lavender's interesting post about setting professional goals for yourself during your first year as a librarian. In this sense, I feel as though I have a head start, as I've had four years to develop confidence in myself as a professional. Because so much of the work I was doing as a teacher is quite similar to what librarians do (interacting with users, ensuring access to resources, assisting students in decoding material) I already know my work style, how I communicate with others, where I excel and where I could stand to improve. I was also fortunate to be in a school that emphasized Web 2.0 technology and collaborative learning, so I am familiar with that sort of educational philosophy.

Above all, though, the international school instilled in me a love of international education. As Britt Foster says, "Society needs more spaces where status does not affect access." (Said so succinctly, Britt! I've been trying to articulate the same thought for ages without success!) Unfortunately, in an international setting, status heavily influences access. It affects which languages you speak, what educational opportunities you have, what resources are available to you, what technologies you know how to use. So librarians in international settings have unique challenges as well as unique opportunities to connect patrons with materials and ensure those materials can be used.

That is why, in some ways I don't even feel like library school is truly is a career change for me. Although, my job title will change, I was an international educator before and an international educator I'll remain.

There are currently two opportunities that I'm interested in becoming involved with. One is the McGill students chapter of Librarians Without Borders, which currently has an ongoing service learning project in Guatemala. I am hoping to be extremely active in this student organization.

The other is to assist my friend and former coworker DJ Juhlke with the organization he will be working with for at least the next three years, Mountain Child. It aims to assist impoverished children in the Himalayas. There, DJ will contribute to the opening of small, multi-purpose aid stations throughout the mountains of Nepal. These aid stations will serve simultaneously as clinics, schools, and community centres. DJ is going to be the "principal" of the schools, though I imagine that his job will be a bit different from that of other principals I've known. He will be doing a little bit of everything, from helping to build the stations themselves to training both local and foreign teachers.

Before we parted ways in Korea, I told DJ that I was interested in helping him to secure library resources for the schools, or maybe even to open a community library in Nepal. "But right now," I said, "I don't even know anything about librarianship yet. I don't know what you need."

DJ laughed. "That's okay. I don't know what I need either! But we'll make it happen!"

So I'm hoping that I can spend some of my time in library school, especially with Librarians Without Borders, gathering ideas and tips that I can use to get some resources to DJ.

On a more personal note, I'll be moving to Montreal on Saturday. I'm excited for classes at McGill to get underway.

1 comment: