Sunday, March 30, 2014

Why a Librarian, You Ask?

As you can see, April is School Library Month, and so I am joining other librarians in my Twitter Professional Learning Network (PLN) to share stories on how we ended up as librarians. Funny how a tweet can quickly turn into a hashtag. You can read Andy Plemmon's story HERE and Sherry Gick's story HERE, and follow #whylib on Twitter to read more stories.

Here is my story...
I have loved to read as long as I can remember, but I honestly never thought I would be a librarian. When I was young, I really wanted to go to law school and become a lawyer and then  a judge. When I went to college, I studied criminal justice and received a degree in Criminology & Corrections. I toyed with the idea of going into law enforcement, but ended up as a parole officer in Houston, Texas during a time when the state prison system was letting out inmates by the hundreds each day. I had over 300 parolees on my caseload, with home visits being required for most of them. For those who haven't seen me in person, I am about 5'3"... you can probably guess that this was probably not the best fit job for me. I lasted a year, and fortunately we were moving out of Houston, so a new job was needed. I decided maybe criminal justice wasn't the right field for me, but I also knew I definitely wanted to make a difference in the world. 

For about 2 years, I worked in the business world, and then had the opportunity to begin a Alternative Teacher Certification program that our local education service center was beginning. With criminal justice, I felt like I was getting to people too late to make a difference, but surely as a teacher, I could have a positive impact. The program required you to attend four weeks of training during the summer, eight hours a day. Nervous about leaving a job without having another one, I started interviewing for teaching positions. Luckily, I was hired before I started the program, so although I would go a couple of months without a paycheck, there was a teaching job in my near future. Let me say, I LOVED teaching. I began teaching 3rd grade in 1992, when my oldest child was a little over one. It was a perfect fit- I felt like I could make a difference and I had time to spend with my young daughter. I continued to teach at this school for the next six years, changing grades from time to time, even looping up with a class from 4th to 5th grade.  Then there were a few relocations that required new positions, all still in 4th.

In Texas, 4th grade is kind of a stressful year because the students take three state exams, writing, math, & reading. The standardized testing system had changed a lot since I first began teaching, and I was getting frustrated and feeling ineffective as a teacher. 

During all of this time, I knew I wanted to go back to school to get my master's degree, but could not decide what I wanted to study. Some days, I wanted to be a counselor, other times I thought maybe I would try for diagnostician, but I was never 100% certain on anything. Part of it was that I was always looking at what degree would increase my salary, not what degree would increase my satisfaction. Thankfully, there is always someone else watching over me. I waited, and doors opened. 

By the time I thought about a library science degree, my oldest was 20 years old. It just so happened that I was still teaching 4th grade, just in a different school. I had always said that when teaching stopped being fun, I would do something else because the kiddos don't care how long you've been teaching.  It is, hopefully their only year in that grade. The joy of teaching was definitely dwindling by this time.  One day, I got a phone call from a librarian friend at my previous school. She asked if I had heard about our Education Service Center's meeting for a MLS cohort in the area. No, I hadn't, but I looked it up and went to the meeting. Ironically, the same university, Sam Houston State University, where I had received my BS degree, was offering the MLS program and it was mostly an online program. 

I signed up and began the program, even convincing my friend Nitza Campos to join me. That was in January of 2011. Fortunately,  the librarian job on my campus became available for the next school year- doors opening....  I started in that position while completing my degree and within 18 months, I graduated with my MLS. That was just three short years ago, and every single day that I walk into the library, I am thankful for the opportunity to be there and to make a difference. 

I am also thankful for the inspiration and encouragement I get from my PLN on Twitter. When I was in grad school, one of the professors had us create a Twitter account. This was probably one of the best things that happened to me as a library student. I discovered two awe-inspiring librarians named John Schumacher  and Shannon Miller and began following them. Then I checked out who they followed and found others who equally inspired me. Eventually, there would be many, many people I would add to my PLN, like Andy & Sherry, Matthew Winner, Jennifer Reed, Margie (aka: @loveofxena), authors, illustrators, technology tools, and I would even find my #TLBFF's (Nancy Jo Lambert, Cynthia Alaniz & Tina Berumen) who encourage & inspire me a little closer to home (they are also in Texas!) There are truly so many inspiring librarians!

So from parole officer to teacher to librarian... not exactly the route I would have guessed, but maybe you have to travel the path to wind up exactly where you are meant to be...Being  a teacher-librarian is rewarding and the PERFECT job for me! Books & kiddos, with some technology mixed in... what's not to love?? And the icing on the cake- receiving emails like this from a student just this past Friday night.

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That's #whylib! :) Happy School Library Month! Lives Change @ Your Library!

1 comment:

  1. WOW! What a path and journey you've had! Such a great story, Shawna! Thank you for sharing & joining our #whylib project! I'm so thankful you are a TL now because you inspire me!