Why I Became a Librarian

"Looking for love, literally" in the Library of Congress Card Catalog. Lorie Shaull, February 16, 2015.

“Looking for love, literally” in the Library of Congress Card Catalog. Lorie Shaull, February 16, 2015.

Two words: my mom. Growing up in various small towns in upstate New York, my mother worked in numerous libraries – sometimes to bring in added income to our family of seven (8 or 9, if you count our various furry family members throughout the years), and sometimes just as a volunteer to help keep the country libraries open to the public. We moved quite a bit when I was growing up – my father is a retired minister and his job locations changed every few years. The first thing my mother would do, once we had arrived in whatever new town we were to live in, was to take us to the public library to get our library cards. We would follow her like baby ducks, and find ourselves, once again, in a building full of books that could take us to new places, new worlds.

One of my very first memories of libraries is when my father bundled the entire clan up (except the dogs) to live for two years in the United Kingdom. He performed his duties as a country preacher, where he would spend his days traveling from one town to another, attending to needs of various small churches. My mother, as always, found the local library and took us there almost every day. I fondly remember standing and perusing the children’s section of the small stone building, entranced by the books that were available. We did not have a television – and although we came up with numerous games to play with one another, eventually one needs a break from siblings. I loved curling up in a heavy chair by the roaring fireplace that heated our house and reading for hours.

When we returned to the United States and the small town we lived in, I remember countless nights spent in the one-room library my mother volunteered for. Some evenings, it would just be her and me – a luxury not only because I had my mother all to myself, but because I had the entire wealth of books in the collection at my disposal. Nothing made me happier than sitting on the floor, paging through Richard Scarry picture books or the works of Shel Silverstein and feeling completely at peace.

We moved again, to a larger town when I was 12. The public library was where I would spend my afternoons after school had ended for the day, and eventually became the first library I worked in when I began high school. I shelf-read the entire collection numerous times – this was long before computers and the internet revolution. I found the titles I came across fascinating and my world opened even more because of this exposure. I loved the routine of my duties and knowing I was helping to keep the items in their proper place, to make it easier for patrons to find.

It took me years to return to my library roots. After college I did the normal “I have no idea what to do with my life” walkabout, where I traveled the country and did a variety of jobs before I landed in Massachusetts and found myself in the lovely public library there. I worked the circulation desk and did some Interlibrary Loan and enjoyed being surrounded by books and people who loved books. Eventually I transitioned to academic librarianship, and after several years as a staff member, I obtained my degree as a librarian. I felt that I had not only accomplished this for myself, but also for my mom, who had spent time working on her degree, but with the numerous moves she and my father did, it was impossible for her to complete a program.

My mom taught me a lot about libraries – she instilled in me a lifelong love of them, she made any library feel like a second home, so I never had the library anxiety that so many of our students face these days. She also taught me the value of everyone who works in a library – whether it be student workers, staff, volunteers or librarians. We all have invaluable roles we fulfill every day to make our libraries welcoming spaces to learn and grow. Thank you, Mom. And thank you to the all dear libraries that have graced my life throughout the years.

What made you fall in love with libraries? Who inspired you to become a librarian? Please share your comments via our FacebookTwitter or our LinkedIn pages.

Molly Brown, ILN Content Officer

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  1. What a great story! I too spent my childhood in a small library while me mom worked the circ desk, often just the 2 of us ( and lots of Richard Scarry too-Best Word Book Ever!). We are lucky to have those memories.

  2. Molly and I go way back from mutual time spent at the Frost Library of Amherst College, but it never ceases to delight and inspire me to hear the story of a fellow upstate/western New Yorker who answered the siren call of the library. Lovely tale and one that I can’t hear too often, Molly! Cheers, Jim

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