five question Friday #4: Kate the Learning Center Coordinator
Kate the shelving queen recognizes that books to put away means books got read.
1. Can you tell us about your current position?
I coordinate the Learning Center at a residential treatment facility for youth in Chicago. The Learning Center effectively functions like a small media center might in a school—I coordinate the resources kids need to do their homework (books, computers, etc.), and then supervise and assist them in their work. I’m learning a lot about what my future career in professional librarianship might look like as I dabble in instruction, collection development and reference. I’m also really helpful at formatting that perfect picture of LeBron or Nicki Minaj to print out and tape on your bedroom door.
2. How did you get into librarianship?
I graduated with my BA/MA in English Literature in 2008 without too much of a plan. I had been working with teens at a school on an American Indian reservation in college, and there I discovered a passion for working with at-risk/at-promise kids. This was all a surprise to me, as I was just about the worst babysitter on the block when I was growing up. But, something clicked and there I was working with some of the gnarliest kids you’ll find—that said, they were also some of the wisest and most resilient individuals I’ve ever met.
After graduation, I headed to Chicago to volunteer at a residential home for teens, where I am now currently employed. Within a year or two, I moved into the position of Learning Center Coordinator and almost immediately recognized that library school would complement my work, as well as unite my interests in service and academics.
3. What work training and education did you have to prepare for your career?
I stated above, I have a graduate degree in English, which really prepped me for some of the expectations of librarian work and research—as you can imagine, I make effective use of public and academic libraries. To learn the back-end of the profession, I’ve started working the desk at my college’s library, and I’ve just been accepted for a practicum this spring (!!) so that I will have professional teaching experience. I need ALL the experience!
4. What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of the field?
What I love the most, so far, is being part of a service profession. I’m not here because I love books (though I do, very dearly). I want to be a professional librarian to help others solve their problems. I love that librarians don’t simply give people the answer—we give folks the means to find their own answer. What’s more, I think there is still a prevailing sentiment that the library is a great and sacred space. Super people and sacred places. What a profession to be a part of, huh?
5. What is your advice for readers interested in librarianship?
For anyone who follows my blog, you’ll soon recognize this constant refrain: do not become a librarian because you just love, love, LOVE books. This profession is, first and foremost, about people. There are areas of librarianship for the reclusive few, but more and more, we are evolving the profession to bring the librarian out of the library and into the way of actively helping our patrons.
Some more practical advice would be to fully define why you want to be a librarian (not necessary what type of librarian, just why you want into the profession). Investigate programs. Research your potential job market. Ask questions. Call the dean. Graduate school is for YOU. Keep your expectations high. And, good luck!
Kate (thelifeguardlibrarian) keeps busy in Chicago wrangling teenagers and finishing up library school—she spends her precious free time on books, beers, and road trips.
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