How working at OHIO Libraries changed my perception of librarians, inspired my career path, and an application to graduate school
Prior to working at the library my perception of librarians came from a combination of experiences with local public libraries, my school library, and how librarians are portrayed in the media. I remember seeing It’s a Wonderful Life and noticing that when George doesn’t exist, Mary has no choice but to be alone and a librarian for her remaining days. In addition to this, there are many other examples of librarians being portrayed with a negative connotation that many of us take in as we watch these films, even if we don’t realize it.
Once I started my job as a liaison assistant my freshmen year of college, I realized everything that I thought I knew about librarians was mostly wrong. First, I realized that there are different kinds of librarianship with very different jobs and responsibilities. While some librarians manage the library space itself, others manage the online space. By that, I mean online research, databases, research guides, data, etc. The librarians at Alden library are not only there to help students but also to help faculty with their research.
When I first applied to work in the library, it was at my freshman year orientation. I had always liked the idea of working at a library in college, ever since I saw the movie Love Story, with Ali MacGraw playing Jenny, who worked at the Harvard library. When I applied, I had no idea what a liaison assistant was. A liaison, also called a subject librarian or subject liaison, is basically the word for a college librarian that oversees certain subjects or majors within the library. For example, if you are a sociology major and need help with a research project, you will be directed towards the librarian that has some expertise in that area, probably a librarian that oversees the social sciences.
In my freshman year I came to OHIO as a nursing major, something I had picked my senior year after getting to shadow in a hospital for a day. While I was navigating classes, I was also learning and navigating my new job. From my job, I started learning how to use excel spreadsheets and edit subject and course guides, gain research skills, organize data, and do many other tasks. I always felt very at home working in the library, as all the librarians were very kind and welcoming and I felt like my job and the library was a safe space. About halfway through my first semester, I realized nursing wasn’t for me and after some exploring, I changed my major to classical civilizations and found that it was a much better match.
The next year and a half meant conducting school and work from home because of the pandemic. I was able to keep working for the library since the majority of what I did was online. From this, I got experience of having online meetings with my supervisor and other librarians, and I think more independence. Before the pandemic, I had worked in a cubicle where I could ask questions immediately but being online meant that I would really push myself to be confident and see how much I could figure out first, before sending out an email. During this time, I also learned to really love projects dealing with data. This includes organizing in excel spreadsheets, analyzing, and summarizing. Before working at the library, I had no idea how much data librarians are constantly working with and utilizing to improve the library for students and faculty.
While I was enjoying my major and classes, I couldn’t see myself really pursuing it in the job market or going to grad school in that discipline after college. By the end of my sophomore year, I really wanted to figure out what my plans were for after graduation, especially since I had enough credits brought over from College Credit Plus in high school to graduate early, at the end of my junior year. I soon realized that my career path had really been right in front of me the whole time. I realized that I wanted to continue working in a college library as I felt that I had a good idea of what that would entail from assisting different librarians and that the work was something that I was proud of and enjoyed doing. Whenever I went home, I would always show my family the subject and course guides that I had helped with or data spreadsheets that I made with color-coding because that is something I get excited about.
In order to be a librarian at any level or institution, it requires a master's degree in library/information science. In the fall semester of 2021, I spent a lot of time working on and putting my application together. In March of 2022 I found out I was accepted to the University of Michigan's library science program and will be attending in the fall of ‘22. While I am not yet in library school, I realized that there is a lot of learning and dedication that goes into being a librarian. While in It’s a Wonderful Life may have shown librarianship as the only option for lonely women, it takes a lot of dedication, training, and schooling to get to that point. Librarians are considered information professionals or information scientists who are also adapting to the latest technology to help others navigate it in the easiest way possible.
I am so thankful for the library and faculty because of the experiences and opportunities it has given me. During my time at Ohio University, I also joined the library Student Advisory Board and become the student chair of the board. Being on the board showed me how much librarians truly care about how the library is functioning for students. At the meetings there would be suggestions or feedback with the following meeting have updates on what was done about that suggestion or feedback. By taking the student suggestions so seriously it not only helps to improve the library for students but also shows students that they are heard.
Over the past three years I went from being an unsure freshman to a soon-to-be college graduate going to get my masters this fall at a competitive institution. I’m very excited to see what the future holds and encourage all freshmen to try working in the library as you never know how it may change your life.