What Hooked Me on a Career in Libraries: Some Stories Shared

Caroline Akervik, Eau Claire Area School District, Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Librarians tend to be an eclectic bunch who enter the field having made forays into others. However, there does tend to be a shared thread in many librarian origin stories. That is, there is generally a person or library that hooked the future librarian on the career path. For me, that person was a school aide who also happened to be a nun. When I was in fourth grade, Sister Dorothy welcomed our class into the library once a week. Once there, she read to us. I remember she read the entirety of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. At that point, I became a reader. Though we moved several times throughout my childhood and I attended schools in different states, I do have fond memories of the libraries of many of those schools, of curling up in a chair or even on the floor and reading a book. I was well and truly hooked. Decades later, I became a school librarian, and I continue to serve as a school district library coordinator.

I asked other librarians to share what inspired them to enter the field. Three unique stories that  I received are below. May they inspire and motivate you in our shared craft.

Jessica Gliniecki, Putnam Heights Elementary, Eau Claire, Wisconsin

When I was growing up, my mom would take me to the public library once a week. The ladies that worked there always greeted me by name, were friendly, and they loved hearing me talk about my favorite books. When I got to middle school, I became a library helper and found out that I loved spending time in the library helping people. In high school, I joined the library club and became president. I took on a role where I created displays, organized contests, and helped to raise funds for literacy programs. It’s easy to say that libraries were always a part of my life.

I always thought I wanted to be a teacher and work with kids when I grew up. I remember the day my high school librarian told me that I could go to college to be a librarian. I knew that this was my passion and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. If it wasn’t for all the amazing, friendly, and dedicated library staff I spent time within my youth, I would not have gotten into the field. I hope to make an impact someday on one of my students just like the librarians of my childhood did. 

Danielle Brannan, Mukwonago High School, Mukwonago, Wisconsin

I’ve always been a reader. I used to read to get out of doing chores. As an undergraduate student, I studied English and Education and planned to eventually become a college English professor who wore cardigans with elbow patches. I worked my way through college at three different bookstores (college is expensive), and I both loved it and was good at it. I had a knack for recommending books to folks. 

Eventually, I graduated and needed a job. When no one wanted to hire me as a teacher (because there wasn’t a teaching shortage and I didn’t have any experience), I got a job at a college bookstore in Milwaukee. I told a new coworker my story and he said, “Why aren’t you a school librarian?” That career had honestly never occurred to me before that moment.

I looked into it and discovered I lived minutes away from a stellar library school (UW Milwaukee SOIS). It was fate! I enrolled and as I sat in my first class, I felt like a light was shining down on me because I was where I belonged. Everything about the program felt right. I was destined to become a librarian and now I’ve been working in my dream career for thirteen years, AND I can totally rock a cardigan with elbow patches! 

Josh Rageth, Horning MS, Banting ES, Heyer ES, Summit View ES, Waukesha School District, Waukesha, Wisconsin

For the last nine years, I was a dual language bilingual teacher in 1st and 4th grade. This last summer we had two librarian positions open in our district, and the LMS from my school encouraged me to think about applying because in a district with 10 bilingual schools, we had no one in the library, LMS or aide, who was bilingual. I chose to become a librarian for my district because it would allow me to impact my entire district by providing opportunities to advocate for the bilingual program, evaluate Spanish resources, and provide library programming in 2 languages. Now, I work in 4 buildings, and I love having students see, for the first time, someone in the library who speaks their language! Most have also never seen a man in the library either.

Our paths to our libraries are different and unique. Our work is rewarding and demanding. And, yet reflecting on the why we entered the field does help one persevere and handle the day-to-day challenges of the library life.

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