Student Snippets


Finding Your Librarian Identity

I have two interesting stories from this week! For the first, I unexpectedly came face-to-face with a real life preservation situation and I knew exactly what to do. I keep all of my family's important documents and records in a heavy duty plastic file box. The other day I was pulling out a package of extra file folders when I noticed an icky smell. The outside of the package smelled really bad, and looked a little....wet, or maybe greasy? I looked back in the box and noticed the pocket folder next to the package was deformed and buckling, like it had gotten wet. I gingerly pulled it out and observed some interesting damage and deterioration all over the surface where the glossy finish was wrinkling and peeling. I cracked the folder open, which in retrospect, wasn't the best idea because it was stuck together with MOLD!!! I stared at it for a good three seconds with equal parts fascination and repulsion thinking, "so that's what active mold looks like" before I hustled the whole thing into the trash and washed my hands.

What's cool about this is that I immediately knew exactly what I was looking at and exactly how to handle it. The next day I inspected the rest of the contents of the box, removed everything and cleaned (and dried) the inside thoroughly because I know that mold is serious business. Nothing else in the box was damp or moldy, so I'm guessing the folder was already wet when it was tucked into the box. Luckily my little mold outbreak was very small and did not damage anything too valuable, and I caught it before it spread. The lesson here is, take preservation if you can, because it is such a fun and interesting class and you will definitely use your knowledge and never look at materials storage or old buildings the same way again!

My second story comes from my internship. My mentor/supervisor and I were discussing an article I had been assigned to read, and he called my attention to this line: "Rapid changes in the profession, combined with the evolution of the many different types of information professionals, have made it all but impossible to pin down a core identity shared by librarians" (citation below). We then talked about the importance of setting your own narrative, managing how you perceive yourself (and thus how others perceive you), and determining your own librarian identity. My mentor said that library school gives us a "generic" education about librarianship and that it's our responsibility to pursue/create our own specialties or areas of strength beyond library school. We have to set the narrative for ourselves or other people will set it for us, and it will probably be based on incorrect assumptions or stereotypes.

I realized I have a lot more work to do in this area. Part of the problem is the uncertainty of life: where my family will end up and what kinds of jobs will be available when I'm ready to work full-time (or even part-time). I want to be able to be flexible and try a lot of different things, and not pigeonhole myself into one specific area. But I also know that there are certain things that brought me to librarianship, and special ways for me to contribute as my own individual. I guess I was hoping that life, or fate or something would decide the path for me. Anyway, it's something to think about as I approach graduation.

Miller, R. K. & Benjes-Small, C. M. (2016). "Identifying as an Instruction Librarian" from The New Instruction Librarian: A Workbook for Trainers and Learners. American Library Association. p. 9. 

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