This year, 2018, marks ten years since I officially started my librarian journey. I walked into my first class (I believe it was Marketing) as a student at RMIT University in early March, 2008. In the last decade, I’ve experienced a huge amount of personal and professional growth, and I’ve changed my mind about how to use the degree that I now have at least a dozen times.

The beginning is always earlier than we think

While 2008 marks the offical start of this long, often-amazing-often-painful journey, the reality, of course, is that it started much earlier. My family have always visited the library. I can remember being four or five years old and running around in the Collingwood library. I was one of the kids who frequented the school library during lunch time, and I spent long hours after school or on weekends browsing the shelves at the Ivanhoe library.

The cover for the 20th anniversary edition of Alien on VHS
Pretty sure this was how I was introduced to this franchise.

The library was where I discovered epic fantasy and hard science fiction ( would later raid my dad’s bookshelves for these genres, but library books were the gateway). I found The Cure, Joy Division, Portishead, and Nine Inch Nails on the library CD rack. I met Jay & Silent Bob, Jackie Brown, Ellen Ripley, Ferris Bueller, and Sarah Conner on the VHS shelves. And I took Batman, Wolverine, Phantom, and Deadpool compendiums home with me. When I was home for a week after getting my wisdom teeth removed, the library was where I found the books, TV shows, and movies that kept my overactive brain occupied while I used ice-cream as an analgesic. While living in Japan, I spent a lot of time reading kids’ manga at the libraries in Nagoya to get my reading skills up to scratch. I honestly don’t know how much time I’ve spent as a library patron over the last 32 years, but it’s a lot.

And the point of this is…

The point of all this is to say that libraries are, to me, familiar and comfortable spaces. When I dropped out of uni, moved back in with my parents, and generally bummed around being miserable, local libraries were a place that I could go to escape some of the shit for a few hours. I eventually got a job at a call centre for the Australian Taxation Office, where a large part of my role was answering questions about how the taxation system works. I was the person you’d talk to when you don’t understand if you’re an Australian resident for tax purposes.  My days were spent looking information up and explaining it in more human-centred language. Looking back, it was essentially a reference desk.

I don’t remember how it came up, but someone at some point suggested I look into being a librarian or working at a library. And for some reason, the idea stuck. I did some Googling over the next few weeks and found out:

  1. In Australia, you need at least a Bachelor degree to be a librarian,
  2. There’s a professional organisation (ALIA) that accredits librarian qualifications
  3. Only a few universities in Australia offer some form of library science at an undergrad level
  4. There is a whole lot more to being a librarian than checking out books – and librarians often aren’t the people doing that, anyway

Point number 1 was a bit of a problem. I’d just spent two years failing several different degrees, and I wasn’t keen to go back to uni. But after doing some reading, talking to some people (including actual librarians) about it, and meeting with the course coordinator at RMIT, I decided a purposeful degree that had pretty solid job opportunities at the other end wouldn’t be such a bad thing. So I applied, was accepted, and became a business student.

“But I thought you were doing library studies?”

I got this question a lot. At RMIT in 2008, the ALIA-certified degree was a Bachelor of Business with a major in Information and Knowledge Management. It was geared towards people who would go on to work in information systems, business analytics, database management, and business knowledge management. These were the fields that the course marketing promised $60K graduate positions in. The course itself was based in the Business and IT building, half my classes were core business subjects (economics, accounting, management, etc.) and the very expensive piece of paper I know own says “Bachelor of Business”. However, most of the people in my cohort (and there were only about 25 of us) wanted to be librarians, at least initially.

There are a few more posts I have planned about this. Let me know if it’s something you’re interested in reading, and I’ll get them written. If you think this is masturbatory twaddle, that’s OK, too.

Ten years of librarianing part one: How did this happen?

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