My library route

October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment


D B Weldon Library University of Western Ontario 1

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I have recently been made aware of the Library Routes Project, which aims to provide prospective librarians with real life examples about how to go about becoming a librarian.  You can find the website here:

I had never thought of becoming a librarian.  My fiancée and I were teaching English in Hong Kong and she was becoming ever more sure that she wanted to become a teacher.  I was having fun singing the ABC song with my kindergarten and playgroup classes, but it was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  She applied to teaching programs back in Canada, so our immediate future was at least decided.

At first, an MA in English seemed like something I would like.  But then a look at the course lists convinced me otherwise.  My fiancée suggested librarianship.  She observed that I often have knowledge of the most trivial things in the world, so I would do well in helping people find answers to their questions.

Then I looked at the course offerings.  Everything I liked about English seemed to be offered in courses on librarianship.  There was very little (or at least very optional) deconstructionism, Foucault, or other schools of criticism that dissuaded me from pursuing English.  There was a lot more about books as artifacts and containers of knowledge, aspects of criticism that I personally find more interesting.

So I applied to the University of Western Ontario, Dalhousie University and McGill.  These three ostensibly offered January start dates, although both Dalhousie and McGill informed me that they were not taking on any more students that particular January.  Western fortunately was taking more students, and I happened to become one of them.

There was something magical about that January 2009 cohort.  We all got along.  But all of us were very nervous at first wondering about the motivations of each other.  Why did they want to be librarians?  Who applies to library school?  These people are probably weirdos with no social skills who would rather patrol shelf upon shelf of dusty tomes than talk to other people.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

That first term we had great fun.  Five courses in library science perhaps stretch one’s sanity to its limit, and group projects almost always became something absolutely ridiculous.  A presentation on trace evidence as research method fused together with an earlier presentation on non-traditional research methods when one student presented William Blake’s Tiger as an ode to an empty beer can his group had found in the computer lab.  It was one of many glorious incidents.  A study of archival material on the library school itself yielded a discovery of an informal newsletter that we revived, at least temporarily.

An opportunity to do a co-op in my third term helped me to more or less begin to realize that I probably will not be a public or academic librarian since I lack the required zeal for those professions.  Information and content management is interesting and keeps you on your toes.  There is often a lot of uncertainty about what you should be doing and that means you end up doing whatever needs doing.  You wear many hats and get to help people with a lot of different problems.  I went back to school with a bit of a better understanding of special libraries, and non-traditional information professionals.

At present, I am back in Hong Kong working as a knowledge manager.  My fiancée and I had both enjoyed the city and she was able to secure a job as a teacher much more easily than she could have back home.  I have taken up employment as a knowledge manager at a company that helps with regulatory compliance in the financial industry.  The job-hunting process is difficult no matter where you are; there is no way around it.  Fortunately there are many free resources that you can find on the web, and many helpful people who wish you nothing but success.  Librarians, it would seem, like to make things free, and strive to be helpful.

That’s my story so far.

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