How I Became a Librarian
Dear Evan and Lulu,
I have your names and the date I found out I was pregnant with each of you tattoo’d on my forearms. It surprises people for a number of reasons. First, who gets tattoos on their forearms? Second, when they read “Lora Lu” upside down they constantly mistake it for saying “LoVa Lu.” Third, why wouldn’t I just put the dates you were born? I chose to permanently mark myself with the date I found out about your existence because those were the days that changed my life. I believe in days. I believe in marking them. In remembering them. I believe in celebrating them. This is a story of the day I became a librarian. At some point in your life you will fall in love with a job. You might be 12. You might be 22. You might be 60. Until that day, that life changing day, maybe my story will help you find your own.
After I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree I failed to find jobs that moved me. I found jobs that I enjoyed. Jobs that challenged me. Jobs that provided me valuable lessons on leadership and team dynamics. Nothing that produced days worth marking.
When the two of you were born I stopped looking for what I wanted to be doing and started focusing on what I had to be doing. I found myself working in a library because of the ability to have insurance. I was a single parent looking for any opportunity to fit together the fragmented pieces of a life I couldn’t even imagine yet.
I worked two other jobs during the time I started my first library position. Twenty hours a week I spent working for a non-profit, twenty hours a week I spent working at the library, and three nights a week plus a few hours on the weekend I cooked and cleaned for an elderly couple. My mind turned to mush each day as I sloppily transitioned from one job to the next, to the next. Home for an hour. Parenting in my off time. Ends never coming even close to meeting. Dreaming of a day where I could drive to one place of employment, clock-in on one time clock, pack one meal to take with me, and return at night to the two of you.
And even though I had to trudge my way through a year of this schedule, I still managed to fall in love with the library. I woke up each morning exhausted, discouraged, and still full of ideas and motivation. I wanted to help people. I wanted to learn from them. I wanted to entertain and encourage and captivate audiences. I wanted to connect dots of information to dots of people. And at the same time I wanted to simplify the chaos I was living in. Most of all I wanted a full time library position but none came available.
I got my opportunity to simplify in an unexpected format when the non-profit I was working for offered me a full time job. It was more money than I had ever made. More than all three jobs combined. Enough to pay my mortgage and still have enough to pack a meal each day. Insurance for all three of us. One place to focus on.
It seemed like such an easy decision and yet it was one of the most heart wrenching choices I’ve ever made. I knew I wanted to be a librarian. I could feel deep inside my core that this was what I was supposed to be. I dreamt it. I didn’t even stop thinking about libraries when I slept. Still, how could I turn down an opportunity to better provide a life for you and sanity for me? I decided I’d accept the job with the goal of someday returning to the library field. I went to the library for my shift with the intention of giving notice. I stifled tears in the break room. I tried to choke out words of resignation that never found air. I couldn’t do it. I chose to stay.
It is a very contentious topic in the librarian field what makes someone a “librarian”. Is it when you get your masters degree? Is it when you land a librarian job? Is it working in a library and doing all the same work that a librarian does? For me, I became a librarian in that moment. When I chose to continue to struggle, and scrape, and balance, and lose balance, to do what I loved.
In the end, it is the same reason that I chose to tattoo the date I found out I was pregnant with you on my arms. That was the day that I became your mother. Not when I gave birth to you and laid eyes on you for the first time, but the day I started sacrificing myself for the good of you. The day I gave up drinking, and sushi, and lunch meat and riding my bike without a helmet. The day I started going to bed on time, and taking vitamins, and quit caffeine. The day I made a decision to sacrifice my own comfort for yours because I loved you that much.
I did the same thing the day I became a librarian. I sacrificed all of our comfort because I loved it so much. There were some troubling times that we had to get through but I don’t regret it for a second. It isn’t really a sacrifice if it brings you happiness. I didn’t mark myself with dates that were sacrifices, I branded them with dates of celebrations. Gifts I’ve been handed. The day I became a librarian was unexpected and unconventional, but a gift just the same. One that I can’t wait to see you open when your time comes.
You helped put some of the words into why I left a 5 year $100,000 grant plus fully funded tuition at one school, and decided it was worth it to go into debt and pay out of state tuition and throw all my plans out the door. I found my people and they are at the library.
And I thought you were a wee bit crazy at the time, but then later I fully understood 🙂
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