I stumbled across a discussion on Twitter on how librarians found their way into libraries through a multitude of different routes. You can find more stories at the “Why We Became Librarians” padlet or by searching Twitter for #whylib. This is my story.
Reflecting over my decision to become a librarian, I’ve decided the heart of my decision comes down to two words: My librarians.
My mental movies of librarians, those memories forged by my earliest childhood libraries experiences, are undeniably positive (aside from a traumatic teddy-bear forgetting at the library during a winter storm-apocalypse when I was three). My librarians inspired wonder, kept me awash in books and their libraries were like homes.
The journey began at the Middleton Public Library. Back then, the public library was one small part of the first floor of city hall. Storytime and other programs took place in the basement, complete with carpet squares on linoleum. My public librarian then was Sharon Grover (@sharongrover2), now at the Hedberg Public Library. I loved her summer reading programs. Summers were a stream of bag lunches, presenters, musicians, reading auctions and heaps of books to read. I was in elementary school when work began on a new library building across the street. Kids helped raise money for the project through a Walk-a-thon at the high school track. I still have a button that proclaims “I helped ‘foot’ the bill” from that event. It was fun to rediscover that lost item while in library school.
From kindergarten through sixth grade, I was blessed to have Evelyn Weible as my elementary school librarian at Northside elementary. This library was the physical heart of the school. Built in 1976, Northside was laid out on an open concept. The library could be entered from every angle. This was pretty fantastic when you were a book-addicted student; it was probably less fantastic when teaching in the library as sound carries.
Mrs. Weible made the library come to life. She had book character animals around the library, and a great reading voice. With her I traveled to Where the Wild Things Are. We had geography bees in the LGI next to the library, readathons where we traveled the stars in the hall and a visit from Kevin Henkes where I can still remember him drawing Lilly and her plastic purse. More than anything, Mrs. Weible had a vast knowledge of books. She always had recommendations for me. She first put Lloyd Alexander in my hands in that library. It is where I first read Lord of the Rings. Each visit, we could pick up to six books to take home (and there were times when six was not enough!). I have a list of suggested titles from her still tucked away.
Not only was my library a book haven, it was also a place with some pretty cool technology for the 1980s with our first school computer lab mixed into the library as well. The first time I ever saw a screensaver was in that library (flying toasters). Mrs. Weible introduced me to Storybook Weaver, which could make some pretty fun illustrated stories.
Mrs. Weible passed away last summer. I wish I had been able to tell her that I too had become a librarian and that in many ways she still sets the standard for me on what an excellent librarian should be. My supervisor at my first library job did give Mrs. Weible a high school paper of mine about how much Mrs. Weible’s library meant to me once upon a time.
From those early experiences to my first job as a library page, creating a school library independent study in college to my decision to start library school after several years as a classroom assistant, school libraries got in my blood. I hope to work in libraries for years to come.
What are your favorite childhood experiences in libraries?