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What's your calling?

A few days ago, I had two people approach me in the library and ask me if there were any jobs going. This is not unusual, I probably get a couple of people a week asking about work.  I work in a pretty flash, modern-looking library (and it's a fabulous place to work) so I can totally understand why a lot of people ask about jobs.

It made me think of one of my posts a while back about the importance of understanding yourself and the things you enjoy. This is especially true when it comes to choosing a career path.  I don't know if I ever mentioned that I used to be a scientist of sorts.  A Clinical Research Associate, which basically is a fancy job title for someone who manages human clinical trials for drug companies.  It was a great job for many years, but it was very stressful and I literally had no life outside of work.  The pay was outstanding and light years above my current salary; but did this make me happy? Nup. Not at all.

So fast-forward a few years.  I quit my research job and after a series of unfortunate (or maybe fortunate?) life events, I found myself at the ripe old age of 35 living with my parents, with no job and no immediate prospects.  But I also had no commitments or debt, or even really any possessions as I had sold them all.  So there I was.  My life was a blank slate.  At that time I could have pretty much choosen to pursue anything - all I had to do was imagine what it was that I wanted from life. This is most definitely no easy feat.

Eventually I thought to ask myself; "When in life have I been the happiest?".

In the library, of course!  I imagine this is how a lot of us get started as Librarians.  We loved the library as kids, loved it as teenagers, and still have a strong love of books as adults. Through all stages of my life, the ups and downs and the phases and the different houses and jobs and friends, wherever I was I was still a lover of books.  I get a lot of joy from reading and from crafting words. Once this dawned on me, choosing to do my Grad Dip in Library and Information Management was a no-brainer.

But I have to admit being a little seduced by the appearance of Librarianship, rather than the reality (can everyone remember studying that theme in their English high-school texts?!).  I was in love with the idea of Librarian, without really researching the realities.  I honestly didn't know WHAT a Librarians' day would involve - I guess I kind of imagined a utopia where I would help people find fabulous books to read, or uncover the answers to interesting questions, maybe run a few book clubs and what not.  Now in all honesty some of my job is actually a manifestation of this utopia. What other job pays you to chat, drink coffee and eat biscuits with highly entertaining seniors? Or play lego with kids?  Or handle awesome new books all day?  Or dress up in cosplay for work?  Or create awesome and imaginative displays?  But I also must say that this is definitely not the day-to-day norm.  For the most par, my day is helping people with computers and printing.  A LOT of computers and printing and photocopying... with maybe a bit more on the side.  Then maybe memberships and related overdues and holds queries, followed by people looking for an actual book or other physical item. I have also had the odd tidbit of readers advisory, and then waaaaay down the list is the reference query.  As an aside I did actually get a reference query of a sort the other day from a gentleman seeking information on the history of Russian postage stamps from 1856 - 1915 or thereabouts!

Keep in mind the ratios of these tasks will vary across different library services with different corporate structures and a different kind of community to serve, but I think it's safe to say the handling, recommending and discussion of books will definitely make up a smaller percentage of the job than you may imagine.  So, new and shiny Librarian (or soon-to-be new and shiny Librarian), ask yourself - what do you envisage the job to be?  Are you prepared for adjusting that vision once you hit the workforce?  Would love to hear everyone's thoughts!


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