I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I became a librarian.
I didn’t always want to be a librarian.
For the longest time, I wanted to be a paleontologist.
I was a “dinosaur kid.” I loved everything about dinosaurs, and I couldn’t get enough of them—both non-fiction books about real dinosaurs and fictionalized dinosaurs’ worlds. If it had a dinosaur in it, I loved it. And I knew that I wanted my life to be about dinosaurs, so when adults asked me what I wanted to “be when I grew up,” I said, “paleontologist.”
This lasted until middle school. Math was starting to be tough for me. Like—really tough, and a teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said paleontologist, and she said, in so many words, that I should “pick something else.” She continued to tell me that I didn’t have the science and math type of brain needed for that dream.
She tried to spin it positively—telling me that I had the skills to pursue art, writing, and “that type of stuff” and that “it’s great to have people with all types of brains in the world,” bla bla bla.
All I heard at the time was—”you’re not smart enough for this dream.”
So, I picked a new one. I gave up on dinosaurs and pursued art, writing, and English and Language Arts. I joined the Scrabble club, took dance classes, took photography, calligraphy, and a class called “Art for Children” in high school, and pursued English and creative writing in college. I loved all those things. I loved creating and being around other people who created, but I still felt like I was missing out. I felt like I was missing out on working in a field that was constantly learning new things, constantly discovering new things.
And as an aside, I know that there are lots of changes in the arts. These changes are marked in history. But for me, at the time, I really wanted to be able to know I was doing or discovering something new in the moment instead of looking back on it or in retrospect.
Anyway. It was the year before I was set to graduate from college—and I realized that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was on the path to being a teacher. Still, I was less confident in that answer than I ever was about wanting to be a paleontologist.
So I did what any college student who is in the middle of an existential crisis would do—I panicked.
Then after I was done panicking, I talked to some professors that I trusted about my dilemma. I expressed that while I love art and reading and writing, I also wanted to do something that would create some change. I wanted to do something that would evolve quickly, and I wanted to do something that would keep me learning. I wanted something both creative and science-y. And a professor said:
“It sounds like you want to be a librarian.”
Then I thought about my own history with libraries. I went to the library A LOT as a kid. I lived just down the street from one and would go there to play on the computer and check out dinosaur books and Goosebumps books.
Although I went less often as a teen, now that I had a computer in the house, I still checked out books and magazines.
In college, I found the library to be a quiet place to write… and sometimes study.
I never imagined myself working in one.
But I’m glad that my professor did.
I spent that final year of college pursuing this new dream in my head, talking with librarians, and eventually applying to graduate school.
And now I’m a librarian.
It is a beautiful mix of arts and science. It is a constantly evolving field (as the pandemic has shown), and I really feel like I am constantly discovering new things in it. Sometimes it can be overwhelming—but so can anything, really.
I also get to help kids (and adults, to some degree) find books and materials about the things they are passionate about. To help them grow in their interests. And maybe one day, the kid who asks me for a dinosaur book will be a paleontologist when they grow up—and maybe they won’t. Either way, the dinosaur books are here for them.
I don’t know if I would have actually ever been a paleontologist. But thankfully, I work in a building with a TON of books on dinosaurs to let me rediscover that love—and find some new ones, too.
So, whether you’re pivoting careers, trying a new hobby, or wanting to bring back your long-lost “dinosaur kid,”—you can do that at the library.
The librarians are here to help.