If you had tried to go to one of our branches on Friday, September 15, you probably quickly noticed that you couldn’t. That’s because our branches were closed for ‘Staff Day,’ a mini JCLS-only library conference that features keynotes, workshops, training, and fun. 

It’s a time for all (almost 200) of us to be physically together. For some of us, it was the first time we saw each other outside a computer screen. 

As I was wracking my brain coming up with a topic for today’s post, I thought back to Staff Day and its theme: Watershed Moments. 

To steal  borrow from the Staff Day handout: 

The word ‘watershed’ is used literally to mean an area of land that divides the flow of separate rivers or the high ridge from which water flows into a body of water. 

A watershed moment is a turning point, the exact moment that changes the direction of an activity or situation. A watershed moment is a dividing point from which things will never be the same. It is considered momentous, though often recognized in hindsight. 

I talked about a sort of watershed moment in my last post: the changing of my role from Youth Services Coordinator to Programs Coordinator. But Staff Day had me thinking about all of the other watershed moments that led me to work in the library. 

These moments could probably be traced back to childhood – surely I could connect the dots from my bookish childhood to my working in youth librarianship – but I’ll spare you all of that history. 

Let’s start with my undergraduate degree. 

At Southern Oregon University, I studied writing, English, and art. That’s when I thought, “Maybe I should be an art curator?” and started thinking about graduate school opportunities. 

SOU is also where I fell in love with (and spent a lot of time in) the Hannon Library — a place I was happy to revisit during Staff Day. I spent many hours sitting in this exact spot, reading, writing (and sometimes napping). 

It was also in that exact spot that I thought, “What if I became a librarian?” 

So here I was presented with a choice.  

I applied to a whopping two schools (one for Museum Studies and one for Library Science), hoping that would make my choice. 

I got into both schools. 

This exact watershed moment is hard for me to pin down. Maybe it was the moment I decided to focus my capstone project on the history of children’s literature, deepening my interest in readers advisory and collection development in some ways. Maybe it was when a professor said, “My wife is a librarian; you two should meet and talk.” Maybe it was when I learned about the Phoenix Library and its cats. Maybe it was just my continued time at the Hannon Library. 

Maybe it was one of those things; maybe it was all those things and more. Maybe with more hindsight, I’ll be able to pinpoint it. 

But sitting in that Hannon Library nook on Staff Day, I thought about something else. I thought about all the people that come into the library and whether they are going through their watershed moment. What brought them to read that particular book, attend that specific program, or come into the building on that particular day? Sometimes, the reason is simple: they needed it for book club, it sounded fun, or it was too hot out.   

But I have to wonder if one of our libraries has been a watershed moment, or part of one, for them, and they just haven’t realized it yet. 

The library provides so many opportunities for this to happen. Someone could use our computers to turn in a college or job application that could change the course of their life. Maybe they attend a program and find a new passion — or a new friendship. Maybe they discover something they didn’t know about themselves or their roots through our genealogy databases.  

The library is a type of watershed: a place for connecting people with information, ideas, and each other. In that way, it serves as a type of river carrying people to new possibilities. I invite you to come check them out.