Guest Post: The Life and Times of a New Librarian – Meet Benji

by Elizabeth on November 23, 2011 · 2 comments

in guest post, jobs, librarians, librarianship

Yes, the series is back!  And with all new contributors!  Every Wednesday from now until the end of the year, we will hear from a new librarian telling his or her story.  I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I enjoy posting them! 

It wasn’t my plan to become a children’s librarian. I didn’t take ANY Children’s classes in library school, unless you count Storytelling. When I worked at Barnes and Noble, when we first opened the new store, management approached me about becoming the Children’s lead. I turned it down because I didn’t want to do the weekly story time. I wish I could have seen into the future.  These days, I’m doing three story times on a slow week.

My plan, after library school, was to continue working my extremely low-paying bookseller job while I tried to find a library job. I wanted to work in a public library, but I was really willing to work at any library, except as a cataloger. I knew I didn’t want to do that.

My plans changed, drastically when my wife, Ashley, and I found out that we were expecting our first baby.  I immediately started filling out applications all over the country. It seemed like the rejection letters were coming in faster than I was sending the applications. One evening, I received an email from an organization called Teach Memphis encouraging me to apply with Memphis City Schools . I’m still not entirely sure how they got my information, but I applied one afternoon while waiting for class to start. I had to write a few essays, but I didn’t put in much effort. I still wasn’t sure that Teach Memphis wasn’t some sort of scam organization. I knew that you were supposed to have a teaching license to be a school librarian, and I didn’t have one (still don’t ). I wrote my essays , but without much hope. I didn’t really want to move to Memphis anyways.

A few weeks later, I received another email from Teach Memphis. I had been selected for an interview event.  I emailed them back letting them know I didn’t have a teaching license, and that I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time by driving to Memphis, just to be turned away. They told me it didn’t matter, and that I should come to the event. Ashley and I decided to make a road trip of it. We took some friends along, and they explored Memphis while I attended the interview event.

To keep this from getting too long, I’ll fast forward through a summer of excruciating waiting. I was hired at a middle school, two days before school staff was supposed to report to work. I didn’t want to move to Memphis, but I wanted a job, and I was excited about getting my own library.  I could write volumes about my year there. There were many ups, a lot more downs, and a lot of in between, but this post is about how I got to where I am, not where I was.  There were so many things I hated about that job, but I honestly loved working with the kids, and that stuck with me, even after I left to get away from the awfulness that is Memphis City Schools.

When things fell apart with getting my license renewed, Ashley and I decided to move to Virginia. I had family there, and there were jobs open. We believed that something would fall though.  I wasn’t selected for interviews for most of the jobs, and wasn’t selected after interviews for a few more. Eventually, I was hired at a branch library in Charlottesville. I knew the moment I walked in that I wanted to work there. Everyone was so friendly, the kids area was colorful and lively. You could tell it would be a really fun place to work.

I am a Children’s Specialist here. I plan and conduct story times and events, but since I’m at a small branch,  I also spend a lot of time working in circulation, answering reference and reader advisory questions for kids and adults, and basically doing everything most public librarians do. (except cataloging.)

The job isn’t perfect, but it’s great. I would like to become a head Children’s librarian or a branch manager, one day, but for now, I’m putting all my energies into serving the people of Charlottesville, young and old, the best that I can.

Benji is a children’s librarian, a husband a father, and cares a little bit too much about Alabama football.  You can find him on Twitter.

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