Granted, I’m not entirely sure what’s going to come out of me as I write my first post in five days…just try to bear with me. One of the things that has been on my mind, is employment. Particularly, working in the private sector of the economy, as versus governmental infrastructure. (In the United States, Public Libraries are governmental institutions, as it is not possible to maintain a liberal democracy with an uneducated public.)
Or…being able to specialize and work in a job in which I know the answers to questions, as versus working in a public service position where all day, I’m asked questions I don’t immediately know the answers to. Maybe I just need to work on my phrasing, like, “Let me see if I can help you find an answer to that,” rather than, “I don’t know, but I’ll try” (which is how I feel, a lot of the time — even though, a lot of the time, I can help them find their answer).
Yes, it’s true: “librarians” don’t possess encyclopedic knowledge about the world. We just know how to navigate the world of information in order to find sources in which your questions might be able to be answered. (I put “librarians” in quotes because not everyone who works in a library is a Librarian — but everyone who works there is assumed to be, by many, many people. Kind of like some people assume the title of, “Public Servant,” to be a hierarchical statement, which it is not. The people at the DMV are not slaves. Neither am I.)
That also doesn’t mean we’ve read all the books. That’s one of those things I learned as a Library Aide (i.e. Shelver), from the professional Librarians.
And I’m kind of tired. I mean, seriously. I’ve only been in this position for nine months (2.5 of which have been on lockdown), and the amount of time I’ve spent having to draw off of my own resources because of system downtime and the like…it’s incredible.
Well — I have been on lockdown for over 70 days, which has caused me to realize how much stress I do have about going in to work. I’ve just been doing it because I’ve felt I had to. Like there was nothing better.
To be honest, a lot of getting into this field had to do with salary, emotional safety, and health benefits — along with the fact that writing, for pretty much all of my undergraduate years, had been one of my only constants (the other was my family). That, in turn, happened because during my freshman year — at a different University — I realized that being asked to write nothing for months, and then turn in a huge paper at the end of the quarter, wasn’t working for me.
I was also aware of being gender-different, somewhere in there, though I didn’t quite realize it until I met people who identified as transgender (and actually figured out what the “T” in “LGBT” meant, and that it was separate from issues of sexual attraction). I’m not sure when that was, exactly: I wasn’t keeping a journal, back then. It’s kind of like I can’t tell if I was actually required to write a 60-page paper at the end of the quarter, or if it just felt that way.
But there were so many things that threw me for a loop in early college. Not kidding. Sociology was one of them. And I did really love my Astronomy course. And my Japanese language classes.
The problem was the extremely high ratio of freshmen to everyone else on the campus (I went despite knowing there was a 60% freshmen turnover rate, which was my fault). There were also unresolved problems with infrastructure, culture, and the fact that at the time I graduated (from a different [commuter] University), pretty much all of my debt had been accrued while I was living in the dorms or apartments, from my first 5 quarters.
Still: living on my own was a really liberating experience, for me. I can’t say I now approve of everything I did, because I obviously was being impacted by an undiagnosed mental disorder at the time; but just to get away from my parents and everyone who knew me (well, most of them), that was instrumental in being able to figure out who I was. Because at the end of high school, I really didn’t know.
Looking back on it, I would have done better to go to Junior College first, and then transfer into a University program after I had better self-knowledge. And, you know, a plan. That wasn’t what happened, though.
Then there is the fact that through most of my College and University years…I’ve been going through without Advisement. I didn’t know how important it was at my first University (where it was not mandatory), and I don’t really remember much of it at my second University. Then, in Grad School…if I had not withdrawn and later returned, I might have had access to a student advisor. Junior College (which I returned to after Undergrad and before Grad School) is the place I remember having people who would actually try to help me figure out a life path.
As it was, no one signed me up for an advisor when I re-entered the system in Graduate work. I tried to get one and was told that the program I had been told about didn’t exist. There was also another feed I was supposed to be signed up for when I re-entered, which I only found out I was missing out on during my last semester when I tried to graduate.
Having worked in a Library for 10 years, I was also repeatedly told by my parents that I, “didn’t need an Internship,” when it was recommended by my school to take at least two or three before graduation. I do have experience, but all of it has been within the same County system, and all (aside from schoolwork, which had me branching out into an Archive) within Public Libraries.
So…you can see my path has been kind of fraught. Not to mention that my upper-division courses in Undergrad were focused on Fiction writing…which is known not to pay the bills. (I didn’t know it at the time I entered the major, however.) That is why I went into Librarianship, because Librarianship, at least, could earn a decent income, and I could double-task my reading. By that, I mean that working in a Public Library requires at least some reading, and writing your own fiction most definitely requires reading others’ work.
(Not that it really…is pressing on me to write a novel, anymore. Things might change if I went back to reading fiction. There’s just so much that I haven’t seen come out, which I could give life to. But if I don’t read it, I don’t notice the gaping holes in content.)
Earlier on, I also had my eye on San Francisco Public, which was one of the only places in the country, at the time, to cover Female-to-Male reconstructive chest surgery. Otherwise, it was a $7000 out-of-pocket expense. Regular health insurance wouldn’t cover it (though this was around a decade ago; some HMOs will cover this surgery, now).
I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted; and I’ve ended up not taking the option, as I’ve realized that what’s going on with me is more complicated than, “being a man.” I’m not really a man. I also knew — as someone with a disability requiring lifelong care (no, I don’t mean my gender issues) — that in an era before the Affordable Care Act, I actually needed health care. At the very least, I needed mental health and pharmacy coverage: the medication I was put on to treat one of my diagnoses (at its worst, it’s life-threatening if untreated), was extremely expensive.
Of course, the patent has expired and now we’re into generics for that one medication, so it is no longer a huge price gouge. But for a time, it was — or would have been, had I been kicked off of my medical coverage after I aged out of the system and had to reapply with a, “preexisting condition,” which the same HMO had diagnosed. At the time, it was legal to charge exorbitant rates if one needed health insurance and wasn’t totally healthy…which undermines the reason behind health insurance existing, but I digress.
During my college years, I did read: and I read a lot. The thing is…I hardly read a lot, on my own. I did it to fulfill assignments, and to learn; with the major exception being learning about Buddhism and Occultism in my University Library. (They actually had Gems from the Equinox!) The problem I can see here is that my reading choices reflect my own hangups and concerns about the state of the world. So…they aren’t the most enjoyable things to read. They are, however, oddly comforting. (Even A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking, gives me some respite: if the end of life is actually an end, that means I don’t have to deal with this world being messed up for an age or so, as doctrines of reincarnation, rebirth, or Hell, suggest.)
At this point I know that people getting killed off by disease, for example, has been a norm in enough of the rest of the times and peoples of the world, that I shouldn’t really be surprised if it becomes a norm, now. Also, heard about the end-Permian extinction (a.k.a. “The Great Dying”)? There was about 9x as much carbon dioxide (from vulcanism) in the air as there is today (if I recall correctly: from The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, by Stephen Brusatte). Most life on the planet died off. But as a biosphere, we made it through, somehow.
What’s going on now…dense population centers and ease of global transportation have made it easy for microorganisms to spread. Whereas before, an outbreak like COVID-19 may have occurred, the effects would have been localized. The virus causing the illness may have died out (it’s never a good idea for a being dependent on its hosts, to kill them off — did I read that in The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton? And if so, was he talking about us?).
The conditions we have put in place, however, have enabled, “one weedy species,” to take hold, and instead of the disappearance of Panamanian Golden Frogs, it’s affecting our species directly, this time. (The quote is from The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert, page unknown. [Sorry, I decided not to mark up the book until later…])
I wonder if I do read a lot.
Well. I have, in the past. But obviously, not widely enough. It was in high school that I realized I didn’t know how to write female characters. That should have told me something; what it did tell me, I’m not sure. Perhaps, that I was not a woman.
But I believe, from this point looking back, that this development (or lack of one) was largely in relation to not having been exposed to effective, original, fully-developed woman characters with emotional range in the majority of the books I had to read as I was growing up (the major exception being the “Dragonriders of Pern” series by Anne McCaffrey, though I didn’t really see those characters as being gendered, and I didn’t have to read them).
I mean, yeah, we read Ellison and Hemingway and Golding. But name an influential female character in Invisible Man, or Lord of the Flies, or pretty much anything by Hemingway. They aren’t there.
Then there is Anne Rice, whom I may get titters at for having read when I was a teen. (She used to write erotica under the name, “A. N. Roquelaure”…it’s disturbing. Seriously. My University Library had some of it — I made the mistake of reading it.)
Now that I think of it, though: Akasha in The Vampire Lestat was a main player (even though she was likely literally insane). Same with Claudia, though I can’t recall ever actually having read Claudia’s story (I think it was contained in Interview with the Vampire, which I never read…it was kind of painful, being one of Rice’s earlier books). And there is Gabrielle (Lestat’s mother), who comes in as a deus ex machina at the end of Vampire Lestat.
Then there is Violin, which was more interesting to me. Nor have I read her “Mayfair Witches” series. Now that I look it up on Wikipedia, I wonder if I want to…ugh.
Also, the fact that she is a female author writing these things…I would suggest could contribute to the idea that women, you know, can have personalities. But there is the question of why so many of her main characters are male, as well: Louis, Lestat, Nicki, Armand, Marius.
Maybe she had the same problem I did; just having been exposed to so little material that writing female characters who matter, and have personalities and lives and power, and who don’t circle around men, becomes difficult. Also, as a lot of this stuff blends with history…the womens’ stories may just have been too painful to write (though I can see that angle coming in with the Mayfair Witches saga).
So I guess there is stuff out there…it may just not be anything “classical” (unless you’re looking at Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and the like, which…seriously, I hated having to read. Almost as frustrating as getting to page 400-out-of-600-something in Moby Dick [after which, I gave up], but not quite).
Maybe I underestimate the amount I’ve read…maybe majoring in Creative Writing and being around a huge number of prolific readers, can do that to you?
The question I started out with at the beginning of this post was, “If I’m not going to be a Librarian, what am I going to be?” That is still not clear. What this post has clarified for me, though, is that maybe I actually do have a good shot at being a Librarian. Even if I have a side job for a while, working in a bead store or for a small fabric store. Just out of love.
I don’t know that I’ll ever have to set up my own database, but if I do, I’ve had practice at it, already. But what’s clear is that I’m getting a bit old to be consciously attempting to follow in my Dad’s footsteps. I don’t have to be a Web Developer if I don’t want to be. (He wasn’t even ever really a Web Developer — he just worked intensely with computer systems.)
There is a course that has come up, which I’m pretty sure will be useful for me; at least, if I continue in the role that I’m in now, or become a Public Services Librarian. It has to do with dealing with customers with active/untreated psychiatric disorders. (It happens very, very often in Public Libraries.) Essentially, this class will help with any role that puts me into the front line of contact with the public — or into managing front-line workers.
That would apply in a good number of places; and would keep me safer where it comes to dealing with the public. In self-defense they teach how to kill people who are attacking one, but not how to effectively de-escalate a situation which hasn’t yet reached that point (like, if you don’t want to kill them or hurt them or touch them). The latter, I have to learn somewhere else. Which…is ridiculous, but hey. Some people specialize in the latter. It probably isn’t martial arts masters.
Public Services Librarianship isn’t my final goal, but it may be an intermediate step. From here, I think I’d be happy in Technical Services: specifically, Cataloging and Information Retrieval (including Metadata Librarianship), or Collection Assessment and Development — which will probably go by different names, if not different job functionality, by that time.
Particularly, there has recently been a merge between Technical Services (which also includes Acquisitions), Information Technology, and Management Sections which has happened within my professional association. So…however things go in the future, it does look like what I’ve been dealing with and interested in, may actually be possible from within the same Section. Whether that will trickle down to the division of labor within American libraries, is yet to be seen…