The genesis of a librarian

I didn’t grow up wanting to be a librarian. I either wanted to be a doctor, or in the starting rotation for the Mets.

I was a skinny kid with no control, so the pitching career was out. And doctoring lost its allure for no apparent reason.

I had ideas of being an artist. A funny thing happened to that, though. As a kid, I could draw very well. But as I grew into my teenage years, and slowly uncovered my vocation for writing, my drawing skills deteriorated as my writing grew better. Of course, one could easily say that was due to the fact that I spent more time writing than I did drawing. But don’t give me that psycho-mumbo claptrap. I traded one gift for another, a gift which I used more or less all right, for a gift which has sustained me all these years. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

But, there was still the matter of a career. I went into UCLA with the intention of entering its computer science program. Another funny thing happened, this time to my math and science skills: as I got better at writing, I became worse at math and science. This fact was brought home indelibly to me one quarter, where in a fit of madness I took physics and calculus at the same time. I pretty much bombed in both. That was the moment when I had to engage in serious reflection, and accept that I wouldn’t traverse the usual first-generation American trajectory of going to university and getting a degree in the sciences which would secure me gainful employment. I declared English as my major. My mother didn’t weep, and I spent the following three years very happily at UCLA.

But, STILL, there was the problem of a career. I’m of Generation X, and we’re an ornery sort. We knew we’d been screwed by the Boomers, that all we could finagle were McJobs, that our Social Security would be left bankrupt, that the world was against us. I saw MTV devolve from a somewhat revolutionary music channel to a purveyor of awful reality shows. I saw Reagan set the country on a rightward path to such an extent that we’re still recovering from it. I saw late night black and white movies on our local independent TV stations replaced by infomercials. I saw those damned kids not getting off of my lawn. And I had no idea what to do with my life.

I toiled in retail (Pier 1 Imports, if you must know). I took a few computer classes and landed in telecom, when it was still a thing. I somehow lasted in that industry for over a decade. And by the end I hated every waking moment of my life.

This is the thing about telecom: it’s a business for sharks and charlatans. My boss was the smarmiest goat-fucker you’d ever meet. He’d promise you the moon, then reach into your pocket while you were dazzled by him. And everyone in the telecom canyon of downtown Los Angeles was like him, screwing everyone else, trying to stay afloat. By 2004 I loathed myself.

My stutter didn’t help. I felt I was in a situation where I had to cling to my job, as no one else would hire me. (I know, I was grossly exaggerating; but when you have an affliction like a stutter, it does color how you view the world. But that’s for another blog post.)

Around 2004, a few things converged to change everything. I’d been under a doctor’s care for my stutter for a year, and had seen a marked improvement in my speech. That spurred me to the realization that, yes, I had to get out of that place.

After receiving my undergraduate degree, I had thought about attending UCLA’s library science program. I even passed the GRE with more than decent scores. But the thought of going right back to school didn’t sit well with meโ€”even though, frankly, I had nothing else better to do. So I wandered in the wilderness until telecom had almost sucked me dry, and took the plunge. I got into San Jose State University’s program, stormed through it, applied everywhere, and found the job at which I am now.

In the end, I didn’t choose to be a librarian because it was a “good enough” job. I had been thinking of doing it for over a decade. I just needed the right confluence of factors to get me going.

In the stories about my adventures in librarianship which I shall post, you will see a lot of sardonic humor, of an amazement at the incapacity of human beings to see beyond their own noses. Being a public librarian brings you into contact with the full spectrum of human life, both bad and good.

But I love my job. As much as I’m sure I am to be a writer, I’m equally certain that I’m in the right place for my paying gig. Sometimes the 2% of bad interactions weigh on me. But in almost no time I slough them off, and focus on the 98% of people who are simply wonderful and are grateful for the help I give them.

So, in the reboot of this blog (which will be much more varied than it has been), I hope you’ll join me. It’s going to be an interesting ride.

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21 thoughts on “The genesis of a librarian

    • This is a wonderful story and how you ended up where you are. Sounds much like my own life’s journey; leaving 29 years of Wall Street, and found my “true love and calling in teaching.”

        • Lord knows I tried CarolMaeWY,

          When the industry changed (company first – investors last), I had to step back and look at the moral aspects of investing. Companies were pushing “their own products” whether it was the right thing for the investor or not. I finally took a 1 year sabbatical and accidentally ran into the very thing (teaching) that I ran from and the rest is history. I knew that it was going to be a matter of time before Wall Street would crumble and people would get hurt. The risk taking was just unbelievable and sadly we witnessed the affects of greed.

            • Yes! I love taking the students out of their comfort zone, and they are always amazed at what they can do. I give them “lots” of praise and words of encouragement, reminding them that they can be the President of the USA one day. I also tutor , and it is amazing just to witness how young people are so far behind in mathematics and science. So I don’t allow them to get comfortable with D’s and C’s. I push them and it does hurt but then when they get an A or B in these subject areas,there is no dollar price that can compensate me, when I see them smile, laugh and or cry because they have succeeded. That is the joy that fills me up; knowing that I am paving the way for someone’s child to graduate, enter college and go out into the world and do great things, and I always remind them, that includes being the President of the United States, if you want it.

              • You must be one of the Greatest teachers Of all time Cindy! Have you won teaching awards? I can’t imagine having a teacher like that when I was young. Where do you get your energy, from the kids? Keep going on. ๐Ÿ˜ A+

                • You know, I just give them the same love, words of encouragement and the same push that I gave to my own child. Now, she took education to a whole new level of learning; earning 2 Bachelors, 2 Masters, an MBA and a Ph.D. A child coming from a high school mother (12th grade) with no direction about life, but I knew and believed that education would be the key. I asked her, why did you keep going, I would have been happy with the 1 Bachelor’s that you earned. She replied; mom, the more I learned the more I wanted to learn, you taught me that knowledge is power. In fact, she was the one who encouraged me to go and teach. Telling me-with such passion; mom, bottle what you gave to me and go out and give it to all of the students. That’s when I knew it was time to stop running and face my calling : ) , and it all happened when I was on leave. Leave it to kids to sometimes know what is right for their parents because we don’t always have the answers.

                  Yes, the kids keep me going. By the way, I am old school when it comes to education. Teach so the child will learn and if they learn it, they will pass these standardized tests. The problem today, students are being taught to take a test and the learning is never fully implemented. However, when parents enroll their child into my tutorial program, I am able to “teach” and they learn, which it is how they did it for us back in the days when their were no calculators. Okay, I’m telling my age : ) but I tell students, I never knew what a calculator was during my school years. So, of course they can’t use them with me.

              • Thank you so much for being such a dedicated teacher, Cindy. Having a teacher that can motivate a child to push themselves to be their best can have such a great influence on them as they go through life. I’m sure your students were very appreciative.

                • Thank you sjterrid for your kind words. Yes, it’s a love hate relationship we go through : )
                  But they know that I care and I am pushing them into greatness. The best part of all of this, is when they discover that they are better than average; build their confidence and they will fly like eagles. : ) I am mother eagle pushing them out of the nest so that they can learn how to fly before they fall.

  1. I’m so glad that you found your way to a career as a librarian that you love. Can’t wait to read your stories about the people you come in contact with in the library, or anything else you decide to write about.

  2. Librarians and teachers have much in common. We both love what we do, and want to help others. I am thrilled with the new YOUNG librarians at the college where I teach. They are enthusiastic as can be, and my students respond to their enthusiasm. Our library has become the cool place to be. (The powers that be tried to rename it The Learning Resource Center; but it is the Library to everyone. One word that says it all.)
    Like Cindy who discovered teaching after another career, I cannot imagine life without teaching. It is like breathing, necessary for life. Thank you Cindy for preparing these children for college. The opportunity to see a student say “Oh, I get it!” is what we work for. That is a beautiful sight and a wonderful feeling.

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