Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What I Wish I'd Learned in Library School.

What is a library?

This might seem obvious, but it's not. You also might think that it's something one might want to already know before applying to library school, but again, not obvious. It's like thinking you know what a business is before you enter Business school. There are probably ten thousand different kinds of businesses and ten thousand different ways to manage them. The same with libraries.

Libraries are essentially businesses. They are also government. They are public or private, funded by grants, foundations, donations, millage taxes, sales taxes and fees. I still don't have a fucking clue of all the ways that libraries can be funded.

They buy books or lease them. They process in-house or contract it out, or both. They own the land where the buildings reside or they lease or there could be some long-term donation involved. Again, many combinations.

They hire full-time and part-time people and ask the community for volunteers, promote from within or hire from outside, provide formal classes and on-the-job training.

Even after all these years of being a librarian, I still only have a tiny narrow idea of how a library functions. You might think I'm being flippant, but I'm not. There are so many aspects to the job that you can't possibly know what you'll need to know until you need to know it.

You can't prepare for every library job. Sure, you think you want to know about graphic design now, but in your next job it might not matter. Or maybe you think you should have learned more about computers. And then take a workshop and you realize you already know enough to do your job now.

The point is that all this woulda, coulda, shoulda, thinking is fine for commenting on your blog. But don't dwell on it. What happened in library school stays in library school. You're a librarian now, why the fuck are you still bitching about school?

What did I learn in library school? Whatever fit into my schedule that got me the credits to get my degree. I have no complaints.

I don't understand these people who look back at library school as if it failed them somehow. You learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can, so you don't waste too much money as costs increase over the years. And then you get that degree and look for work. Or if you're lucky, get the degree while you're already working.

You use the degree to get hired. Then you observe what's going on and how your new position relates to those around you. You apply new knowledge to old. You fuck up. But not enough to get fired. And you learn. And you succeed. And you backstab and kiss ass to get promoted. There's no fucking mystery to it.


  1. BRAVO!!!!! They should put this post in big red letters on every application to every library school in the country.

  2. Makes sense to me. I remember my last paper. I was on a lot of Nyquil...I just kept using the word 'postmodern' a lot and dropped Derrida in for no good reason. Got the A.