Almost a year ago I accompanied my daughter on her college interviews. When asked what she planned to study, she chose a predictable major because it was the safe answer. She and I had many a discussion about using college to explore all possibilities, and I mentioned that had I to do it all over again, I would have chosen a different path entirely. I am happy to report that when it came time to declare her major recently, she followed my advice; at least for now she is a philosophy major.
Two careers and a job later, as a result of those discussions, I realized I have been a frustrated librarian for most of my life. As a life-long “bookie,” I wish I had known about library science when I was in college, earning a B.S. in Political Science, then a Master’s in Public Administration, so that I could have focused on reading and sharing my love for reading and gaining knowledge with others. That’s not to say my first two careers didn’t bring unwanted skills because both in municipal management and as the publisher of a book-related website I’ve gained skills that will no doubt ease my transition back into academia and onto a new career path.
My first career, as a collections manager for the City of Dallas, taught me how to manage people under considerable pressures from citizens and elected officials, enhanced my writing skills, and introduced me to both mainframe and personal computers at a time when the latter was a brand new innovation. My husband and I were the first people we knew with a personal computer, and I was one of the “go-to” staff for other managers in my department when it came to setting up computerized spreadsheets; I also learned how to set up rudimentary databases, all on a computer I’d rescued from the trash-bin after another department with a bigger budget got new computers.
My second career, as the founder in 1997 and publisher of an extremely popular book-related website (All About Romance), enhanced those management skills – of approximately 20 volunteer staff world-wide at any given time - and brought on a new set of self-taught skills, including html and graphics/flash design. I learned how to build web pages, first from hand and later with an html editor, set up templates for others to use, and created advertising campaigns for authors, publishers, and other advertisers. It was trial by fire to learn how to handle an entirely different kind of “customer” through interaction with thousands of readers who visited the site on a daily basis, and how to write, not for city managers and an elected council, but in an entertaining way for our readers. I established and moderated forums during a time when few “home-grown” sites were interactive, and as the site grew to include more than 5,000 reviews, hired a company to help me create a complex database with a dozen search options. Setting up and maintaining internal controls, multiple levels of editing, as well as dealing with difficult artistic personalities and conducting daily statistical analysis challenged my brain in entirely new ways, all because of the breadth and depth of the site’s original content, which included commentary, polls both small and large, Reader’s Advisory lists, dozens of “special title listings” focusing on specific premises and/or character types for readers, author interviews, and nearly a hundred articles on history (primarily European) for an Historical Cheat Sheet.
Early on I also began to review for Publishers Weekly magazine. I continue that part-time position for two editors – mass market and hardcover fiction – thirteen years and close to 300 reviews later, honing my skills in a third, “staff” type of writing less theatrical and more disciplined than my online writing.
Toward the end of 2008 I left All About Romance. The site continues, better than ever, with several of my former staff in charge. After more than a decade I needed to leave my study and get back into the world, so I started working part time at a local Barnes and Noble. I’m the store’s number one hand-seller because there is little I love more than matching books to people, and I’m totally devoted to giving the best service to every single customer I encounter. Recently I’ve become part of the store’s Nook team, not only because I’ve been reading digitally since before e-book devices went wireless, but because I love technology and new challenges.
Everything I’ve learned and gained confidence in – management, writing, research, organizing data, serving customers, adjusting to changing technologies and taking full advantage of them, and translating a love of reading into a vocation – led me to discover my desire to become a librarian. Although it’s a scary prospect to consider going back to school and a new career, I’m a firm believer that it’s never too late to start something new, and I look forward to the challenge of obtaining a second Master’s degree and beginning the next phase in my life.
I wrote and submitted that essay last month to the College of Information at the University of North Texas and the Department of Library and Information Sciences, along with letters of recommendation and my undergraduate and graduate school transcripts. Half an hour ago I received my acceptance and plan to begin my coursework for a Master's in Library Science in January.