December 10, 2010

About to Make a Life Change

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.


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31 comments:

Sherri Browning Erwin said...

Congratulations, Laurie! Very cool. Best wishes.

Laurie Gold said...

Thanks, Sherri. Quite frankly, I'm scared because I'm not as smart as I was the first time around.

Vicky said...

Congratulations Laurie! As part of your former AAR team, I know of your talents first hand and still find myself in awe occasionally at all the various aspects of AAR. And I know it was your creative ability that made it so. I am certain you will have an impact in the world of library science as well.

Jo Leigh said...

Mazel tov, Laurie! What a brave thing to do, to follow your bliss. I wish you all good things along this new journey.

Laurie Gold said...

Vicky and Jo -

Thanks for your kind words. My bravery is owed, in large part, to my family. My husband for his constant encouragement and my daughter for the role model she's been as somebody willing to work hard to change for the better.

LinnieGayl said...

Congratulations, Laurie! This is wonderful news. And I'll have to disagree; I suspect you're much smarter now!

Best of luck.

Laurie Gold said...

LinnieGayl - You work in a university setting, so you're around academia all day. It's been almost 25 years since I set foot in a classroom. I'm more than a little intellectually flabby at this point.

Kate R said...

Congratulations! GREAT IDEA--That path makes perfect sense.

Laurie Gold said...

Thanks, Kate! It seems a no-brainer, and because I'm not afraid of technology, and libraries - both public and private - are going to be going digital over time, I think it's a win-win for me, regardless of where I end up.

Myretta said...

What a wonderful venture, Laurie. I'm very excited for you. Keep us posted.

Carol said...

Congratulations Laurie! I actually did my MLIS at North Texas many years ago and had a wonderful year there.

Phyl said...

Welcome to the profession! I hope you find it as rewarding as I have. I've met lots of wonderful people along the way.

CLM said...

That is wonderful news, Laurie. As someone who went back to school for a JD at 41, I know how scary it was but I loved it, despite working full time. Two things I recommend: one is befriend your classmates - a lot of older students just want to get in and out. They miss out on the friendship, the networking, and possibilty of enriching the academic experience. In addition, those friends are very helpful with notes when one has an emergency and misses class. Two, keep your eyes open for jobs at the university. Even if they aren't in your field, that could be a way to reduce the expense of the coursework. Alternatively, by volunteering at the university library, you could make great contacts, although I do see you more as a public library librarian. But you never know!

Blythe said...

Laurie, I'm so excited for you! This sounds wonderful. I'm a little envious too; I think I would have happily stayed in college forever if I could have gotten away with it.

vanessa jaye said...

Congratulations, Laurie! I think it's great that you'll be pursuing a late realized dream.

Laurie Gold said...

Myretta -

I came oh-so-close to calling you for one of my three recommendations (after all, I couldn't go to college or grad school professors 25 years hence as, if living, none would remember me), but you were saved from having to do so. ;)

Carol -

Thanks...but I'm not sure who you are. Can you illuminate me?

Phyl -

Thank you. Hope to serve the profession well.

Constance -

Before making my decision to do this, I contacted two friends w/MLIS degrees. One informed me that this is very much a "second career" kind of degree, and when I met the head of the department, he indicated the same thing. The program is non-traditional - three to five day seminars followed by online work - so the campus thing is not so likely, which actually works for me because it's an hour-plus drive each way from Dallas to Denton, but I'm not adverse to any of your suggestions regardless.

Blythe -

I have often said the same thing. Please let Ellen know...and ask if she can contact me. I can never seem to get through to her email.

Vanessa -

Thanks!

Donna said...

Congrats, Laurie... you'll be brilliant! I'm a little jealous; my mom wanted me to be a librarian, and there are days I wish I had done it.

I think you're probably ideally suited!

Laurie Gold said...

Thanks, Donna. It's something I never would have considered until I started working at B&N and gained confidence as a matcher of books w/readers. Given the way I love organizing books and finding all sorts of "boxes" to put them in (I mean that metaphorically), I do think I'm ideally suited for it, even if I end up in archiving or research.

Wendy said...

Well hot diggity dog - congrats Laurie!

Laurie Gold said...

Thanks, Super Librarian! Hope someday to have super powers of of my own.

Susan Grant said...

Congratulations on your new adventure! How exciting! I'm happy for you.

Rike said...

This sounds fantastic, Laurie! All the best for January, and I hope that you will find everything to your liking.

Anne MacFarlane said...

This sounds like a fabulous adventure and something your were born to do. When I was in my first year of university many years ago, my academic adviser suggested I go into library science. Didn't take her advice but damn, I wish I had. Can you tell I'm a tad bit envious?

Carol said...

I expected my earlier post to show my name as cawm. I'm a Canadian librarian who loves to read romance.

Laurie Gold said...

Thanks, Susan. I appreciate it. BTW, loved your news about your son. Rike and Anne, thank you guys as well. I met with my advisor this morning and am getting very excited about this new journey.

Carol, thanks for ID'ing yourself. I know you as cawm.

Laurie

Debbie F. said...

I just saw this! Laurie, I'm both happy for you and for the world of library science, which will be better for having you in it. Best wishes!

Laurie Gold said...

Thanks, Debbie!

CindyS said...

Congratulations! I think many people don't know what they really want to be when they grow up - until they actually grow up. I think you'll love it - good luck in your courses!

How long will it take you to get your Masters?

CindyS

Laurie Gold said...

Thanks, Cindy. Going full time would take two years, but I'm probably going to take 2 1/2 so I can keep doing PW reviews and kind of have a life.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Laurie - can't say I'm totally surprised since so many of your reviewers at AAR were/are librarians.

Welcome to the fold. A lot of us came to librarianship as a second (or third, or fourth) start. So, how long before we can recommend you for RWA's Librarian of the Year? (she asked only half-facetiously).
I'm still working at the same place - please dig up my e-mail, which hasn't changed, and drop me a line.
Best to you and yours!
Nora Armstrong

Laurie Gold said...

Nora, so great to hear from you! I'm not sure I have access to my old email files, but I'm sure I'll be able to find you somehow. If not, please click the "connect" button within the "about me" box on the upper right of the page. It allows you to send an email to me without my having to divulge it here and risk spam.