Archive for Donkeys


I have been a paraprofessional for years, kind of ambivalently. (And before I say anything else about schooling, I want to acknowledge that a) there is schooling for paraprofessionals; b) paraprofessionals often do the job of a librarian at c) a fraction of the pay. I left my last job because I had hit the [whatever material a library ceiling might be made of] ceiling. They told me that if I got a Masters in Library and Information Science (actually, I am certain they said either “MLS” or “MLIS,” because who talks that way except people who are trying to give you the definition of the abbreviation up front), I would be able to advance. (I found out that there wasn’t anywhere to advance to later, but that is a different story, probably outside of the scope of this blog.) (Maybe.)

At any rate, I wasn’t willing to get the degree until I’d gotten some perspective. Did I already call my adventures in animal care a palate-cleanser? Because it totally was. I went into college, like many people, ready to explore and figure out who/what I wanted to be. Unfortunately, I found myself on my own trying to make a living shortly thereafter, and day-to-day concerns were the driving force for me. (Well, my addictions were my driving force until I got into recovery. But that is really outside the scope of this blog.) (Really.) So, what I ended up doing, probably also like many people, was becoming something and then trying to figure out what to do with that.

I had already done some exploring by studying French and getting an MFA in Creative Writing, but taking the leap and leaving my stable job for a “stable job” (oh, Christ. Very sorry) gave me some serious perspective. I realized that caring for animals was what I wanted to be doing with my free time, not my paid time, that I actually needed more money to make that vision (and others) manifest, and that I don’t have to start over from scratch to create a career for myself.

Cause I was working in stables?

Cause I was working in stables?

So. School. My boss and supervisors at Mills were absolutely right. I could continue in my career as a paraprofessional and cataloger, but if I wanted something more (and it was clear I did), then I would need a library-specific degree.

Jobs tend to want the ALA-accredited MLIS, and I decided to go for that.

I applied to San Jose State’s School of Library Science. This is the nearest library school to me. (Though, apparently, that is no longer relevant.) I have several friends and acquaintances who went/go there. Good good good. I have heard nothing back from them yet.

I also considered Washington State’s program. It is a bit pricier, requires once a quarter trips up north for the first year, and it is a distance program. (So is SJSU now, of course.) It is also among the top 5 library programs in the country. It requires a GRE, and I was feeling pretty impatient to start school this coming fall, which tipped the scales against it. I have a friend who really likes the school, and I trust her judgment. This is a definite possibility.

I thought not to go to Berkeley’s ISchool, and I’ll tell you why: Cal’s program is <gasp> non-ALA-accredited! (I didn’t realize that it was because the program is so new. I’d heard talk that it was because the program was so radical. And it pretty much is.)

BUT! The more I explore my ideas and desires in re: librarianship and information management, the more I realize I am looking for something that shifts the paradigm away from the traditional. (Not that it matters, but I want to go on record: I love books and I love traditional libraries. They meet a need in our communities that isn’t really met anywhere else, and I think that their usefulness will continue to grow, probably indefinitely. I especially think that libraries are vital for outreach and services to people who don’t have their own access to information technology and those who need help sorting through things. Also, for teenagers and people who want to read new hardcover books.) I don’t want to be a Trendy Mendy (trademarking that!), but I do want to move things forward here.

Here’s what I am going to do. Take CompSci classes and the GRE. Apply to Berkeley’s MIMS (aw!) for next fall. Consider the possibility of PhD once enrolled.

Yeah, I said that.

Oh, hey!

Three things:

Thing the first, I am sorry I did not post yesterday. I realized at 9:30 when I got home from my meeting that I needed to make hotcake batter more than I needed to blawg, for today to run smoothly.

Secondofly, the term I was looking for in Friday’s post is “Information Literacy.” My dear friend, Clarence, literally spent years studying and teaching this, and yet– the words escaped me.

And c) I had a revelation over the weekend. To wit: my passion appears to lie not with traditional librarianship at all! As I’ve been exploring job opportunities and blogging and talking animatedly with friends about libraries and information and cetera, I am realizing that I want to do something paralibraryish. I would like to get some programming skillz and dream bigly about a) ways to make information more accessible and b) ways to organize information so that it is searchable, retrievable, and analyzable.

This is pretty much blowing my mind, and let me tell you why. While I was not exactly a Luddite, when I left for college I bought a really old word processor instead of a computer, because I enjoyed the typewriterliness of it. (When it “printed,” it just triggered the typewriter ball to type the paper without me. It was genius, though I couldn’t print papers while my roommate slept. Also, it had no accent punctuation, so, after I printed, I hand-wrote my accents ague and circomflexes.) I was pretty devoted to a picture of myself as poet and artiste, sans need for something so lowly as a “computer.” I underestimated my nerdliness by a lot!

And it works!!!

And it works!!!

This is a bit more on the personal tip, but I think it is relevant. I am still a poet and a memoirist, and my house is full of my paintings. But I think I have been selling myself short for many years in the world of doing. And everybody’s got their own stories and motivations. Here is part of mine: my mother left my family, ostensibly to practice her art (she was a musician). She wasn’t “successful,” in the way she wanted to be at least, and I was left with a portrait of the artist as struggling and romantic. (Check out The Artist’s Way for information on how not to harm yourself artfully.) I disdained my father’s practicality, and, though I excelled at math and science, I was pretty committed to deriding them on a regular basis.

So, I developed really far in one way, went to a liberal arts college, and studied things I don’t regret studying. In fact, I adore literature and speaking French and writing theory and breaking apart texts and revealing their soft underbellies (what just happened?) Just like I love raising animals and growing veggies and digging in the dirt. But I don’t think I want to get paid for that.

Libraries made sense in a paraliteratural career kind of way, esp. at the same liberal arts college where I earned my degrees. I am really grateful for the experience I have had. But my soul somehow longs for something less poetic, more practical, and more mathy. Surprise!

I am surprised. Pleasantly so.

Please do not revoke my library card!

Berkeley Public Library sent me a bill! Apparently I had hidden a book from myself in a bag on the closet door, returned everything else, and brushed my hands off all comedic-style, like, there we go! Patrons of the Berkeley Public Library System, I am sorry for keeping Career Guide to America’s Top Industries (331.702 C18a 2004) past its due date. You will note it is now “Recently Returned”!

Two things I learned:
1) I am an imperfect library patron;
2) Libraries are a “top industry,” on account of the number of librarians and library paraprofessionals retiring or about to retire.

I fell into cataloging in my (very) early twenties. I thought, I’ll just do this for a while and earn my degree. (I worked at a college and got tuition remission.) Nine years later, I was, like, wait, am I still doing this? I took a palate-cleansing break, working on an organic farm in Maine and then taking care of animals at a small local theme park.

Awesome donkeys I used to take care of!

Awesome donkeys I used to take care of!

And now? Well, I guess I am still doing this. I applied to library school for the fall, and I am applying like mad to library and library-adjacent jobs. I have had some time and space to think more about libraries and the future of information.

Thoughts which I will share anon…

To tide you over: a vision from the future of librarianship (as underwritten by IBM)