Monday, August 27, 2012

Library School - Yes, it's a thing

So, in case you don't know, I went to library school.  It all started as a flippant joke comment that ended in a degree on the wall that says I have a Masters of Library & Information Science.

It all seemed pretty harmless at first.  Sure, I love reading.  I love libraries.  I love organization.  Besides becoming a librarian, I wasn't sure what else sad sacks like us should do.  (Actually, as it turns out, lots of things besides being a librarian.)  I looked into it, applied, was accepted and packed up and moved to London to attend the University of Western Ontario.

I don't remember what I was expecting, but I quickly learned that stereotypes sometimes exist for a reason and that I was a clear minority in my graduating class.  True librarians are keen and passionate about what they do.  They live and breathe OPACs, ALA, CLA, ILL, ISSN and of course, the beloved Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC).  If you know what even half of these acronyms stand for, you're well on your way to becoming a librarian.

My first day, I was a deer in headlights.  As much as I love libraries and have been going since I was a small child, this was the extent of my actual library knowledge:

- fines for overdue books are 5 cents
- please be quiet
- I once had a $28 library fine and was grounded - it still stings
- the Hamilton Kenilworth branch is open late Tuesdays and Thursdays

I felt so unprepared and not nearly as enthusiastic as my peers.  I would spend class writing in my journal (yep, I was that girl...that girl who now writes a blog), passing notes and doodles about a classmate we dubbed Deadface and a few evening classes, drinking rum & coke from a student union thermos.

My favourite things about library school were two friends I made who understood the value of incorporating a Christopher Walken SNL clip into a Research Methods presentation and starting up  and hosting a weekly trivia night at the Grad Club.

Gillian and Kathleen were hilarious kindred spirits and I truly don't think I could have survived the non-cool keeners without them.  Don't get me wrong, they're incredibly dedicated and exemplary librarians, but more importantly, they can have a laugh.  This balance was so lacking in many of our library school peers.

And the trivia night was likely my only significant contribution during my time in London - I certainly wasn't nominated for the Spirit of Librarianship Award (yes, there's such a thing) or having lunch with the Reference professor (she never liked me).  But I'm pretty sure the trivia night is still going and that is my one, true legacy.

Everytime I tell people about this degree I am deluged with jokes about the following topics:

- cardigans
- bun placement
- shushing
- Dewey

While I'm quick to point out that yes, to be an actual librarian, you need this degree and that it actually requires a great deal of work and study, I find that I mostly use the degree for the letters after my name.  I quite enjoy being able to say that I have a Masters degree, even though it's fairly obscure to most people. 

I certainly have not retained much of the information I learned in those years, including a government cataloguing internship in Ottawa, so I don't think it's fair to call myself a librarian.  I prefer the term 'lapsed librarian'.

But I can still shush with the best of them.

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