Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How did I end up in libraryland?

That is a good question! Lori Reed tagged me for the "how I became a librarian" meme. It started from superstarchivist's friendfeed comment-turned-meme.

The first thing you need to know... I am NOT a librarian. I am a technology trainer who works for a Library System as their Training Coordinator. However, after doing this for almost 5 years, I find I really am developing a passion for libraries and librarians. I was tossing around the idea of an MLIS, but then I started having kids (working on the 2nd one right now - 16 weeks in...), so that plan is on hold right now. Plus, I still can't decide between an MLIS or a Masters in Training & Development.

Here's the strange trip I've taken to land here:

I grew up in a small western Pennsylvania town called, Indiana. From about the age of 6, my goal was to become the next Jacques Cousteau - the amazing marine biologist. Of course, I would be Jacqueline Cousteau. So, all throughout school, I took as many science and math courses as I could and did quite well. I even had the opportunity between my Jr and Sr year of high school to go on a Marine Biology Quest. I won a scholarship to go to Andros Island in the Bahamas (no, it's not Nassau or Grand Bahama, this is an island with NO touristy extras and hotels, but some cabins and research facilities and the bare minimums of comfort). There I got to explore the world's third largest barrier reef and see in person all of the beauty I yearned to see for years from books and TV shows.

Not growing up with a lot of money, I chose a great state school here in Pennsylvania; Millersville University. They have a very good Marine Biology program. So at 18 I traveled all the way across the state to beautiful Lancaster County to begin my quest to become a great scientist. Unfortunately, college science and math are a LOT HARDER than high school science and math and I found that I could not do well in those classes and party at the same time. Go figure. Being young and naive, instead of putting a stop to partying and buckling down, I decided I wasn't smart enough to be a marine biologist and was left to ponder what the heck I was going to be now! My only other love was Spanish and I in no way wanted to be a teacher (isn't THAT ironic). Someone told me that there is a big need for bilingual Social Workers. Ahhh, save the world and become a Social Worker, sounds like a plan.

So I graduated in May of 1991 with a BA in Social Work and Spanish. I really enjoyed my Social Work classes and learned so much from the major. I worked as an SSI Claims Representative for the Social Security Administration until the end of 1998. I found I was pushing beaurocratic papers more than doing true Social Work here, but come on, it was a Federal Government job - great salary, great benefits, how could I possibly leave. To this day I have still not matched the salary I had there when I left. The great part about this job is that here I was, this young college kid and hardly any of the people I worked with had ever used a PC. It was here that I found a love for all things software. I had used computers just a bit in college to write papers, but nothing more than that. I used their computer labs, never had my own computer. When I started my job with SSA, we used terminal computers connected to a Main Frame - you know, the black screens with the green letters. We had 2 PCs in the whole office with Windows 3.something or other. About a year after I started, we moved to a LAN/WAN environment and everyone was shocked by the huge change. I had a knack of picking up software rather quickly and became the go-to person when people had questions or needed help. When the paper forms became incorporated into a software program, I was sent away to be trained and bring that training back to the staff in my office. Well, that did it! After that first time teaching software to my coworkers, I knew that's what I wanted to do as a career.

So, I enrolled in the Computer Information Systems Associate Degree program at Harrisburg Area Community College while still at SSA. I always say I went to school backwards; got the BA, then went for an Associates. I decided at the end of 1998 to take a grass-roots Social Work job just to be sure I didn't fit in that field while at HACC. I worked about a year for a wonderful agency, Tabor Community Services, as an In-Home Intensive Program Counselor helping the homeless to learn how to get a job, establish a residence, and learn to use a budget. I realized I was not cut out to be a Social Worker during that year.

At the end of 1999, I was still at HACC, and was hired by Lancaster County Domestic Relations as their Assistant Systems Administrator. My job was to create training manuals and train all of the new staff when they started and all staff on any changes to the software used. I really enjoyed the work, but felt it was time to leave government work by the end of that year. I also got married in October of 1999 :-) to my wonderful husband, Bill.

Thanks to monster.com, I got a job with Spectra Marketing in January of 2000. Here I trained retailers and manufacturers across the country in the consumer packaged goods industry to use geodemographic marketing software. I truly enjoyed this job and got to see so much of the country. But my husband and I bought our first home in April of 2003 and by the end of the year, I didn't want to be flying and away so much.

In December of 2003, I saw an add for a Training Coordinator at LSLC. Sounded interesting, but I was hesitant as I had no background in libraries. I knew immediately during the interview that I had found a gem of a job. Here was the joining of all of my skills. I'm still at social worker at heart, I want to help people. But private industry just wasn't a fit for me. I was back in the non-profit world and found a true love for libraries. Luckily, I was hired in January of 2004.

As soon as I started this job, I began delving into the world of the Social Web. Here I was, a trainer with no library background, being told to create a training program for all of the staff and volunteers of the member libraries and the system employees. There were no other local trainers to go to for help, I was the sole trainer working within the IT department of the system. First, I had to learn Millennium (the ILS) inside and out. I joined the Innovative Users Group and began begging and borrowing all I could through people I met on the listserv. Then, I found WebJunction through a Google search. What a gold mine! I started following people through their blogs, then learned how to subscribe through RSS, and well, the rest is history. All along the way I have shared whatever I have developed, because so many have and continue to share with me. That is the beauty of Web2.0 - SHARING!

My husband and I received a most wonderful gift on 1/5/07 with the birth of our daughter, Xia. We were told we could not have children, so this has been quite the turn of events. Thank goodness I work for libraries and have access to so much information. How fortunate that it would happen after we bought the house and I stopped traveling. That's what I call providence. We found out this summer that Xia will be having a sibling around 3/30/09. Wow, two miracles; what do doctors know?

So, that's my LONG story. If you're still reading, bless you. I think my story proves that you should NEVER settle for a job you are not completely happy with. I just kept job hopping until I landed here and I LOVE my job. I really enjoy working with librarians and bringing them further along their careers with technology is quite the rewarding experience.

As for tagging others in this meme, by now, most of the people I follow have been already tagged. However, I did some workshops recently and there are now a bunch of new blogging librarians in my state. So, I tag... lubrarian, Sharon, Kelley, Jan and Beth.


Kelley said...

(in pathetic whiney voice) can you tag me? : )

Stephanie Zimmerman said...

SURE Kelley! You're so cute. I swear you have another blog that I'm not seeing on your Blogger profile, so I tagged the Allegheny County Library Association's Tweens Blog. Feel free to send the link to another blog if I got it wrong! Thanks for reading :-) I'm surprised you made it to the end!

Kevin Briody said...

Great post, it's always fascinating to learn about the journeys people took in their careers. Plus, I loved reading this bit:

"Then, I found WebJunction through a Google search. What a gold mine!"

Glad you like it! :)


Stephanie Zimmerman said...

Seriously Kevin, I would be LOST without WebJunction. And now, with the improved 2.0 interface, it really rocks!

Lori Reed said...

Stephanie thanks for sharing your story. The math put a damper in my plans to be an Astronomer.

My parents do have a piece of the Calypso in their house. A small piece from when my dad worked on the boat. :)

We're all connected...

p.s. 3-30 is a great bday! that's Ian's bday