Accidental Librarian

by Chrissie Morrison, YSS President

I’ve had many conversations with colleagues who always knew they wanted to be librarians. They describe childhoods spend in the stacks, tell me about their first jobs as library pages, and explain how their college plans were made with the intent to continue on to graduate school for an MLS/MSIS.  I, on the other hand, never had any intention of being a librarian.  It didn’t even register as an option until my junior year of college.  My own path to librarianship was anything but typical.  

Although I grew up in a family that valued reading and can clearly remember being read to on a regular basis, I also recall that we rarely went to the public library.  We only had one vehicle for most of my childhood, and public transportation was not readily available to us.  Besides, our local public library was open minimally and at strange times.  We bought books at yard sales, ordered them from the Scholastic Book Club fliers, and borrowed them from our cousins or the school library.  I was a good reader, but not really much of a “book worm,” and was more likely to be found climbing trees or playing at the playground with a pack of friends than on my own reading a book.  

As soon as I started kindergarten, I just *knew* what I wanted to be when I grew up… a teacher.  I would come home from school every day and beg my younger sister to play school so that I could be her teacher.  When I got older, I joined lots of clubs because it guaranteed me more time at school.  I often helped my friends with homework, and I even helped found a peer tutoring program at my high school.  Going to Plattsburgh State for a BS in Elementary Education was a no brainer.  My concentration wasn’t in English, as many people suspect, though.  I actually had a concentration in science (predominantly chemistry).  

I finally started my path to librarianship when I chose a university and a major for my Master’s Degree.  I decided that I wanted to make myself stand out from the rest of the Elementary Education crowd and chose to skip the typical/recommended Master’s in Literacy.  I thought a MSIS in School Media would open up more options and make me more marketable, so I applied to the School of Information Science and Policy [now the College of Computing and Information] at UAlbany.  I figured I could apply for teacher jobs *or* librarian jobs when the time came, but that I would likely just stick to teaching.  

During my very first semester, nevertheless, I took a Young Adult Literature class and my mind started to wander.  Under the tutelage of Joyce Laiosa – yes, the same woman who is currently serving as YSS Past President! – I fell in love with the idea of working with tweens and teens instead of elementary school students.  I started to think that maybe being a middle or high school librarian would be more fun than being an elementary school teacher.  I still assumed I would be working at a school, but the gears of change had started to turn.  When NYS regulations changed and caused my internships to fall through only weeks before what would have been my final semester, I looked into my other options and ended up switching to the public libraries tract.

By the end of my internship at the East Greenbush Community Library, during which I presented a Summer Science Series for tweens, I was certain that librarianship was perfect for me.  I vividly recall a conversation with my husband in which I said, “I’m not going back to teaching.  They can’t make me!”  Not only did I realize that being a Youth Services Librarian in a public library was extremely similar to being an elementary school teacher, but I found that I enjoyed the freedom of working outside a pre-defined curriculum. 

This May marked the 10 year anniversary of my start in public libraries – and my time at the East Greenbush Community Library.  I have applied for a couple of other jobs, but nothing ever panned out.  I am OK with that, though, since I love my library.  It’s pretty awesome to be able to say, without any irony, that I love my job, the people I work with, and the community I work in.  Sometimes, I find it hard to believe that it has already been 10 years… but I guess time flies when you’re having fun!