I’ve been thinking about pursuing my MLIS for a good eight years.
It all started with a conversation after a library research workshop that my English 101 class at John Jay College had just completed. The librarian who facilitated our workshop, Marta, told me she used to adjunct in the English department, too. “I got tired of the low pay and instability. I wanted a secure job,” Marta told me. She said it again for emphasis: “It was time for me to get a job.”
Marta was spot on. I was in the post-MFA adjunct cycle, maxing out my class load while culling together research assistantships with freelance editing to pay our Brooklyn rent. My nephew counted once, “You have like, 6 jobs,” he reported. I had been trying to decide if I wanted to pursue a PhD in Rhetoric and Comp, if I could find one that didn’t require the GRE and kept coming up against a lot of internal and external resistance. After my talk with Marta, an MLIS became a glimmering mirage on the horizon.
So I started talking to my librarian friends. Turns out, I have a lot of librarian friends, including one of my MFA peers who went right from Sarah Lawrence College into the Queens College MLS program (and is now a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the College of Staten Island Library). The first thing I noticed is that they all loved their jobs. I also noticed the incredible variety in their experiences before and after getting their degree. I was intrigued enough to thoroughly research viable programs and document it all on a Google Excel sheet. I started formulating a plan: fulfill a pipe dream by relocating to Northern California (my husband is a Bay Area native), switch our driver licenses right away to establish residency, and then enroll in San Jose State’s online MLIS program.
But then life took some twists and turns. After we were married, we did move across the country to start a family (and we did switch our licenses our first week here). After spending two years working for a small product design company as a writer and studio manager, and dealing with the heartbreaking reality that teaching college in California with an MFA is nearly impossible, I shelved all ideas about furthering my education to take on my hardest teaching assignment ever–becoming the stay-at-home parent for my precocious boy.
Fast forward through the dark days of postpartum depression and midnight feedings. One day, upon recommendation, I attended one of the renowned storytimes by Patrick Remer, rock star and library manager at the Pleasant Hill Library. It was love at first listen.
Like Patrick’s rock-n-rolling drew my son away from me for the first time in public into a sea of wiggling, rapt toddlers, my Pleasant Hill Library experience led me deep into my community, a place that is tight-knit, progressive and engaged.
My son and I became regulars at our new library, first for storytime, then for books. Shortly after my son’s 2nd birthday, I answered a call for a volunteer blogger to write human interest stories for the Friends of the Pleasant Hill Library. That’s when the real magic started. The first post I wrote for the Friends, The Transformative Transforms, caught the attention of the ALA and they featured it as one of their first personal stories on their ilovelibraries.org Libraries Transform website.
And here we are now. Those human interest stories is now this blog, The Vertical File, rounding out its third year and still going strong. It helped informed the citizens of Pleasant Hill about an important ballot measure, and it most recently has served as a community snapshot for the architects, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, who won the contract to build a brand new library in Pleasant Hill. It is now surrounded by more incredible content generated by incredible volunteers.
It all started with that first storytime. Because of it, I’ve gotten involved in my community, attended city council meetings and town halls, and we’ve even bought our first house in Pleasant Hill. It made me realize how valuable libraries are to communities, how dedicated and important librarians are to the people they serve, and how deep my love for and interest in all things library-related runs. The library connects us, to knowledge and to each other. It has even connected me, and my family, to our new home.
And so here I finally am–pursuing my MLIS at San Jose State University. Just like I’d planned. Well, sort of.
Originally published on January 8, 2018 at https://ischoolblogs.sjsu.edu/info/juliemcp/2018/01/08/it-all-started-with/ and again on March 18, 2018 at https://phlibraryfriends.org/vertical-file-it-all-started-with/