Blast Off!

At the beginning of this semester, I anticipated working in an academic library, because I love research and could see myself helping others with reference-type work. So I was thrilled to get the opportunity to do my internship in a real, well-run academic library, because I expected I would get a glimpse of the things I might be doing when I was in a similar job. However, as the semester progressed and things became more serious with my boyfriend, Jeremiah, I considered the fact that my career path could very well be tied to his, if we were to get married. He is going to be a pilot in the Air Force, and he will be training for that position next summer. For that reason, I started looking into military libraries. Military libraries are considered special libraries, among the ranks of specialized libraries like those focused on medicine, law, or business. However, they appear to function similarly to public libraries, due to collections that are geared toward families with children, as well as offering children’s programs, and opportunities for furthering education, which is a prime concern for many servicemen. Of course, the governing system for military libraries is the federal government, and then the base commander at any given military installation is sure to have the final say in whatever happens. So it is fair to say that military libraries are very different from other types in the library profession, although their main focus in serving their patrons is similar to public libraries. Most, if not all, Air Force bases are highly likely to have a library, because they are recognized as a vital part of the services that enhance the quality of life for military personnel and their families.

Now that I have explained everything I know about the field of military libraries, I will have to turn everything on its head and explain that I’m not going to do any of it. That is, for now, I am not doing any of it. The fact is, I am engaged, as of December 12th, so my priorities are significantly altered. I had considered getting an online master’s degree, which I will explain more about in a bit, but at this point, since I am no longer only responsible for my future, I am interested in paying off my undergraduate debt, and because of the way the G.I. Bill works, I would much rather Jeremiah use that to complete his master’s degree, because due to the competitiveness of Air Force jobs, it is becoming increasingly difficult for officers without graduate degrees to be promoted through the ranks. He would not mind if we both had full-time careers, and he has told me that he is fine with whatever decision I make. But I know his level of commitment to the Air Force as a career, and I want to see him succeed in that before I think about my own desires for a career. It might be a dream of mine, but it is one that I am willing to modify or give up for the needs of my family. I am also potentially interested in homeschooling if and when we have children, and in that case, teaching them would become my primary occupation.

As much as I have felt like I should say that I am going to college with the outcome that I will go to grad school, and the outcome of that is a long-term career, in the past few months, my mindset has changed dramatically, and it was not without inward struggle and many prayers. But I truly think that it was God who changed my heart, and he is teaching me to be less self- focused. Because I have always been very academically motivated, it is almost painful to say, “Well, you know, I’ll probably just be a stay-at-home mom…” But my mom is an example to me. She is extremely intelligent and talented, and to be honest, and she probably does more than someone with three jobs, though she’s never been paid a cent for it. Even though I might not pursue a full-time career, that does not mean that I cannot make a difference, and that I won’t do things that I can be satisfied with and proud of. I have been thinking recently that no matter where I am, I will be a librarian at heart. If I am a stay-at-home mom, I will strive to have the most beautiful, wonderful collection of books at home that I can for my children to enjoy, and like my mom did for me, I will basically make the public library my children’s second home, so that they will beg to go there more than anywhere else, just as I did. If I can cultivate a love of reading and an appreciation for libraries in anyone, then I will feel like I have been successful, whether it is at a specific “job” or not. I believe that vocation and calling do not have to be tied to a specific career, but instead that those skills that I learn and the calling that I feel can be manifested in every aspect of my life, no matter where I am, or what I am doing. Nothing is wasted, and that is the mindset that I choose to have now, and in the future.

One…

For my last post of the semester (except for my final thoughts on the internship), I would like to leave you with one quote from Richard Peck, whom I think is a wonderful author. This is from his autobiography, Anonymously Yours.

“I read because one life isn’t enough, and in the page of a book I can be anybody; I read because the words that build the story become mine, to build my life;
I read not for happy endings but new beginnings; I’m just beginning myself, and I wouldn’t mind a map;
I read because I have friends who don’t, and young though they are, they’re beginning to run out of material;
I read because every journey begins at the library, and it’s time for me to start packing;
I read because one of these days I’m going to get out of this town, and I’m going to go everywhere and meet everybody, and I want to be ready.”

 

 

Two…

If you work in a library, and if you read shelves, then you’re more than likely to come across books that really interest you. I probably shouldn’t admit that I was occasionally distracted during my duties, but they’re books…how could I not? So here are two books that I found that I thought were awesome. And I would recommend browsing the stacks once in a while if you have time to kill. Don’t look anything up, don’t find call numbers…just wander. You never know what you’ll find.

1. Letters to Children by C.S. Lewis. I have read a lot of works by C.S. Lewis, but never this one. Many of the letters are responses to fan letters, especially about the Narnia books, but I just loved how much effort Lewis put into his responses to his young readers. Unsurprisingly, he is not at all condescending to the children who write him, and I found that a lot of what he said would be helpful to someone of any age. Here’s an excerpt from one letter from 1949:

“Remember that there are only three things anyone need ever do. (1) Things we ought to do (2) Things we’ve got to do (3) Things we like doing. I say this because some people seem to spend so much of their time doing things for none of the three reasons, things like reading books they don’t like because other people read them. Things you ought to do are things like doing one’s school work or being nice to people. Things one has got to do are things like dressing and undressing, or household shopping. Things one likes doing – but of course I don’t know what you like. Perhaps you’ll write and tell me one day.”

2. Running Well by Sam Murphy. It’s always interesting to me when people use the college library for pleasure reading, whether it’s fiction, hobbies, or the enormously popular movie screenplays (I’m not sure I see the appeal … just watch the movie! But to each his own, and plus, I digress). I personally am drawn to the running books. Last Saturday, I ran my first 10k race, and I met my goal time, which was very exciting to me. So I’m always looking into running books or the newest issue of Runner’s World to get tips, workouts, and motivations. I think sometimes we forget that reading can simply be pleasurable or informative in an academic library. People only look for the deepest, most intellectual books they can analyze for that next research paper. Those books certainly have their place, but it’s great to see the offerings of the library as a whole.

Three…

library

The semester is winding down, so I think I’m going to share a few highlights of my time here, in brief. To start out with, three events the library has had this semester that enrich students’ appreciation for literature and the arts:

1. Listen to This. I actually got to help promote one of these events, which was very fun. Reading aloud is a wonderful thing…we’ve all known that since we were children. These events are basically glorified group read-alouds. We’ve had one where professors read works that they enjoy (mostly children’s books), and we’ve had another where local poets were invited to read their own works. My dad read to me and my brother basically until I left for college, so I absolutely love this idea for a library event. I can’t wait until next semester when students get to read.

2. Handbuilding. This wasn’t actually an event, but rather a display of the sculptures made by the students in the handbuilding class. I am not artistic myself in any way, shape, or form, but I love appreciating art. And this stuff was great! I expect that many of the people in the class were beginners, which makes it even more impressive. But I was glad that the students could use the library to show off their hard work to anyone who wanted to see it.

3. Ok, this isn’t actually a thing that the library has done, but it would be super cool if they would. In the same vein as the sculpting thing, I think it would be fun if the library had some sort of contest for “book art.” Check out this sculpture at the the top of the page from the Scottish Poetry Library. Isn’t that the coolest thing ever? I guess that was done by some professional (but who knows…the website says it was given to the library anonymously), but I think artsy Bryan students could step up to the challenge. I think it’s a great idea, anyway.

Do the Beagle

Happy Thanksgiving! This was the first truly major holiday since the beginning of the school year, and it’s one that everyone loves. Not surprisingly, some libraries like to get in on the festivities, and I love the theme of the Mentor Public Library in Ohio: A Charlie Browns Thanksgiving. If there’s anything that’s as great as the actually holiday, it’s the humorous antics of Charles Schulz’s classic characters. Snoopy gets the spotlight in this one…who can forget his wrestling match with dining chairs? So anyway, the Mentor library had a children’s program that recreated the epic Thanksgiving dinner from the show: pudding, toast, pretzel sticks, popcorn, and jelly beans. Adorable pictures can be found here, and I think we can all agree with the article’s interviewee, 6 year-old Sophie, who “just likes to eat.” However you celebrated, and whatever food you had, as long as you’re with family and friends, it’s got to be wonderful. (If you missed Charlie Brown on the tube, the whole show is on YouTube, by the way.)

The Community

Libraries are constantly trying to stay in tune with the kinds of things that interest library patrons. College libraries have to work especially hard at keeping up to date with the current generation, since that is the very narrow demographic that they offer services to. So what do college students like? Everything points to the popularity of social networking. Facebook and Twitter are visited on a daily basis by many people, and there are many ways of communicating with those sites. Some very specific sharing sites are becoming hugely popular – Pinterest being the foremost example. So people love sharing and recommending things online. But of all the things that are shared and recommended apart from the internet, are not books the first thing to come to mind? Well, maybe recipes top that, but books must be neck-and-neck with recipes, for sure. The logical progression is to have a social network that centers around a love of books.

Goodreads has more than 12 million members, and it exists for the sole purpose of helping people find books that they love and allowing them to recommend those books to others. It facilitates online book clubs and organizes books into genres, with each book being reviewed by discerning readers. Many of my own friends on Facebook use the Goodreads app (yet another thing that college students love), and it is refreshing to see so many people who are still interested in taking the time to read great books, even when the lure of the computer and tv screen are so alluring.

Goodreads seems to have a pretty similar mission as that of libraries, except only on a virtual level, so actually libraries are now bridging that gap by partnering with Goodreads. OCLC says that Goodreads has always referred readers to WorldCat.org, but now they have an official partnership that allows individual libraries to set up their own group pages on the Goodreads site that local patrons can join. This is also a place where libraries can promote upcoming events, and it localizes the Goodreads service so that people can get to know other people with a love of reading within their own communities, instead of being spread out across the country, and potentially other countries, as well. Overall, this is a really great opportunity for libraries to reach out to young people especially, who are extremely familiar and comfortable with social networking.

The Election

I know that we’re all sick of hearing about politics at this point. I’m with you, believe me. But as frustrating as the confusing cloud of politics can be, one thing is clear, and that is that as citizens, we have a right, and basically a duty, to vote. Seriously, it’s so easy, I don’t know what so many people don’t bother. I am all about exercising the rights that I have. Anyway, one of the coolest things about libraries is how they inform people about the voting process, allow them to take the action of registering, and often provide a polling place for the actual vote. This article, from American Libraries Magazine, talks about a lot of the things that libraries provide as “icons of civic engagement in America.” That’s a cool phrase. The article does spend a lot of time talking about voter ID issues, which is annoying, but not unexpected from an ALA publication. But otherwise, the article has some great things to mention, specifically about libraries’ efforts to offer reading materials that help people fully understand the voting process, as well as their voter registration drives, which are gaining more importance now with the new National Voter Registration Day. Our library had a great display set up a few weeks ago encouraging voter registration, with the incentive of receiving a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution. Libraries are such a great way to encourage knowledge about our country and its government, which is much needed because, unfortunately, many people are not informed about those things. The final section of the article was of particular interest to me, since it talked about my hometown’s library system, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Libraries. Apparently, Imaginon, the children’s library and children’s theatre, was rented out for use during the Democratic National Convention. So I guess that’s one way to raise library funds. Anyway, as of now, there are a few hours left for the polls, so go and vote if you haven’t!

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