When I first toyed with the idea of pursuing a graduate degree in LIS, the only thought on repeat in my head was this: are you freaking nuts?
Not the most optimistic of starts, perhaps, but I admit to being rather intimidated. I’ve always enjoyed learning and pursued education with passion and drive; however, getting my undergrad degree was a bit of an ordeal for me. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and I floated vaguely through my first three years of college without a declared major. The university I’d started at wasn’t the right fit for me, and I’d really only chosen it because they’d offered me a full-tuition scholarship. I studied music; I studied film; I studied chemistry. I wasn’t really convinced that I wanted to spend my life in any one career, and the longer everything went on, the more afraid I became– time was running out and I still didn’t have a plan for my life.
Then, in the summer of 2006, I got the most wonderful job as a counselor for a city-run day camp. I spent eight weeks working with kids from ages 5 to 13, and they taught me more about myself in those two months than the previous six semesters of college had. I knew that I wanted to work with kids, so with my life-long love of literature accompanying me, I changed schools and set out to become a teacher. It was a long lesson learned, but by the end of my undergrad career, after spending many hours in various classrooms, I figured out that while I wanted to work with kids, teaching was not quite what I’d thought it would be. Crushed idealism as its finest, perhaps, but somehow I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason.
After a lot of soul-searching (and Googling), as well as a much-needed year off for my tired brain, I decided to go to school to get my MLIS degree. I’m hoping to eventually combine my love of books with my love of kids and find a job working as a youth services librarian in a public library. I believe deeply in the power of good books to heal and help children of all ages; as a shy and strange child myself, there were several years when my books were the only real friends I had. I grew up, of course, and learned how to make and maintain friendships and overcome my shyness, but I’ve never forgotten the way it felt to have a delicious new novel placed in my hands. My books taught me so much about the world and about myself, and they kept me company when I was lonely. I’d like to do the same for other people; as Meg Ryan says in You’ve Got Mail: “When you read a book as a child, it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.”
I want to foster that ideal and encourage the kids of today to take a time-out from texting and Wii and Skype and Netflix, to take a turn utilizing their imagination and that feeling of pure magic that accompanies it. The average adult American only reads at an 8th grade level, and I believe that by encouraging a love of reading at a young age we can start addressing that problem. Eventually, I’d like to start adult literacy programs at my library, as well as outreach programs for at-risk youth; at the end of the day, I want to touch lives and show people what being a “reader” can really mean.