Why I became a librarian

"The Archivist" art by Martin Motett
Inspired by "Why I became a librarian" by Von Totanes (of the Filipino Librarian blog) from Rappler.

When I was younger, I wasn't a reader at all. My grade school friends and classmates were conyo English-speakers and were deep into reading Harry Potter before it was even a popular movie. I didn't feel like I belonged with them. I wasn't a smart student based on my average grades, but I was interested in logic, philosophy, and ideas.

The first book I remember that really fascinated me was an old book, The World We Live in and How it Came to Be. I think it was my first exposure to the world as it was. It described the history of humankind from the splitting of the first cell, and all the important events (the invention of the Printing Press, the telegraph, and the telephone; the wars, plagues, and religions that have shaped history) until space travel. I somehow lost the book, but I remember that reading it as a child I was in awe. It was the first time I truly fell in love with stories and story-telling.

I liked reading random facts in encyclopedias, and I found a book on the history of philosophy from my mother's college textbooks. I pored over the aged pages and I found myself surprised and pulled by the ideas of mankind on their own selves and lives. Though, I had no friends with similar interests. I was too quiet when I was a kid. I was too quiet that I wasn't always aware of myself, and I would always be surprised if anyone noticed me. I kept to my own world and I was pretty content with that.

In our small 6th-grade classroom library where our adviser was a science teacher, I was the assigned cleaner and arranger of her old science fiction novels and magazines she had in the classroom for us to use. I was also assigned as a 'librarian' - I kept the log of those who borrowed the books. I also picked up a book out of curiosity, and that was when I began reading stories. The first book I ever tried finishing was a pretty weird sci-fi book with alien love scenes (I forgot the title).

I only started seriously reading in third year high school. I was fourteen, and like most introverted teenagers, I was struggling inside. I hardly had any friends, I hardly talked to anyone, it seemed I had a problem but didn't know what it was. I bought Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami in National Bookstore and reading the stories surprised me - how could this stranger who doesn't know me describe my own feelings and experiences so well? I became hungry for more books, more words. My weekly allowance was wasted more on books than lunch food. I disliked romance since I wasn't that interested - I loved fantasy, science fiction, horror. I read and read and read.

College was an even more difficult time for me. I first studied Political Science in a university away from home, but I wasn't a good fit. In my longing for friends and belonging, I tried to join an organization but the initiation rites was a traumatic experience that I still have emotional scars until today. It was made worse because I felt like my reaction wasn't valid because it was just a "normal" process for others, that maybe there it was me who was wrong and dumb for feeling the way I did. The experience, which I expected would make things better for me, just filled me with resentment and I closed myself off from others even more. It took a long time for me to process that I was not stupid for feeling that way - I was hurt, I did not like it, and I did not agree with how they did it. And it was okay for me to feel that because I'm human!

I found it hard to adjust and I barely studied. My grades suffered, but I borrowed book after book from the excellent collection of the university library of the school I attended then. Books were my lifeline - it made me forget my bad thoughts for awhile by immersing me in other worlds and ideas. Soon, I was only returning to school to return my borrowed books, but I lost all enthusiasm for classes. I dropped out and transferred to a nearer school.

It was an accident that I discovered Library and Information Science. I was looking at the phone directory, at the advertisements of universities in the city. I saw the course name and enrolled at Central Philippine University. It was an accidental choice I didn't really think through, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life! I somehow believe it was the universe's way of leading me where I was meant to be.

At first, I took up Library Science with only a vague idea of what it is. My first reason was I loved reading, and there was no other course I found interesting. I'm an avid user of libraries and thought that I wanted to try it. I learned that there is more to libraries and librarians than books.

There are a lot of aspects of library work, and one can find his or her niche in this field. There's business and finance in acquisitions work. There's customer service and marketing in reader's services. There is keeping accurate cataloging records and ensuring materials are properly processed in technical services. For those interested in history and archival work, they may find their passion for archives. There is a constant quest for answers and interesting questions that stimulate knowledge in reference service. There are many varied opportunities and many choices in the library field.

Skills from other fields of knowledge can also be applied to the library. The skills and knowledge learned in the librarianship can also be applied in other fields. It is notable that most who work in libraries did not start as librarians but chose librarianship as a second career. I chose librarianship because it is a wholistic career, and there are many varied experiences and opportunities. You are not just limited to the four walls of the physical library. Working in the library is challenging but never boring.

I really did not expect then that I would enjoy library science, and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would eventually graduate with honors or top the board exam. Part of that is the small community, supportive teachers, and the friends I met both during my undergraduate years and now in graduate school. I think of myself as a writer, but I will not be ashamed to call myself a librarian!

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