Library and Information Week 2018 – Everyone has a place in the Library

This week is Library and Information week 21-27 May and the theme for this year is ‘Find Yourself in the Library’.

I found myself in the library in a rather roundabout way. My potential place in the library was first suggested to me by my grandmother – whom we called Marnie. I was 15.

‘Why don’t you become a librarian? It would work well around having a family’, she said to me in the car one day. She must have been driving me to or from something as she often did. My Mum worked fulltime and I spent a bit of time with my grandparents.

I was mortified and offended. At the time I was never going to have children and while I didn’t identify as feminist then I was sure there were all sorts of things wrong with what she was saying.

I wonder when I think of that conversation; how did she know that? Was it just like a teacher, nurse, librarian – these are careers for woman kind of attitude? Or was there a definite narrative at the time that librarian was a career that a woman could work motherhood into.

I digress. I was horrified to think that she thought of that path for me, would she ever have suggested to my brother that he decide his career be based on whether or not he was going to have children? Besides I really didn’t like the ‘what do you want to do with your life’ type conversations. I had already had one horrifying parental experience involving early adolescent career planning and I wasn’t convinced I wanted any more advice on that score.

When I first started high school – 13 I think I was – they asked us to nominate things we would consider as a future career. I nominated TV chef and car booster (Fast and the Furious was the biggest movie around at the time). A discerning 13 year old, I had decided that this career planning malarkey was done too early and with entirely the wrong approach, so I acted the clown. Little did I know at the time these career choices would be discussed at our next parent teacher interviews. It would be an understatement to say that my mum was unimpressed by my career goals.

I did become a chef – not the type on TV just a regular one- but then I went to university to study writing and then sociology, and then politics, and then sustainable development. Finally I decided to do my Masters in Information and Library Studies, ironically, at least in part, because my partner and I had decided to have a child. I fell pregnant when I was studying and got my first librarian job when my son was one.

My Marnie died long before I decided to become a librarian but she did see me become a chef and study at university and she was proud and happy for me. Had I ever gone back to her and asked her why she said I should become a librarian I don’t think her answer would have had anything to do with having kids or looking after a family. As a quiet child who read a lot I had found my place in the library – sometimes the only place for me – and she knew that. She knew me well, knew of my love of stories, my love of learning and thought the library a good place for me.

Everyone has a place in this library. My place in the library is behind the scenes helping with research and helping Queenslanders use their state library to its fullest potential. My place is also out the front talking with people, helping them and connecting them to knowledge of all sorts. I help people find things and often in the process find things about myself.

I couldn’t be happier to have found my place in the library. It also couldn’t look further from mine or my Marnie’s idea of working in a library but it is part-time and my hours do fit nicely around co-parenting my child.

More Information

Library and Information Week 21-27 May 2018 – https://www.alia.org.au/liw

 

Leela Wittmer

Librarian, Weekend and Evening Coordinator