Why I Want to Become a Librarian

Today’s post was written by Nicole Murph, reference assistant at the William H. Hannon Library.

In December 2021, I completed my coursework at San Jose State University (SJSU) and received my master’s in library and information science (MLIS) degree. I went back to school to obtain my MLIS degree because I want to be a librarian.

I did not realize I wanted to become a librarian until my late thirties. In early 2019, while I was on the Expo train heading into work, I came across an article series, “Love Your Library: Library Appreciation Week”, and the thought of becoming a librarian stuck with me. So, I did some general research on librarianship. I appreciated the forward-thinking mindset, focus on the community, and the humanness incorporated in the work, research, and writing. While working at LMU, I already had a couple of professional relationships with colleagues at the William H. Hannon Library through my service work (i.e., Staff Senate), collaborations (i.e., outreach events), and library-based groups (Iggy’s Yarnsters, a knit and crochet group). I met with the dean of the library, Kristine Brancolini, to learn more about librarianship and the education involved. Would this be the right fit for me and if so, is it possible for me to make this career transition?

Our meeting confirmed my initial feelings but it also became clear to me how my cumulative experiences, professionally and personally, finally fell into place. I learned that my first master’s degree in history (California State University, Northridge) could be utilized because having a subject degree coupled with the MLIS degree is an increasing need in the field. In addition, I am mission-driven and want my work to be mentally stimulating and have an impact. Prior to this realization, I had spent the past 10+ years trying to figure out what I wanted in a career and what path to take next. Immediately after my meeting with the dean, I applied for the MLIS program at SJSU.

I am an LMU alum. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in history in 2004. I’ve been working at LMU since 2012. The first seven years I worked for the Department of Art & Art History in the College of Fine Arts & Communication (CFA). I worked with faculty, staff, and students and created and produced the department’s KaleidoLA Speaker Series. In January 2020, I began working for the William H. Hannon Library as a Reference Assistant. I assist the reference librarians with administrative duties and manage the Information Commons including the Information Desk located on the first floor. When it comes to service, since 2012, I have been actively involved in unit-level and university-level committees and task forces, Staff Senate, and staff affinity groups (i.e., Black Faculty & Staff Association and the Latinx Staff Association). My experiences overall have provided me with a three-dimensional view of LMU and academia overall, which I bring with me in my work at the library. Along with my educational experiences at LMU and CSUN, these experiences informed my studies with real world experiences and vice versa.

People are surprised when they learn about the work a librarian does as well as the work of a library’s paraprofessional staff, such as myself. The work involved in a library’s operations is comprehensive, especially behind the scenes, as Dean Brancolini wrote in “Dean’s Notes: Kristine Brancolini – ‘Invisible Labor in Libraries’. This applies to any library, and there are different types: academic libraries (e.g., William H. Hannon Library), public libraries (e.g., Los Angeles County Public Library), school libraries (e.g., K-12 libraries), and specialized libraries (e.g., Getty Research Institute Research Library).

The public may or may not realize it but librarians are teachers. For example, in an academic library setting, the librarians teach information literacy and digital literacy skills to students. Students familiarize themselves with the library’s resources, learn how to search for information using databases, and determine the quality of the sources they find. Given the amount of information we are receiving, the misinformation and disinformation affecting us, and advancing technologies, learning these literacies are important: a lifelong set of skills essential to community life beyond the classroom. It is also one of the cornerstones of a democracy: an informed citizenry. I believe the need for teaching all forms of literacies should start at a young age. In a university setting, library instruction (i.e., digital and information literacies) should be embedded in the university’s curriculum rather looked upon as a consideration or an option.

As a hopeful librarian, I want to teach. Beginning in spring 2020, I started to gain teaching experience, and continue to do so, working alongside reference librarians teaching Rhetorical Arts classes and workshops such as the Digital Citizenship Workshop Series (“Raising the Bar: Understanding Data Visualization”). The community I want to connect with are non-traditional students such as adult learners, commuter students, international students, and first-generation students. I am an Afro-Latina who did not come from an affluent family. As an LMU undergrad, I was a commuter student who was the first in my family to go to college. When I attended CSUN for my first master degree, I was again a commuter student working simultaneously both a full-time job and a part-time job. For my MLIS degree, I selected an online program because of its flexibility for a commuter who is working full-time and supporting their family. As a non-traditional student, I can relate.

Now that I am done with school, I continue to learn about librarianship and developing my own niche in the field as I grow, professionally. I also hope to get involve in adult literacy (which too is comprehensive) such as volunteering at the Los Angeles Public Library’s (LAPL) adult literacy program. Volunteers are trained and teach adults how to read and write, how to vote, look for a job, and use a computer. All of which, plus more, is so individuals can ultimately have the opportunities to participate and be part of the community.