Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Why I Became a Librarian

From Blog Pictures...
This is why I became a librarian!
I have always been a reader. My first full length book that I read was the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. I chose it because the cover of the book featured a huge spaceship that reminded me of Star Wars. I was 11 years old and going through the Star Wars craze. It seems to be something most American males go through, almost a requirement to have an obsession of Star Wars.

As a child, I did not have the calling to go into libraries or public libraries. However, I did use libraries as a child. Libraries were how I got hooked on Harlan Ellison, was able to catch up on 50 years of Isaac Asimov's writing, and discovered my love for science fiction. However, most of my elementary school years were spent participating in the local Parks and Recreation programs like Flag Football. And so, even though I was a reader and used public libraries, it never occurred to me to become a librarian until I moved to Arizona.

I grew up in California and played football in high school. I was a good student with good grades, though nothing fantastic. In fact, in order to pay for college, my plan was to get a football scholarship, which I almost did. The school told me that if I started, then they would pay for my tuition, not a full ride, but tuition. That was good enough for me. I ended up starting center for a division IAA college team at 250 pounds. If you follow football, that weight is rather anemic, and so I had to try really hard to get that position. However, even though I started, they didn't give me a scholarship. In fact, they pulled me and wanted to red shirt me. That was the kiss of death. (A red shirt means you can't take more than 6 units of school. This is so the college can keep you longer and beef you up.) I was NOT going to sacrifice my education to play football. Football was supposed to pay for college. I quit and moved back home.

I still felt the urge to go away for college. The colleges where I lived were either not very good, or were very expensive. And so, when my father offered for me to move in with him and go to ASU, I went. In order to get in-state tuition, I had to establish residency for six months. It was the longest six months of my life (well, almost.) I couldn't stand just cooling my heels; I needed to find something to do.
Luckily, my father lived a few blocks away from the Ironwood branch of the Phoenix Public Library system. Everyday, I would walk over there and check out books to keep myself sharp. Even though I had previously been using libraries for quite some time, it had been a while before I had stepped into one.

I remember the first time that I set foot in there. I remember the whoosh of the automatic sliding doors. I remember the smell of the books. I felt like I wanted to live there. I spent hours there everyday, mostly in the history section. I checked out Will Durant's Story of Civilization. It was fabulous! I was a history major as an undergrad, and I have loved studying history since junior high school. The storytelling in these books was amazing. Every single aspect of history, culture, and social life was discussed in these books- the way civilization was interconnected from one region to the next. I studied these books intensely, carrying half of the volumes home in my arms in the few blocks to my house. (If I wanted to be more dramatic, I could say it was five miles and it was snowing, but it doesn't snow in that part of Arizona, and it was less than a mile. :) It was not the only set of books that I checked out. I went home with new books almost daily, but that particular set made an impact on me. I was able to keep sharp in my history studies. It gave me a background of civilization and filled in my cultural memory so that when I was finally able to register for college and take classes, I was ready.

A few weeks ago, my library weeded part of the set of the Story of Civilization. It had not been checked out for some time, and of course over time a book set written from the 1930s to 1975 becomes out of date. So when I saw a few of the books from the set on the floor to be weeded, I asked for them. I was so excited to have these books which had such a profound impact on my life. It was the core of the reason I became a librarian. The experience of these books, and the Ironwood library, made me realize how one could learn, become educated, or keep sharp by using the public library. Any public library, no matter how small, can educate in so many ways. I also realized how much I just wanted to be around books all day. I was all set to go on ABEbooks or E-bay to get the rest of the set, but someone beat me to it.

This past Monday, I came home after work and my wife asked me, "Will you look at the bookcases? I think there might be something wrong with them." Now, the bookcases had been having problems; they were inexpensive and really cannot stand the weight of the books. When I walked over to the bookcase, I saw the above picture, the whole set of Will Durant's Story of Civilization. The antique set, in pristine condition. What a wonderful Valentine's gift. It is one of the most special gifts anyone has ever given to me. (The most special is when my wife creates art for my birthday, Valentine's Day, or Father's Day). My wife is an amazing person; I love her so much. Thank you and Happy Valentine's Day to you!

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