I quit the library in May of 2011 in order to stay home with my twin sons. Well, that is the official reason. The underlying reasons-I am lazy. I am shiftless. I take advantage of my wife. I am a gold digger. I like bacon.
Ahh sarcasm (where’s Sheryl’s tennis racquet?), you make everything taste better.
Truth is, I loved being a librarian, most of the time. I loved answering questions, recommending books, talking with people about completely random subjects. When I worked at the Main library in reference (the absolute best year of my working life), every day was something completely different. I would spend an hour talking about social issues with one patron, then spend a few minutes finding materials on how to build a deck, or start a business. Leaving that department was the hardest thing I ever did and looking back, perhaps the largest mistake of my library career.
My experiences on level 2 (fiction, teen and periodicals) and my four years at Riverside library taught me a great deal about patience. I did less and less of what I loved about librarianship (reference) and more of the things I disliked. I became an overpaid babysitter. Someone who spent most of his shift asking people to stop yelling, stop throwing things, stop hitting each other.
At Riverside, I watched the caravan of cars leave the elementary school and drop piles of unattended children out in front of the library. Parents leaving children of all ages, 2 years old to 18 alone at the library, some with siblings, others all by themselves with no food, no protection, nothing to do. You can imagine the difficulties. Teens with no discipline or guidelines on how to act in public running about. Eight year old girls responsible for toddler siblings, a great deal of crying and screaming. I felt like a surrogate parent, but with nothing but anger and frustration to cling to, powerless and in many ways, hopeless.
When the chance was offered me by my fantastic wife to leave all that, to become a stay at home father and make sure my children had love, had a place to go, had someone to care about them, it was an easy choice.
While I love my children and have thoroughly enjoyed being home with them, a large part of me really misses the library. I have realized that is just my ego talking. I enjoyed the status of being a librarian, the way that silly title made me feel. Looking back though, what I really miss is the interaction with like minded people. I enjoy a spirited argument as much as the next person, that back and forth of ideas and information, seeing things from a perspective I may not have considered. In conversations with family and friends, my own ideas about the world have changed and evolved. I think differently because of these arguments. Still, I miss the conversations with people who shared much of what I believed. Librarians are an odd bunch. We don’t take a lot of abuse without defending ourselves. We believe in the importance of what we do and that the world would be worse for our absence. At our core we believe that everyone, everywhere, has the right to read, think, explore and believe whatever they want. While everyone and every organization censors on some level, Librarians do their best to limit that as much as possible.
We pay the price for that philosophy. Some organizations see us as anti family, willing to allow what some call pornography to grace our shelves. We don’t tell you what to read, making some parents think we willfully place books with information contrary to what they might believe in their children’s hands. We refuse to shy away from any question, keeping our personal opinions personal as we treat each interaction with respect. We encourage inquiry, the essence of dangerous thought.
I have answered questions and offered information I personally found repugnant. I have checked out books I would never read. I have helped people set up email addresses and sign petitions that supported organizations that were actively out to change the mission of my library. It was a job with ultimate integrity, having nothing at all to do with monetary gain. The only purpose was to educate, to enlighten, to make people better. Wow, no wonder I had such a hard time leaving it.
I have taken the things I learned being a librarian and tried to instill them in my boys. If anything, I want them to know that what they think is important. I want them to never fear asking any question, exploring any path, learning and learning. I was raised that way, I was given the freedom to learn what I wanted or not to learn at all. My parents never forced me to do anything and for that I am grateful. I hope it matters to them that I have grown into an adult who is comfortable in his own skin, with his choices. I hope they know that their approach to parenthood allowed me to become a person with convictions, with morals and with a happy family of his own.
I welcomed the library environment because of how I was raised. It molded and shaped me as I allowed. I hope I can prepare my children for an equally wonderful life.