Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Backstory: How Libraries Saved My Life

In the early 1980s I was a newly minted adult (chronologically speaking), living on my own. I was out of high school and not in college after some abortive attempts at higher education. I was making mediocre-to-bad life decisions almost daily and wasn't sure what to do with my life when Ms. I. and Ms. M. in the Art and Music division of the Rochester Public's Central Library on South Street decided to give me the chance to add library work to the ever-evolving list of part-time jobs I had cobbled together make a living. I became a part-time library page at the Rochester Public Library's central location in the venerable old Rundel Memorial Building, and later a library clerk at the Arnett Branch before I packed up and moved to New York city.

My last years in Rochester were a difficult period for me. One of the few bright spots was my work at the library. I was too shy to be a rock star and not as talented as I wished I had been; not even at air guitar. Some of the poems I wrote around that time seemed to wow my friends, but looking back on it I think they were just being nice. And most poets have trouble paying the bills without a full-time job as their "side" gig. As I started to get to know and understand libraries, however, I began to think of librarianship as a possible direction for me. And the collection of quirky and interesting coworkers I encountered and their infectious intellectual curiosity didn't hurt, either.

Decades later, after years of putting myself through college and grad school by working full-time in both Paris, France and New York City, I can now call myself a former library page/clerk, turned business librarian, turned LexisNexis trainer, turned LexisNexis sales rep, turned LexisNexis JurisClasseur back office manager, turned ESL teacher, turned school librarian.

I earned my MLS years ago at Pratt Institute and my MS Ed. in TESOL much more recently at Long Island University. As a New York City Teaching Fellow I taught ESL at a fairly enormous high school on the Queens/Brooklyn border. After those first two tumultuous years, I had the good fortune of meeting T. O., the principal of one of the the three schools in the building where I now work, while attending the Prospect Summer Institute in Vermont. At the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year, I had the opportunity to change schools and moved to the William J. Gaynor Campus in Brooklyn to split my time between transforming the library and teaching ESL.

In addition to serving as the campus' Library Skills Teacher and the sole ESL teacher for Green and TYWLS, my goals for future years include getting certified in and teaching French and Music while continuing to make the campus library a vibrant learning place. More will emerge about why I have such specific goals as I blog along, I'm sure.

I had originally posted this along the side of the blog, but it made the whole thing too text-heavy. I'm now posting so that if anybody wants to fish around, here it is.

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