To be completely honest, I originally wanted to become a librarian to hang around book stacks all day, wearing a cape and telling patrons the answers to all their questions. As it turns out, that’s not exactly what librarians do (though I would like to keep the cape part). I began working at the University of Michigan Library at the beginning of my second year in undergrad, and now, as I prepare to graduate, I want to reflect on the jobs I have had, share how they shaped my understanding of libraries, and talk about what I’ve learned.
The first job I worked in the U-M Library was stacks assistant. For three months, I shelved books, searched for books that went missing, and figured out once and for all how to find a book in the Dewey Decimal call number system. In this position, I was able to learn about library structures and the everyday workflow that takes place behind the scenes at the circulation desks, in the stacks office, in the archives, etc.
After working in the stacks office, I accepted a job in the library’s office of communications and marketing as a student engagement fellow. In this role, I was able to refine my knowledge of the U-M Library and use that knowledge to encourage fellow undergraduates to explore the library. To do so, I first identified the reasons for undergraduates hesitancy in using library services (and wrote two blog posts about that, along the way: Welcome...to Library Anxiety part one and part two) and brainstormed solutions. In this position, I was able to reach out and talk with a lot of people in different library roles: conservation, reference librarianship, community engagement…the list goes on.
In the summer of 2018, instead of returning to my hometown to work retail, I was accepted into the Michigan Library Scholars Program. During that internship, I was able to further hone in on my interests in community engagement. Because of this role, I now have amazing professional relationships with the people I worked with and still use the experiences and skills I gained from the program. Everyone I met was so willing to teach me about their job in the library, which helped me discover my own interests in libraries and librarianship.
This past year, I returned to the library’s office of communications and marketing as an intern. In this role, I continued much of my work as a student engagement fellow with additional administrative and clerical duties. Alongside these tasks, I had the opportunity to write news pieces for the library, took advantage of countless professional development opportunities, and (finally) learned how to use software like Adobe InDesign and Photoshop.
All of the positions I held at the U-M Library have helped me discover my own interests in libraries and have given me the experience necessary to receive an internship from the Library of Congress. This summer, I will be working at the Library of Congress in the Manuscript Reading Room as a reference assistant.
To sum up, some of the most valuable things I’ve learned from all of my positions in the library were an understanding of libraries, how to navigate a professional environment, and the ability to feel comfortable asking for help. Not to brag, but I know a lot about libraries; my friends will testify how often I relate things back to library theory.
If I can leave future U-M students with one piece of advice, it would be this: don’t be afraid to ask. The U-M Library has services galore — do not leave this university without exploring as many as you can. You never know what kind of opportunity you will find or what idea you might spark.
Meghan Brody is an LSA senior graduating in May, 2019 with a BA in history and writing. After graduation, she will be in Washington D.C. for an internship with the Library of Congress.