When I was in the 10th grade I began my short but illustrious career in theater. I got up the nerve to audition for the high school drama that winter. We were performing Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
My drama teacher made a decision NOT to cast me in a part, rather she decided I was the perfect person to take under her wings and train to be a stage manager. Now, I won’t go on and on about my drama teacher but let’s just say she was one tough cookie and she expected the BEST out of all us. So, I learned all about blocking, stage left, stage right, how to boss, I mean order, my fellow students around, managing props, and basic technology when it came to lighting and sound (I am sure today I wouldn’t have a clue when it comes to how to run a stage but back in the day my high school’s blackbox theater was pretty high-tech).
Well, Much Ado was a great success. I think my parents, my sister, my grandparents, and my aunt attended. The successful work on the stage resonated my success in the booth.
Fast forward later that same year, it was now time to gear up for the Junior Class show called P-Nuts. At my high school P-Nuts is a “right of passage” production put on by the Junior class at the beginning of 11th grade. It is entirely written, produced and performed by Juniors and it must always include Horses (boys dancing and singing while dressed in drag) and Ponies (performed by all the girls who had toiled away many long years in ballet, tap, and jazz dance classes). The story usually had some sort of crossed lovers tale and lots of pop tunes to get the audience tapping their feet along to the beat. P-Nuts required lots of work (writing, auditioning, staffing) from March of the previous school year and it required all day rehearsals the last month of summer break with production usually the 2nd or 3rd week of school in September.
Once again, my drama teacher selected me to be the stage manager. This time I was the “seasoned professional” determined to get things done and make our P-Nuts production the best yet. I can still remember yelling and barking orders at my fellow classmates that hot August.
Also, that same August, although I didn’t know it then, who I would become professionally was about to begin to take root.
A year earlier I applied for a library student assistant job and I finally got a call from the public library asking me if I wanted to interview for a position at a nearby branch library. I said sure…well I got the job. However, my new work schedule meant I had to work three days AFTER school. This also meant if I took the job I would have to give up most of after school activities. Ultimately, I decided I would take the job but I made sure I didn’t have to work the first two weeks of school so that I could finish up with P-Nuts.
With me out of the picture, my drama teacher turned her attention to someone else and began grooming her as a high school stage manager. That person ended up studying theater in college and traveling the globe as a stage manager for many years. She is now a professor of stage management and chairperson of the theater, design, and production department at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.
But what about me at the library? Well, the job paid better than my friends made in food service, I got off at 8 pm and I had weekends off because my library was closed on Saturday and Sunday. I worked there all thru my Junior and Senior years of high school, mostly shelving, shelf-reading, wrapping up and recycling dirty newspapers and periodicals (note to self: don’t wear white on the day you bind up newspapers). It wasn’t a job I always looked forward to but it made it possible for me to buy my first set of wheels (a twelve speed high-end bicycle – I think I spent about $700) and save some money for college and enhance my wardrobe.
Once I graduated high school I asked for more library hours. I got sent down to the Films and Recordings section of the main library. Where for two summers I shelved videos, CDs, record albums, and slides 40 hours a week. To say this work was BORING would be an understatement and I was about ready to give up on the library gig, but in the spring of my sophomore year of college when I turned in my library summer help application I included a note explaining that I had two years of a history degree under my belt and that I worked reference with customers back at the branch and that I wanted something different besides shelving in Films and Recordings. Indeed it was a gamble telling the library what I, a measly college student what I wanted but miraculously someone in HR listened and I got assigned to the Literature Department of the main library.
For three summers I got to sit on the reference desk four hours out of an eight-hour day with a reference librarian. With this change I began to start to enjoy my library gig again but still it was ultimately about the cash, the schedule, and I honestly didn’t have any idea what I wanted be “when I grew up.”
During my second summer on the Literature Desk my thoughts about the work of librarians and their training began to change. I often sat on the desk with a librarian who went to the University of Michigan and he began a subtle (but I don’t think purposeful) sell of his career and alma mater.
I returned to college my senior year ready to make some decisions. Would I continue with my history studies and pursue a PhD, do the work I needed to do to become a high school teacher, or apply for library graduate school? To make sure I had my “ducks in a row” I took the GRE and then I visited a private all boys high school for the day – that day I found out I was NOT cut out to be a high school history teacher and I realized graduate studies in history could wait. I applied to library graduate school, just two schools: Indiana University and the University of Michigan. I got in to both and I decided on the University of Michigan.
At Michigan I earned a prestigious appointment as one of twelve residence hall librarians. I loved running the Bursley Hall library where it served as both an academic and social gathering place. I learned so much more than I ever could have garnered sitting on the reference desk back at my home town library. At Michigan I became who I am today: your super librarian of destiny!
If you haven’t taken the time to ask me for help you are missing out. If you haven’t figured out that I will dedicate myself to your success, you are missing out. AND if you haven’t taken the steps needed to figure out who you are yet personally and career wise, I recommend you take the time to do so. Take it from me (and maybe from my friend, Michele, the stage manager) your gifts do speak to you, listen to them and you will succeed in all that you do.
Even if it is not obvious to you now, your career inspiration may have already taken root. Reflect on what you like and do well at and it might just be who you become.