Before we can have a proper discussion about public libraries, I think it’s important for you to know a little bit about my background. What I’ve done previously has had a great influence on my worldview and my approach to librarianship.
I bounced around from job to job before I found something to consider a “career”. My first experience with a position that I thought might be my career was working inpatient as a psych tech. For the first time I was fascinated – actually completely rivited – by every single day at work. I worked the locked unit of a Community Mental Health Center’s Adult ICU. We ran a 80 bed phyciatric hospital, but the Adult ICU was a 20 bed unit. I developed close relationships with co-workers and learned a true appreciation for what chronic mental illness can do to people.
After working that position for a few years I took a position with the same organization working as a Case Manager with basically the same clients, but on an outpatient basis. We were stationed in a Drop-in Center at our local homeless shelter. It was a separate area of the building that – on any given day – was probably the craziest 1500 square feet in the county. My job was to attempt to keep my caseload housed (not always possible), to minimize law enforcement contact (good luck) and to keep my caseload alive (also not always possible). I learned the ins and outs of all of the sketchiest neighborhoods in the city – because those were the only neighborhoods that my clients could afford, and those were the only landlords willing to rent to people who are actively hallucinating 24/7.
Years of doing this job eventually led to burnout and pushed me to return to school. Upon completion of an undergraduate degree I took a part-time job working the reference desk of our public library’s main downtown location. What did I find? Well – a lot of homeless chronically mentally ill people clearly spend time at the downtown locations of public libraries! I returned to school again to pursue my MLS, and now I manage a smallish (35,000 items) urban public library branch.
More stories to come – but this sets the stage for future blog posts.