When I was little I spent a lot of time at libraries. My mom would take us, we would grab stacks of books, speed through reading them and go back for more. I would write and illustrate my own books on crappy white computer paper and bound them with staples. When I got older, I loved heading to the spinning wire racks of paperbacks and selecting them. I would read Sweet Valley High, Judy Blume and other books that gave me a peek into what it was like being older.
As a teenager, I dropped out of high school my freshman year. Basically, my mom wouldn't let me go back because I ditched school too much. I "didn't want to be dumb" (my words back then) so I decided to read as many books as I could. I remember writing each title in hot pink ink on a piece of binder paper. I can't remember the total, but I know it was over 100 in the year between dropping out at 14 and starting at De Anza College the next year. Nearly all of these books were checked out from the library.
When I was 17, I worked at Super Crown, shelving and selling books. Then at Barnes & Noble for maybe three months.
While in art school, I would always be on the 7th floor of my school library, carrying stacks of heavy art books down to the first floor to checkout.
After art school, I got a job as a library page at my old school library. I worked 12 hours a week and taught art at two different studios. It was a lot of running around and hustling, but a good mix of work. Eventually I felt burnt on the art teaching and as I was driving on the freeway, a thought drifted into my head, "I'm going to be a librarian."
When I went to apply, I found out about an amazing scholarship program through the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Librarians for Tomorrow program was looking for students from underrepresented groups to become librarians. Studies found that patrons were more likely to approach librarians that looked like them or spoke their language. I received the scholarship, which covered tuition, a laptop, printer, books and other professional development. I was so grateful for this program. There was no way I would have been able to afford the degree otherwise at the time.
I graduated and the economy was on a downturn so I ended up having a hard time finding a librarian job. I worked in tech for nearly two years, as some librarians recommended I do that if I can't find a library job. I applied to libraries once in awhile over the years and then focused on art as I kept finding creative opportunities.
As an artist, I do so much research, so I use libraries, books and the internet a lot to inform my work.
I was contacted by a librarian from the Burlingame Library to see if I would like to exhibit my work there. I will be having a show in August. Other amazing nearby artists, including Kyle Pellet, Harumo Sato, Genevieve Santos and eventually Roan Victor (after she reopens her art shop and has time?), will be showing at this library. Around this time, I applied to a few part-time librarian positions.
In the morning, I had my first day as an on-call librarian. The library is a beautiful newer space and the staff is awesome. It sounds like I will be working on some really cool programs in addition to working the reference desk.
In the afternoon, I interviewed in South San Francisco and had what felt like a really great interview. I felt at home with my interviewers and it seemed such a great fit. They offered me the job, being a librarian in their new Makerspace. I will be doing all things creative there.
This morning, I started my car and heard Michael Krasney talking about all that libraries do on Forum. The subject was too coincidental! This is also a great view on public libraries as illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton. Libraries are becoming community centers rather than just information centers (see this article). You can meet up and knit, sketch, learn a language, cook, learn how to buy a house, learn how to get out of debt, trace your family tree, learn how to talk to your kids about sex, 3-D print, even the South San Francisco Library gave a talk on Prohibition in San Mateo County at a local bar.
I love that I will be able to work on my art while working part-time at the Central Park Library and at the South San Francisco Public Library. Things seem to have come full-circle, given that I loved making and reading books as a kid, loved making art and it's coming together.
While being a librarian, I feel like I will have more space to make crazier, bigger projects with art. I don't want to do art fairs, I don't want to sell a ton of art products, but rather work on art projects. I know the creative positions at these libraries will work so well with making art.
Here are projects I will have going now through summer:
- Book proposal
- Illustration work
- Private commissions (I have a few exciting ones lined up!)
- Original art for a show at the Burlingame Library later this summer
One last thing. Although I think what artists do is amazing and terribly necessary, I do feel like it can feel like a selfish or self-involved profession. I am so glad I will also be doing something where I can give back to the community!