Friday, January 25, 2019

Amanda Roper - The Stars at KLIC: Journey Story of our Staff


In her journals the poet Sylvia Plath wrote, “I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited.” 

Since childhood I have wanted to be all of the things: a marine biologist, a writer, and Mary Queen of Scots. As a teenager and college student my dream career list was only slightly more practical: poet, social worker, an English professor, a historian studying the Victorian era, bookstore owner, rebel-rousing zine maker, a scone baker, and an owner of a cat café.

I stumbled into a job at a library a few months after graduating with my undergraduate degree in English with a concentration in creative writing and an undeclared minor in Gender Studies. I had one English professor who told me she thought I should become a librarian. This happened shortly after I explained my unfettered love for compiling annotated bibliographies. I remembered that conversation and after graduation decided to apply for a job at my alma mater’s library. My original plan was to work in a library while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.

I was seeking a meaningful career, but I was also very aware that I had obligations and responsibilities to others. My oldest daughter was born during my freshman year of college and I was a single mother throughout my undergraduate program. I  was happiest using my brain and creativity, but I also needed practical things like sick leave and medical insurance. I knew that a library job would afford me a set schedule and insurance and working in a university appealed to me and I thought I'd have to wait on creative job. What I didn’t realize is that my library work would be so deeply fulfilling. While working at my first library, I realized that I could integrate many aspects of my dream careers into librarianship. Writing and creativity, caring deeply for people and issues of social justice, teaching college students, researching, organizing and displaying books, using zines in library reference and instruction, and yes, I even delight in baking and sharing treats with students and staff. I haven’t quite worked out how to include cats in my work life, but it is always good to have future goals.

Although I loved working in a library, I wasn’t quite convinced that I wanted to go to graduate school for library science, which is the master’s level degree one needs to become a librarian. Sure, I loved working in a library, but for some reason I thought that there would be an absence of creativity in a library degree. I spent a solid year writing a poetry collection and applied to a highly competitive, low-residency creative writing program. My application was rejected and so I bit the bullet and applied to library school.

Sometimes rejection is a very good thing indeed. Once I was in my program and introduced to the magical world of library instruction, I knew that librarianship is what makes my heart sing. Being a librarian takes a smack ton of creativity, research, thoughtfulness, and helping others. As I approached graduation, I started looking for jobs that would allow me to work closely with students, apply creative thinking, and give me the space to address issues of social justice and equity. I applied at ChattState because it ticked all of those boxes and I’m so glad I got this job. I moved from Georgia to Tennessee in October with my husband, Sam, and my two youngest children, Atticus and Persephone. Chattanooga already feels like home and ChattState feels like family. 

Professional Presentations:
Paraprofessional Development: Growing Through Mentorship and the Georgia Library Association, Georgia Libraries Conference, 4 October, 2018, co-presenter

Bring your brains: Information Literacy and Zombies in the Library! Georgia Library Association Carterette Webinar, August 2018, co-presenter

But I want to do it all! Social media strategies for the small academic library,     Library Marketing and Communications Conference, November 2017,  presenter

Fantastic student employees and where to find them: Using gamification and the world of Harry Potter to engage student employees, Georgia COMO, October 2016, co-presenter

Maximizing outreach without maxing out: No-to-low cost ways of getting your library’s message out there, Georgia Library Association Carterette Webinar, August 2016, co-presenter

Georgia Library Association
     Vice President of Marketing and Branding, 2019
     Chair, Paraprofessional Division, 2018
     Vice-Chair, Paraprofessional Division, 2017
     Marketing and Branding Committee, 2016-Present


Andrea said...

We are so glad to have you, Amanda! And yes - being a librarian is creative and multi-faceted. There's room to go wherever your heart desires!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It’s great to get to know you better. Rosy