Monday, July 08, 2019
Marie Cullis - The Stars at KLIC: Journey Story of our Staff
By Marie Cullis
Like many, my path to working in libraries was not straight forward.
I was a non-traditional college student, meaning I did not begin college immediately after high school, I lived on my own, and I worked full time through parts of college (mostly waiting tables). I began at a community college much like Chattanooga State, and I really enjoyed my time there. I have always loved learning and enjoyed being a student. Attending part-time and changing majors a few times, it took me about 5 years to obtain my Associate’s degree. But that made me the first person in my family to graduate college!
After that I decided I wanted to further my education and I was leaning toward majoring in history. I love history, and I also knew it was a good major in case I wanted to apply to law or graduate school. I had relocated to Tennessee by then and enrolled at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
This time I attended college full-time so that I could take advantage of financial aid assistance and progress quicker than I did with my first degree. During my senior year I began an internship at a local museum that quickly turned into a part-time job. I fell in love with collections and behind-the-scenes public service work and decided this would likely be my career path. For a period, I struggled with whether to apply to graduate school for museum studies or library science. In the end, I decided on museum studies and was accepted to Middle Tennessee State University. While there, I worked at their library part-time on a digitization project, which was really rewarding.
I was halfway through my master’s degree work and thesis when the 2008 financial crisis hit. While I did not lose my assistantship and scholarship to the crisis, many museums drastically cut positions and some closed permanently. I don’t believe museums have ever fully recovered. I was lucky and I managed to get a job as a Curator of Collections here in Chattanooga after graduating.
Unfortunately, that museum was unable to raise enough funds to survive. After working full-time for 7 years, I ended up working part-time in order to manage the collections’ transition to another institution. By then I’d had a wonderful little boy and didn’t mind working less and spending time with him. But the job had an end date and I’d need to find something else eventually. A friend of mine was working here and mentioned they were looking to hire a part-time adjunct librarian. While I didn’t have an MLIS, I did have experience and a related masters. So I applied, and got the job! After doing that for two and a half years, the full-time position I’m in now opened up, and I applied and was offered the job!
I already knew and liked everyone on staff here, so it was a good transition. I’m still in a public service atmosphere and at a community college much like where I began. I’m happy to be here!