ASSOCIATES (2006, July, v. 13, no. 1) -

Coming of Age?


Tinker Massey
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Daytona Beach, Florida

“What do you want to do when you grow up, little girl?”

I had many answers depending upon when you talked to me. At different ages I wanted to be a space pilot, a brain surgeon, a priest, and yes, a librarian. The librarian dream never really went away. Being pushed by a scientific father and a mother who wished us to know a little of everything and be able to cope with the world, I began to learn and absorb much data. I was instructed in music, the arts, humanities, science, and even some social sciences. Learn, I did and there was absorption, like a sponge. I think it is interesting to think about when ideas form and when you make decisions. Life labors around us like a swirling thick fog encompassing us and working at each neuron of our skin. We feel pricked and prodded and suddenly become enlightened to make a formidable decision. For me, there were many decisions during my life, some promoted by others and some of my own. Life guides us through many necessary decisions and then we have to choose a lifestyle and a career and roads to run. Think about those you have made in your lifetime. In all the decisions, we have underlying passions and beliefs that will remain with us. I have been lucky to stick with my passion – library work, and my strong beliefs in ethical and compassionate reactions to life. I had a young career of thirty years of support staff work in libraries where I was able to expand my development in the field and learn a great deal about many of the aspects of library work. Life gave me some boots and I tried several other careers that helped me understand my true passion. Having understood the necessity to cope in life, I pursued a Master’s degree in library science and achieved that, one course at a time, before I reached sixty years of age – just before.

Now, I am asked how the professional library life is different from the support staff years. I am still impatient, aggressive and passionate about my work. I get fired up to get the job done. I get excited when I discover new tasks to complete or new ways to get things done. None of that has changed in all the years of my experiences in libraries. I have discovered that professional work is mostly the same stuff you did as a support staff, but now you direct others to do it. I have never liked being a director of activities, so I organize things to be just big enough to include me on the team of active participants. This is not difficult in a small library and is welcomed by the support staff who love seeing me make some of their mistakes – makes you human. A difference is that I can use others’ ideas and include them in the decisional aspects of the job – also a fun thing for them and me.

I now have the obligation to organize and direct activities, which is a little different. I also hold the responsibility for effectiveness of our unit, which is a challenge. I still hate the financial aspects of serials work and continue to get frustrated over trying to find replacement issues and understand why we are not receiving them at all. There has to be an easier way of doing this. I’ll keep hammering away until I find one. I still tend to ignore stupid rules, but now it becomes critical at times and I have to back down when I most hate to do it. I think the most exciting thing of all is the team work which is the most efficient I have ever experienced. The most difficult is being diplomatic during critical stressful times. Slowly but surely, I am achieving and learning all the critical information and processes that I need for the job. Perhaps in the second year of my professional position, I will be able to do more cataloging of serials while I maintain control over the other more difficult tasks. I was rewarded this year with “windfall monies,” which I gleefully spent on microfilm and binding. I thought the other staff might be upset about me getting this special backing, but I found that the library staff was delighted at me getting things improved so quickly for them and the patrons. We are changing some old ways slowly and getting people to think about some new ideas. I am starting a rumor (?) about a grant proposal for saving our more fragile important materials and there are many people who want to become involved. We are hoping for a new Director with similar ideas to come this year, but we shall see. That will be another aspect of the professional position – convincing others to do some new and exciting things.

In sum, the position is not much different, but the behavior expected is slightly different and more critical every day. Basically, the differences in support position and professional position are salaries and responsibility. With all of the changes, I believe I have found the most exciting career as my last (?) career in life. It is a dream job in a special place in an exciting time. I do have a little time to think about another dream and final career as children’s author. Perhaps that will come true too.

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