Like many librarians, my initial career plans did not include working in a library. For the longest time, I thought I would become a newspaper journalist. An elementary school field trip to Little Rock to visit the Arkansas Gazette planted that seed. Watching the massive presses churn out the day’s news and learning about the founding publisher’s adventurous start in the Arkansas Territory captivated my seven-year-old mind.
Encouraged by my parents and high school teachers to pursue journalism, I earned my BA in communications at Ouachita, where I spent many late nights writing articles for the Signal and contributing an occasional feature story to the Ouachitonian. I also tutored international students in grammar and composition, which, as I realize now, was a “bend” in my career path. That is when I began to give the field of education serious consideration.
I tried my hand at teaching while studying for my MA degree at Baylor University. Being a teaching assistant in the communications department affirmed my interest in education and prepared me for an opportunity that came five years after I graduated. In the interim, I focused on finding work as a writer, because there were no nearby teaching jobs in my subject area. A college classmate told me about a technical writer opening at a banking software company in Little Rock, so I applied and got the job. Even though I was set on becoming a teacher, this five-year “detour” was a valuable time of professional growth. It sharpened my communication skills, advanced my understanding of technology and helped me grasp the dynamics of a corporate setting.
When I landed my first teaching position – high school English and journalism – I thought it would be my last. Just as my teachers had invested in me, I wanted to do likewise for my students. To encourage them to read, for example, I developed a “free library” of novels in my classroom, allowing students to choose and keep several of their favorite titles. Acquiring and cataloging the books put me in touch with librarians in the area, one of whom encouraged me to seek a Master of Library Science degree. I am so glad I took her advice.
Fast forward to the present. In 2019, I will mark my 20th year at Ouachita as a member of the library faculty. As the periodicals and electronic resources librarian, I continually draw on my early career experiences. My background in writing and technology informs the way I manage the library’s websites, periodicals, subscriptions and databases. It supports my professional development efforts – co-authoring a book, writing articles and reviews and presenting at conferences. I also spend a good bit of my time teaching. Yes, librarians are teachers! Whether in classes or alongside individuals, helping our campus community navigate an ever-growing information landscape is quite fulfilling.
By Margaret Reed, Ouachita professor and periodicals and electronic resources librarian
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