“The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”

This Albert Einstein quote appears on a bookmark that was brought home to me from the British Library this summer. It’s currently tucked inside the last chapter of Jia Tolentino’s new book (which is incredible, by the way). Often, when I tell people I’m studying to be a librarian, they laugh and say they’ve never heard someone say that’s what they want to be. But I do. This career perfectly incapsulates everything that I value. I’ve decided to use my Capstone project to explain why.

I came up with four pitches for the Capstone project, as instructed. They were not thought through as well as they probably should have been. I know myself. Either I formulate half an idea and call it good or I spend hours making elaborate plans for just one idea until I absolutely hate it. My first two ideas drew on previous research I’ve done. Those projects define my undergraduate experience as a fledgling archivist and historian, but I just didn’t see them fitting into the realm of this class after talking them through with my classmates and T.

So the third and fourth pitches came to the front. One of them was about sexual abuse in Opera, and that got the best reaction from the class. I expected that. It is the most timely, so it resonated. My partner is an opera singer, and she’ll be in the chorus this fall for the very show I pitched doing a case study on. The idea came from her, really. The concept is compelling, and as much as I respect the genre and would love to do research about it, this idea just doesn’t feel like mine. Which brings us to pitch number four: the preservation of knowledge, or who bothers to care for books? Something like that. I don’t want to speak too soon. We all know how these things tend to change form over and over again. It happened in Gateway, it’ll certainly happen this semester too.

Speaking of this semester, it’s my last one. I’ll graduate in December, do some more work in archives and the Donald Hall Collection (the film/screenplay library on the sixth floor of North Quad– please consider it as a resource!) for eight months, and then head to graduate school. So I’m thinking a lot about this next phase of my life, and why it’s so important to me that I pursue a career dedicated to preserving and talking about history. For me, right now, a project like this needs to grapple with those questions. As hard as I tried to pitch a project that dealt with a new topic, it always comes back to what I’m passionate about. I know I’m super lucky to already know what that is. I can’t wait to articulate to you all, in a new format, why librarianship means so much to me.

4 thoughts to ““The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.””

  1. YES. To all of this. I too, turned away from ideas that seemed more beautiful or unique from the outside and focused on a passion that, although I adore, haven’t ever had the chance to deeply explore and physically reflect upon through writing. I hope you don’t feel guilty about your choice to selectively ignore your classmates and listen to your heart; this is clearly the project that works for your life right now. And it’s not like it’s the last project you’ll ever do!

    My mom’s dream job was to be a librarian, and although she never went to grad school, she has since found her way with her Umich English degree into the library system as a kids’ literary specialist. I have a feeling she’ll be thrilled to hear about even the idea of you. I hope to share your project with her at the end of the semester if that’s something you’re comfortable with! Good luck!!

  2. 1. I love this bookmark- it is so perfect for you!
    2. To be honest, you are the first person I’ve met who knows that they absolutely want to be a librarian. And from the first day of class when you introduced yourself to our conversation yesterday in the Dude about your future plans, I can see your true passion. It’s so incredible that you are so certain about what you want to do with your life at this age!
    I’m not 100% sure if I commented on your pitches during class but I always thought this pitch was the best fit for you so I’m really happy that this is the one you are pursuing! I think that your project could make a huge impact on others’ lives (maybe by inspiring them to follow a similar path) and be a learning tool for all. I can’t wait to see this progress and talk through ideas and possibilities!

  3. Karis,

    I fall under the category of people that hadn’t ever met someone who wanted to be/was studying to be a librarian. When I heard you say it, I was so intrigued, almost inspired. I thought, “wow, that’s a person who knows what they want to do with their life.” I can’t wait to see your project develop and see how you’re going to use it as a way to discuss and explain your passion to those of us who might not know much about it. This is going to be awesome and I can’t wait to learn from you.

  4. I cannot wait to hear about all these *dope* library animals. I also would love to hear about how your relationships with libraries came to be, and where that places your own history and identity in the history of librarians. I’d also like to hear some of your opinions on misconceptions on libraries.

    Also, try checking out Meghan Brody’s Capstone Project! She did her capstone on libraries, technology, and anxiety. It might help pin down some ideas, and also give you a potential connection to someone you want to discuss your ideas with!

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