Friday, November 13, 2009

How I got this job

How does one become a library cataloger? It isn't normally an option advertised at high school career days. Personally, I had no idea I would end up doing this work, or working in libraries, until it happened. But if I could turn the clock back, I would have gone to library school to obtain a Masters degree in Library Science, as libraries and being around books in general have always been my love. This is probably true for many who work here. Even in high school, being shy, I would often spend most of lunch period reading through magazines at the school library. In college, I found browsing through the library stacks to be more interesting than doing the assigned work for my classes.

My original goal was to teach high school social studies and to coach cross country and track. I obtained a basic teaching certificate, and even went back to graduate school to obtain a Masters degree in teaching secondary social studies. But the job market was overcrowded with applicants, and I was easily discouraged, so I spent several years working part-time as a substitute teacher and part time at other tasks, just to get by.

Frustrated by the lack of fulfilling work, and having developed close friendships with some Vietnamese refugees, I started a newsletter focusing on human rights in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. This was in 1979. I sent copies to well known people, and received some positive feedback. This led to my moving back down to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I worked with Ginetta Sagan (while teaching Vista ESL classes) on a human rights report in Vietnam. Through this I came to know Douglas Pike, a well known government expert on the communist leadership in Vietnam, who had retired from government and opened up the "Indochina Archive" at the University of California at Berkeley. Mr. Pike hired me as his assistant in August 1983 and I have worked for the university since then. From 1983-1997, when Mr. Pike moved to Texas Tech and relocated much of his collection there, my work included assisting visiting researchers, cutting and pasting news clippings for the files, and assisting in the writing, production and mailing of our quarterly newsletter. My work was much more varied at that time than now, but my job was never reclassified, and I was forced to put in much unpaid labor, as the project depended on dwindling foundation funds.

After Mr. Pike left in 1997, I continued to work part time at what was left of our collection, which has now also been moved to Texas Tech (for which I am happy -- more on that later). In 1999 I was contacted by the university library's technical services to ask if I would be interested in cataloging books from Vietnam. I said yes, but added that I was not fluent in the language. I was told that was fine, I only needed a rudimentary knowledge as I would be copy cataloging. So for the next few years I split my work time between cataloging books at the library and working at the archive. When it became clear (in 2002) that the archive would run completely out of funding, I was able to get on full time at the library.

So that is how I got this job. My duties have branched out to include many other kinds of books, and cataloging books from Vietnam is now only a small part of my workload. I will discuss this more in the next entry.

1 comment:

  1. It's so nice to read your story. You have obtained higher degree but you are now working full time in a library. Is there any regret so far?

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