Tena from North Canton, Ohio

If you already know that the library is a portal to endless information, you will understand my story.

September 4, 2003, a doctor finally determined the reason for my daughters’ diminishing vision – retinal degeneration, a condition that leads to eventual blindness. That day at Cleveland Clinic was the day everything changed.

Until then, I thought we had our lives under control. My husband had a good job in the steel industry; I worked at designing and selling mobile specialty vehicles (primarily bookmobiles); our daughters Karen and Whitney were 12 and 15, just starting middle school and high school respectively. Everything was just great.
    Upon receiving the diagnosis, my greatest need was simple, but urgent – information. I just could not seem to get enough of it. I wanted to learn everything possible about rod/cone dystrophy and retinal degeneration. I wanted to know who else had it and how they managed. I wanted to know what organizations supported it and researched it. I wanted to know how long the girls would have functional vision. I wanted to know if vitamins or treatments would prolong the inevitable. Mostly, I wanted to know if the “inevitable” was indeed inevitable.

Once I had enough information to fill a notebook, I wanted to know everything possible about the treatment or cures that were currently under research. Information was my only comfort, besides the faith my husband and I shared, and the beautiful, smiling faces of my girls.

Many things have changed in my life since learning that the future will look differently than I had ever dreamed. Perspective has a way of changing when priorities are refocused. I no longer wanted to travel and spend time away from home. It no longer mattered what kind of car I drove or what luxuries adorned our home. With the full support of my loving husband, I resigned my career of fifteen years, downsized my car and our home, and dedicated myself to equipping our daughters with the tools they would need for their future.

As I rethought my own future, I reached for a new goal: I wanted to become a librarian. For me, no other career would do. Never before, even after fifteen years of selling bookmobiles to libraries, had I truly realized the wealth of information that awaits the searcher at the library. Never before had I realized that a citizen, regardless of their economic background, can enter a library and potentially gain access to any information that exists anywhere in the world.

Nine months have passed since I began my trek towards librarianship. Soon I will graduate with a Master in Library and Information Science. I have never been more proud of the work that I have become equipped to do.

For the last year I have been privileged to work in a library. I have looked into the eyes of a customer and seen firsthand that the information I provided has comforted and changed them.  I have seen children and young adults begin their journey as lifetime library users. I have experienced the euphoria that comes after connecting a desperate patron with information that visibly soothed their anxiety.

On the training road towards librarianship, I have encountered many interesting and new concepts that have changed me. New familiarity with various library services – reader’s advisory, young adult programming, collection development and maintenance, reference – intrigue and inspire me.

Perhaps my background as the daughter of a preacher draws me so strongly towards the idea of pointing people towards a larger vision. Regardless, I strive to become an effective communicator with the ability to lead and encourage, solve problems, plan and organize. What better field could there be than that of librarianship, which offers to all people free and equal access to information.

I am not the same person I was three years ago. I don’t make much money and my car isn’t fancy. I don’t get manicures or shop at Bloomingdales. I have learned that true happiness and contentment comes from within. Circumstances cannot permanently alter a life’s purpose or goals.

My library has become my portal to an endless supply of information, and the knowledge of this has changed me.  Now, as a librarian, I have the distinct privilege to assist others through that same portal into a life-changing wealth of information.