There are two great mysteries in my life:
- Why The Princess Bride does not feature in everyone’s top 5 favourite movies of all time; and
- Why I chose to pursue librarianship as a career
If I could travel back in time and ask my childhood self What do you want to be when you grow up? I’m pretty sure the answer would be blonde. Librarian did not even enter into my head and most librarians will tell you that they fell into library work. My own story differs very little from the norm.
Equipped with a newly minted Bachelor of Business Studies degree in my pocket (actually, buried under a pile of ephemera and various pieces of clothing in my closet), and enticed by the numerous success stories and opportunities promoted by the business community, I confidently set out looking for employment in a commerce-related field.
As it turns out, so did hundreds of other BBS graduates.
After a few dispiriting false starts, I recalibrated my job radar and hit upon the ad for a Library Assistant. “Aw yeah,” I thought. “Worth a punt!” Not as a career, mind you. As an interim solution until the CEO of a well-known multinational recognised my executive potential and recruited me for a six-figure salary role in their organisation.
So while I waited for that executive offer, I applied for the library position. I was interviewed and offered the job, which I gladly accepted. My first real job. I felt very grown up.
I didn’t expect to enjoy the work as much as I did, and I didn’t expect to admire the work of my colleagues. From what I observed in these early years, an intrinsic librarian characteristic is to help others, and seeing how clients responded to that help, that was the kind of behaviour I wanted to emulate. Library work wasn’t what I anticipated.
Entry level roles like a Library Assistant, are inherently short lived for an individual, designed to recruit promising new talent and launch their career. And after two years in the position, I knew it was time to move on. But to what?
I had embarked on a Māori qualification, a lifelong ambition, and I also had the chance to revive my business career aspirations. But now there was this unexpected new development. I could legitimately visualise a career in librarianship. This was a crucial time for me: what path do I choose, and just as important, who do I look to for advice?
As it turns out, the advice that sealed my fate came from the most unlikely of sources.
Try to imagine a person who is the complete opposite to you in almost every possible way. For me, that person would have the following qualities – white, male, 6ft+in height, conservative, supports right-wing “let the market decide” philosophies, lawyer by training, ex-National Party MP, and now a senior executive in a large banking institution.
In physical appearance, political philosophies, and cultural upbringing, we could not be more different. Yet somehow his encouragement and endorsement of a library career struck a chord in me where those who shared my cultural and professional backgrounds did not. If it wasn’t for him, I would not be working in libraries today.
This is but one of a number of life-changing decisions where the determining factor was influenced by the guidance of someone who is not Māori, or to be more specific, who are white. And I question what it is about me that places such a high value on their recommendations. Of course, it is possible that I am inventing a situation just to create an argument based on cultural differences. But if so, why has this question always lingered in the back of my mind even after all these years?
The answer remains a mystery, but I have an unsubstantiated theory. I think I listen more carefully to people whose views differ from mine because I unconsciously prepare myself to disagree. And when I find that I don’t disagree, that idea gains favour in my eyes because it has overcome prejudices inherent in my psyche. Then again, it could simply be a case of good advice is good advice, irrespective of where it originates.
(The image is me at my Masters of Library and Information Studies graduation ceremony)