Confessions of a “Fake” Librarian

This month we’ve been talking about what we wished we had learned in library school. But… (and here’s that confession) I never went.

I started out as a library page at my town library while I was commuting to a local college. My mom worked there (and still does!) and I was helping out one day when the director asked if I wanted a job. Yes, please! Then a new director came on board and asked if I wanted to run storytimes. YES, please! That turned into Children’s Librarian/Assistant Director. Then my director went to a library 2 towns over and 8 months later I followed and became Head of Youth Services/Assistant Director. This time I even had my own office. WITH A DOOR! I figured I would go to library school at some point.

Then my director received a flyer in the mail about getting an MFA in Writing for Children through Simmons College and the Eric Carle Museum of Picturebook Art. It was roughly half the price of a Simmons library degree and I also just really, really wanted to do it. So I did. And it was awesome! I met amazing people and learned so much and have 2 unfinished manuscripts to show for it that will probably never be finished but that’s OK! Maybe someday.

Then I bought a house. Then I got married. Then I had my daughter. Fast forward 12 years and I am still paying for my master’s degree (mostly because I deferred so many times!) And while a really big part of me still wants to get a degree in library science so that I don’t have to feel like I am not a “real” librarian… an even bigger part of me is sort of over it. I have been a “fake” librarian for 16 years. I supervise a staff of 3. I have planned and implemented hundreds of programs, written grants, and dealt with SO MANY CRAZY (and wonderful) PEOPLE, that I feel like maybe I have learned some valuable things that an MLS degree couldn’t teach me. And I am naturally terrible at math, so I doubt even a class on library budgets would have helped!

I wish all of my experience could let me earn that pricey piece of paper. Because I really do envy those of you that have it. You worked hard for that degree. If I were younger and less busy and had more money and was slightly more motivated, I would go for it. But I feel like I have worked pretty hard to get where I am without it.

11 responses to “Confessions of a “Fake” Librarian”

  1. I just started my MLIS after being a “fake” librarian for nearly 5 years. I have 3 kids doing online school at home (my husband and I share teaching), work 28 hours a week, and I’m 50 years old. Age is not a good excuse for anything; finances are! I get paid less than $12/hour but I am applying for every grant and scholarship I can find and tightening my belt. School of life is essential, valid, and valuable beyond measure, but I’m learning so much about libraries that I could not learn just by working in one. However, if you still don’t want a degree, it couldn’t hurt to just get a textbook list from a friend in an MLIS program and read through them! Whatever you decide, I know your patrons will benefit from a librarian as thoughtful and creative as you are. ❀


    • I am lucky to be paid pretty well for a Youth Services Director/Assistant Director, mostly because I have been in my current job for 15 years and I have been compensated for having a master’s degree (even though it isn’t an MLIS.) But that would probably be a factor if I was making less. I will not make more money for having a library degree in my current town/public library unless I become a director (and I don’t really want to.) Most of the Youth Services jobs that come up nearby start at much lower salaries and require the MLIS. My coworker is currently getting her MLIS and there is definitely a lot to learn. Maybe someday I’ll get it. It sounds like you have a lot on your plate and it’s great that you are going for it! I have a good amount on my plate as well, and after working my 40+ hours a week, I have to set aside some time for my family and for myself (something that I had to learn the hard way.) Education is always valuable, though, no matter what πŸ™‚


  2. Thank you so much for this, Molly! As a fellow “fake” librarian of only 4 years, I am working to let go of the need for validation that I seem to think a Library Science degree would provide while being open to the potential of going back to school someday for the right reasons – to grow for myself and for my patrons. We’ll see…


  3. I just started my journey as a ‘fake’ librarian. I am 2 months in my employment at my first library position as Teen Services. I was told I was in charge of the YA section and has been introduced as the new Teen Librarian the first month of my employment but when it was time to do my name tag I was told since I do not have an MLIS that I will be called Teen Services. It was like taking a rug right from under my feet. I was telling everyone this is my dream job and everyone was calling me a librarian and then they just took that title away and made me feel less than even though I am expected to work as if I am. I am having a lot of fun as Teen Services so far and even though its only my 2nd month I have done 10 teen events already (I started two new ones of my own). I have been doing this by myself with very little guidance and I can proudly say I am doing alright for a newbie.


    • Oh wow. That is definitely something they should have mentioned when you were hired. Some libraries are a little more strict about titles I guess. It sounds like you are doing a great job though and maybe library school is in your future! It’s difficult because library school can be very expensive and depending on where you work, it might be harder to recoup the money. Education is always valuable in itself, of course, but librarians need to eat sometimes too! πŸ˜‰ I hope you keep at it and don’t worry about what your job title is. You will mean a lot to your teens no matter what!


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