By Meg Tohill
Ever since I can remember, all I’ve ever wanted to do when I got older was to help people. The question of how I would do this has continuously meandered along with my career path. With a passion for reading and writing, diving into library science has always been at the back of my mind, but it was only recently that I started putting the plan in motion. The seed that I had planted in high school started blossoming about two years ago.
I went to undergrad at SUNY New Paltz for a bachelor’s degree in journalism. While I maintain a passion for the written word, the power of storytelling, and delivering universal truths, it became abundantly clear to me during my time there that the industry was/ is in significant danger. Although I know many talented new journalists who continue to push back against the dissemination of misinformation in the media, I took the opportunity to start getting creative.
How could I take my skillset and develop it into something tangible? During my time in undergrad, I spent three years working as a part-time library assistant at Sojourner Truth Library. It was there that my pre-existing admirations for libraries and the information professionals who operate them were reinforced.
Ironically, I only decided to enroll in a graduate program a month before coronavirus became our reality over in the states. My entrance interview was over Zoom and my acceptance letter came during the fourth week of quarantine. I had lost a job that I wasn’t passionate about but was essential to live and I had very little prospects about what I was going to do next.
When the letter finally came, I could finally bat away the storm clouds that had been hanging so heavy around my head for months. Quarantine hit me harder than I’d like to admit. All of this stagnant time at home reminded me of past demons, something I usually could manage when surrounded by the camaraderie of my friends, or in many cases, library professionals.
My experience working at Sojourner Truth Library had been incredibly validating. My coworkers were empathetic communicators who had the knowledge to share and after some time, I realized I wanted to be just like these individuals. I wanted to provide information to people who were hurting. I wanted to help people who didn’t know how to help themselves but desperately wanted to do so.
March started like a lamb and ended like a lion. This goes against everything they ever taught us in elementary school, but when you go from being able to see your loved ones, to losing people you thought you had years left with, reality is a hard thing to discern.
We were told in March and April that masks were unnecessary and then suddenly, we became mask-wearing armies. If there was a thing that was true one minute, the next minute we were being told the exact opposite. Finding the truth in quarantine hasn’t just been difficult, it’s been debilitating, making the library science profession more essential than it has ever been. When libraries and their staff are prioritized, individuals don’t have to defer to a magnanimous figurehead spewing “fake news.” When library science is accessible, information is accessible and today, information is a wealth many refuse to inherit.
An election year, a pandemic, a full-time job, and graduate courses will be what I ultimately remember the most from 2020. However, it is my hunger for the truth and the need to help others find it too, that keeps me motivated. I believe that these feelings of determination that accompanied my pain are what I will remember the most.
Meg Tohill is a copywriter at DAC Group of Companies and an MLS graduate student at Queens College. She spends what very little free time she has reading, baking, and hiking with her boyfriend.
Note: Experiences, thoughts, and feelings shared on the ArLiSNAP blog are solely those of the featured author(s) and interviewees and do not represent the views of any employer.