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Joanna Bixler ’08

Our eleventh alumni feature highlights Joanna Bixler ’08. Bixler graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and communication studies. After graduating she attended the University of South Carolina where she earned her master’s in library and information science. You’ll enjoy reading as she shares the joys of working in public librarianship! Click here to view previous posts in this series!

 Tell us a little bit about how you chose to work as a library and information professional?

“As happens in so many careers, I fell into it in an act of desperation. I was unemployed apart from a part-time library job and the job market was horrific. It was the days before the Affordable Care Act, so I was without health insurance and terrified to go to the doctor. And I’d just dropped out of law school. I took the first full-time job with benefits that I was offered – a paraprofessional children’s room job. Turns out I love the field of librarianship and kept going on to library school and have now spent more than a decade in the field.”

What has been your professional path to your current position?

“After dropping out of a very ill-advised attempt at law school, I was adrift in the post-Great Recession job market. I had a very part time library job as a substitute. One fateful day during that time, I began a conversation with the manager of the Children’s Room at the Richland Library and she mentioned she had a full-time associate position available. Just a month after dropping out of law school with no back-up plan (into the worst economy in decades) I was offered that position. After just a few months, I realized that the library is where I wanted to spend a career. While working full time, I completed the MLIS program. After a very brief stop as a Business Reference librarian, I was moved to fill the position of branch librarian at the Cooper branch of Richland Library. I’ve been here for almost 8 years now and I truly love my job.”

What is the most interesting library in which you’ve worked?

“I’ve only ever worked in public libraries. “Interesting” days are not the ones you live for. Some of my career highlights have been getting to work behind the scenes on author events. I’ve gotten a kiss on the cheek from Caldecott-medal winner Jerry Pinkney. I took Lois Lowry to brunch one day. I can tell you from personal experience that Elizabeth Strout is one of the loveliest human beings on the planet, and the author of the Max and Ruby books is a bit terrifying. Those days are treasures.   But most of the “interesting” days of a public librarian tend to center more on calling the police, cleaning up bodily fluids, and people driving into the bookdrop. Hopefully not all on the same day.”

What is something you have been surprised by during your career?

“You need superior people skills to do this job. There are a lot of assumptions made about what it is like to work in a library and those are mostly wrong. You will most likely be doing a lot more interaction with people than with materials.”