“Why I Do What I Do”
Over the past 19 years +, I have written on a number of topics ranging from book club groups, building renovation, art events, trends in librarianship, capital projects, new services, library advocacy, going green, history of the library, financial issues and even the life of a donated book. One of the few items I have not written about in quite some time is why I wrote about these subjects. Why were they so important to me that I wanted to share them with you?
I suspect if we are fortunate in life, we find our little niche in the world. When I went to college, working in a library was probably the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to either play center field for the Yankees or write the next great American novel. Well, that didn’t happen. So what should I do for the next 60-70 years of my life…hopefully if not more?
Immediately after college, I worked for the old Gimbel’s Department Store on the upper east side of Manhattan. I was in charge of the “Little Boys/ Little Girls” department. That lasted about three months. Next, I worked at a bank. Don’t ask me why. They were recruiting; I needed a job, so I said yes. That lasted about a couple of years. Then I worked for an electronics manufacturer’s rep in upstate New York …and I was miserable. Money was OK but I felt I was just going through the motion. At the ripe old age of 28, I was at the crossroads of what to do with my life. I’m sure some of you know exactly what I mean. Unless you hit the lottery, you’ve got to work so I got to thinking I might as well do something that I enjoy. Compiling a list of my skills and interests, the common denominators pointed me to teaching or librarianship. You now know which one I chose.
My first library gig was at the Brooklyn Public Library. They sent me everywhere, from the Italian neighborhood of Bensonhurst, to the African-American community in Jamaica Bay to the Hasidic Jewish enclave in Midwood. What an education for a gentile boy! It all prepared me well for my Branch Manager’s position at the Pasco County Library System. After ten years there, I was fortunate to be selected as your Library Director.
In the ensuing years, I didn’t just further expand my experience in library services. If anything I began to develop a deeper appreciation for what I did and why. It may sound a bit corny to some but I felt for the first time, I was making a difference. Think about this. Each day, similar to thousands of my colleagues, I come to work each day with the possibility that I could impact in some positive way the life of a child, a teen or an adult through a program, a service or even a book. We provide a neutral venue where ideas may be freely exchanged in a civil way, creating opportunities for anyone to discover how their lives may change for the better.
To go home each night knowing that in small some way I may have been able to make some else’s life a bit better, a bit brighter, well for me, that’s what it’s all about.
That’s why I became a librarian. I found my niche.
Gene P. Coppola, Library Director
Palm Harbor Library