My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary
On my 11th birthday, my grandma took me to Barnes and Noble to choose out any book I wanted. This was a big deal, because not only was this one of the very few times that we didn’t go to a garage sale or thrift store to pick out books, but also I got to pick out a hardcover! As a kid, I was insanely into Cleary’s Ramona books, so I decided to get her memoir about her young adult life.
I immediately loved this book the first time I read it. College was a far away, vague idea for me at the time, but Cleary made even the mundane things seem exciting. Living in a boarding house! Having a PE major roommate! Eating a ton of avocados from an avocado tree! The book quickly became one of the few that went into my permanent library, which has now moved with me a few times.
I decided to re-read My Own Two Feet because not only does it cover her undergraduate years, but also her time at University of Washington’s library school and her first few years as a librarian. Since I’m in library school now, I wanted to re-read it to see if things have changed all that much since the 1930s. I quickly found out that they have…and they haven’t.
- Cataloguing isn’t always the most exciting class.
- There is an intense fear of the “cheapening of the profession.” When Cleary was in library school, they were all instructed to not accept a salary of less than $100 per month to keep the profession valued. Today, we are obsessed with accreditation and the purpose of the masters degree. This may be a library science battle forever.
- There is a weirdly fierce, passive aggressive battle for jobs. And having to relocate for a position is certainly still a reality.
- Cleary had to briefly hide her marriage because there was a rule of no more than one married female librarian at a branch at a time. Yeah…not a problem now.
- Cleary got a C in a class for not smiling enough, according to the professor. Whoa. I would fail so many classes.
Overall, reading this as an adult made me love Cleary even more. She gets the vibe of library school so right, and simply tells what is wrong and right about it. This isn’t a flashy read, but it always rings true. I’m so glad I’ve had it as a type of guidebook since 11. I could’ve certainly chosen worse.