When she grows up, Shannon Siebers wants to be a professional book hoarder.
“That’s what librarians are,” she said with a laugh. “We’re nerds. We love talking about books.”
Siebers has worn the “nerd” label proudly for years, starting when she was 5 years old. The granddaughter of a librarian’s assistant, Siebers practically grew up in the stacks Germantown Public Library.
“The library is my hometown. It’s just around the corner from my house,” she said. “I definitely remember having a little library card with my 5-year-old handwriting on it. My kindergarten class would walk over there and check out books.”
Looking back, she added, “I don’t know how the librarians dealt with us.”
When she turned 16 and began looking for a job, it was a no-brainer: Siebers wanted to work at the library. Her grandmother suggested volunteering to get her foot in the door, but the library had other plans: Siebers was called in for an interview and then offered a job as a page. She’s worked there ever since.
Now Siebers is a student at UWM and contemplating her own future as a librarian. Most students might opt for a major in information science or technology, given that most librarians are required to have a Masters in Library and Information Science, but instead, Siebers is indulging her inner nerd. She’s majoring in English.
“It was pretty clear that it doesn’t matter what you did for your undergraduate. I asked my boss and she said that it made the most sense to do something with books,” Siebers said. “Having a broad education about literature has been wonderful. I’ve loved every single one of my English professors.”
She’s a particular fan of The Picture of Dorian Gray and other classic literature, but her favorite book is “whatever I’m reading right now,” Siebers said.
She has put that love of literature to good use as she’s moved up the ranks in the library. As a page, Siebers was in charge of re-shelving books and helping at the circulation desk, but after three years, the director named Siebers a youth services intern, expanding her job duties with the library.
“My job is basically event programming, and it gets weirder from there,” Siebers said.
She’s talking about events like the day the library made a life-size Candyland board game and patrons played by moving around colored squares taped the floor. Then there was the haunted house that she helped coordinate with the library’s teen advisory board (“They were pretty creepy. It was nice,” she said), and the usual summer reading programs and events for families.
These days, as the pandemic has forced patrons to stay at home, she and her colleagues are finding new ways to keep people engaged by making craft and recipe kits to distribute.
While she’s crafting and planning events, Siebers is also gaining valuable experience that will give her a leg up when it comes time for graduate school.
“I’ve learned so much about what libraries do and how they operate, from the inside out,” she said. “It’s so nice to have experience before getting my MLIS. Experience is the no. 1 requirement for a job in this field.”
She’s not sure where she’d like to attend graduate school – UWM, UW-Madison, and the University of Illinois are all on her list – but wherever she ends up, Siebers will take her love of the library with her.
“I believe that information and education should be accessible to everybody,” she said. “Libraries are one of the only places that are accessible to everyone, no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, and no matter how much money you have.”
And when it’s safe to gather in libraries again, Siebers has a request.
“Just say hi to the librarians. We’re nerds. We’ll talk to you about books.”
By Sarah Vickery, College of Letters & Science