This writing is to share my experience, and is listed on the Library Routes Project.
I suppose I could start with the typical childhood story: I like to read. As fas as I remember, it started when my grandmother read me the Dutch version of Lucky Luke comic book. She translated it on the fly and I listened to her while looking at the illustrations. My parents were avid readers too and more than happy to get us books whenever they can.
Whenever I picked a book and read it, I lost in time and forgot everything else (still true now.) The next thing I know, my mom yelled at me to go to bed. I have a cool, older sister who likes reading too and could actually become a librarian. She shelved her books in a certain order and forced me to follow her circulation rule: I had to have a borrowing card, which was just a piece of old newspaper cut in about 2×3 inches size. So I could just create a library card any time I want, submitted it to my sister, and picked a book I wanted to read. Come to think of it, it was probably more like exchanging “paper money” for renting a book. She kept a record which book I borrowed just to make sure I returned it before I could borrow another one. No due date, fortunately.
During the high school, I visited the school library almost everyday so I could peruse the book shelves looking for interesting title and borrow it. It was quite a small library and the room was probably as big as a typical classroom. The bookshelves were lined up along two sides of the wall and next to the entrance door. There were a couple of tables and chairs in the middle of the room. The reference/circulation desk occupied the fourth side of the room. If I remembered it correctly, we were allowed to borrow only one book at a time. The Librarian knew me by name.
Thanks to all those books I read, my childhood dream was to become an archaeologist because I was (and still am ) easily mesmerized with other cultures. Needless to say, my dad was not happy to hear about it. His first question (with a dismayed face): what are you doing digging up other people’s graves? I was, like, huh? It’s more than just graves! His next objection: this is not an area that will support you well financially. I couldn’t blame him for worrying about me. After all, the job market for this particular profession is quite limited. He probably saw me as the strange one in the family. I was the one who took a trip by ship to North Sumatra, then by bus to Sabang, Aceh, and then to the Weh island where the place where the 0 (zero) kilometer statue of Indonesia is located. Or, took a trip by bus and boat along Java, Bali, Lombok (climbed Mt. Rinjani with a couple of friends), up to the Komodo island. Note that he didn’t say “no” to my plan. My mom reaction was more “whichever that makes you happy, as long as you remember that you’re part of our family.”
I applied to a university that has a very reputable archaeology program. This was a very competitive program, allowed only a limited number of students, and had tough entrance test. Well, I suppose it won’t be surprising that they didn’t accept my application. My dad asked: what’s next? I said, without hesitation: I’m taking computer courses. I could remember his relieved face and exclaimed: NOW you’re thinking! teeheehee… :-D
So, I took computer courses and a 3-year Computer Management and Informatics community college while also worked with a non-for-profit organization teaching computer skills to small organizations, group of people, and government-related organizations. I loved teaching those computer skills. My father passed away while I was still in the college and the last thing he told me was to keep move on. Well, I thought, I might as well get a complete degree in the similar field.
I then applied to, and accepted by, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, for their Computer Science program. I also took my minor in MIS (Management Information System.) Yeah, I found out that dealing with computers and information management is quite fascinating. But I still like arts and cultures. In fact, I chose to stay on the North side of the campus (as opposed to the South side, where science and engineering students tend to live) so I could be close to the museums and university’s symphony hall. I took Anthropology and Ceramics classes as my electives.
I went back home after I graduated and joined a group of consultants working on AM/FM/GIS (Automated Mapping/Facilities Management/Geographic Information System) with the Electrical Engineering department of the Bandung Institute of Technology in my hometown (Bandung.) We basically built a GIS tool for utilities. This system traced and cataloged every single piece and bits used to form the electrical network from the dam to the electricity meter in houses. It also help calculating how long an electrical line could be before it starts sagging and has to be supported by the next pole, or how far an electrical line could go delivering electricity to the houses. My first project was in Pontianak, West Borneo. Fascinating place, with fascinating people and its culture. The fact that it’s located exactly on the equator was an added bonus.
Our next project was still on the same Borneo island, but moved to the east: Bontang for a natural gas company. The project also included developing their document management system, which meant we had to deal with their CAD/CAM (computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing) data as well as the paperwork trails. I suppose this was when my MIS training finally kicked in in full. This was when I started to think about getting my next degree in Information System.
Which school should I go to? Search engine to the rescue! At that time, Google was just started and it was not known yet to the masses. But there were yahoo! and about.com. The the first item listed on the search result for “information science degree” query was “library and information science” on both platforms (remember, it was 1999 so if you try doing the same search now, you’ll get totally different results.) This particular search result triggered my interest in exploring the future in the library and information science field.
After many searches, taking plenty of notes, and comparing them, I decided to apply to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL. That’s it. I sent out my letter of application, made an appointment to visit the school and talk with the Dean. She was not available, so the Assistant Dean, Kurt McKay, sat down and had discussions with me. He was a bit surprised when I told him that I only applied to this school, and I already knew what I wanted. I wanted to become a Systems Librarian with concentration in the information system. I suppose this pushy attitude, plus some other things including my work experience, helped speeding up their decision. I received the letter of offer from them a few weeks after that.
The rest is history.