unimaginable heights

I decided I wanted to be a librarian when I was 16. At 23 I started library school, and at 29 I became a librarian, right as I presented my dissertation on the hypertext novel Sunshine '69.

I gave my youth to library school. The only reasons I can give for this actually kind of make sense: the only accepted credential to work as a librarian in my country is a 4-year degree. All classes at my university were suspended between March and October 2020, and some curricular elements, such as mandatory internships, were suspended for longer than that. I took a full-time job during the pandemic I probably shouldn't have taken. Some semesters were spent taking just two or three classes, due to lack of good planning and/or communication on my and/or the university's part.

I've spent dozens of hours going over these reasons with my family, my boyfriend, my friends. They are the very stuff of my day-to-day - they don't begin to touch on what I've known library school to be, what kept me going until the end, even though, still, I can't justify it.

That a collection of documents is greater than the sum of its parts. That it is, can be, is, something to be loved, and that classification and cataloguing systems are means to live out that love. That description is exploration. That there is a delectable mystery to any object that is a document, that without documents, life is not worth living. But talking like this gets us nowhere; I've never been able to express it, even to myself. Rolling stacks, beige, to get off the humid streets and go up two flights of stairs and in a world of partition walls and air conditioning find the accreted volume of - it's not just the sheer size of it all, but it is that, too. Mortuary masks, tango sheet music, rubber stamps, a violin among the rolling stacks, children's books about Picasso and The Beatles, newspaper clippings, a magazine about home video cameras, 20,000 digital photographs taken between 2005 and 2017, a brochure for a cultural centre that was never built, a flyer for a party in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille, pencil annotations, phone numbers with hardly any digits, addresses that meant something for decades and now mean nothing, except, for the cataloguer it all, potentially, means something.

I gave my youth to learning arcane methods that don't work very well. I learned them because I enjoy, very much, the way they feel on my brain.

I had one great class in my first semester, about things such as the Documentation vs. Information Science nomenclature controversy. I think the reading for that class was like, The ignorant schoolmaster, something by Bourdieu, something about media literacy. Somehow it all made so much sense when combined. This was Biblioteconomia! The second half of 2017 was my first internship, 30hs/week and a two-hour bus ride away, then class until 10pm. It all feels like a long time ago - it was. It continued like this, I won't get into it, everything was impossible. I worked in a secondhand bookshop intermittently and had many half-thoughts while weighing books etc. about the value of even the most disposable paperback, as it was representative of...

I got paid half a minimum wage to organise people's mess rooms. I loved it as long as they left me alone to do it and didn't rush me, but they never, ever left me alone and always rushed me. They didn't understand why it took so long to tidy up. They wanted to know if I had found any hidden gems. I never had the vocabulary to explain that a collection of documents is more than the sum of its parts, and that it would only reward you if you could be among it alone, in silence, and over an undetermined length of time. It was around then that I took my first class on memory. Thus I was finally reached by those little, potent artifacts of Brazilian academia, xeroxed entries of the Einaudi Encyclopedia. Memory, according to Krzysztof Pomian, is the perpetuation of the past through its vestiges in the present.

Armed with the concept of vestiges I could now understand what it was all about: three-dimensionality, existence in time and space. Now I'm trying to remember how it went, but I think it was Rick Prelinger first. Audiovisual archives captured me. We adopted two cats. I had a small bursary from the Museum of Astronomy and for some reason loved to touch VHS tapes and was thinking of writing my dissertation about them. Words that had flavour in my mouth were obsolete, archaeology, materiality... Now, trying to retrace my steps I see how involuntary it all was, how detached from what was right in front of me and yet how inevitable really, not at all my own doing, though it was my seeking. All I know is that every time I got to see a back room of shelves - at the Royal Cabinet of Reading, the National Library, the abandoned chocolate factory, my supervisors' offices - I felt lucky. And that, by my third year of library school, I cared very little about information and, in the way of a life calling, I cared about documents.

I can't recommend it. It's a mistake, it's invariably a mistake. Here's the situation: there are no jobs. You will get told there are jobs, but it's a fiction. The jobs exist in theory, I suppose someone gets them. There are the people who come first in the concursos where hundreds of people take the same multiple choice quiz and there is one position open and the good ones really only come around once a year or less. In theory every school library needs a librarian, every municipality needs a public library - there are no jobs. But that's not the only or the main reason it's a mistake. I can't even get into it. I swore an oath.

The course is terrible. It is terrible in metaphysical ways. No one wants to be there. You will have to learn wrong things about things that don't exist, such as information, because we live in an information society, and the Library Science graduate is the information professional, which has existed since the clay tablets, but now in the information age we are more important than ever, and not limited to libraries, but to work with information in the information society, and the information professional works with information and everything to do with information in the age we live in which is the age of information in the information society, and it's not just about dusting books and it's not about books but also we love books and a better society needs books and books not guns and books and also defend books and libraries and reading but reading isn't just books and a country of readers and read a Netflix series and teach kids to love to read and libraries aren't just about books and storytime and also imagination and also samba in the library and knitting in the library and park library and beautiful library and a library is a silent place to sit in with your laptop and no coffee in the library and a library is for everyone and it doesn't need to be silent and dance in the library and the library is fun not silent and come to the library! because what society needs is library. And computer is also library because information which is not limited to libraries and really the Library Science graduate is computer. But you need to always be learning because you're interdisciplinary and you as a librarian have a passion for all knowledge, ALL KNOWLEDGE and so you need to learn to code. Because you're an information professional so to get a job you spent 4+ years usually plus needlessly memorising UDC signs and AACR2 punctuation but now of course we need to complement that education, just a bit so you can be up on the trends and always learning, so now you're going to have to learn a whole new profession and learn to code so you can get a job coding or you will not have a job. Because you're an information professional and computers are information and information now is computers so libraries are computers which is kind of like the UDC but it's like, Python. Interdisciplinary.

Valeu a pena? Tudo vale a pena... I presented my dissertation August, graduated October. I remember buildings intensely but the last two years were done from my bedroom, a remote, virtual in the Lévy sense, internship in a community library in another state, Excel spreadsheets of books that didn't exist. I enjoyed writing my dissertation, and I remember that time well. I played Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3 in the morning, worked until late, drank one Big Wave on Wednesday and Thursday nights, sometimes went for dinner at the Japanese place downstairs, sometimes went for leafy midday walks with Jack, to get a sandwich or a coffee and cake, these things to keep me going. Post-2020 that's when my world got smaller and right, and it was the end of library school.

My point being: that there are many worlds hidden within this one, and all one really has to do is look. But that there is little tangible reward for those who do look, except, maybe, that it is the only thing worth doing.