Wendi Hoffenberg | Graduated in 2000
Posted on Fri, 29 Aug, 2014
I majored in English because I wanted to teach composition at the high school level. I knew that I'd need a Master's degree for teaching certification, and one of the professors in Geneseo's School of Education suggested that I earn an MLS (Master of Library Science) degree and become a school library media specialist. I graduated from Geneseo with provisional teaching certification in 2000 and completed the MLS at Syracuse University in 2001. I did two semesters of student teaching: first in English classrooms as a Geneseo undergrad, then in school libraries as a Syracuse grad student. I loved the focus on independent learning in the school library setting. After grad school, I applied for English classrooms and school library jobs and found that all my interviews were in the library field: the job market really was better there!
In my first job, I ran two school libraries in a semi-rural district, collaborated with classroom teachers, and taught research skills. I will say — to underscore to undergrads that it's possible to bounce back from a major setback — that I wasn't very good at the crowd-control aspect of teaching and that I felt I had to leave the K-12 world, which I cared about so deeply, in order to be happy at work.
I was happy indeed at the Yonkers Public Library, where I organized the Harry Potter library sleepover, read to babies, and rode the Bookmobile to schools and camps. The whole time I was there, I dabbled in law libraries: took a course; volunteered at a courthouse. Eventually, a can't-miss ("I-thought-this-was-an informational-interview") opportunity to be a law librarian in a big city firm fell in my lap. So, eight years ago, I said goodbye to the library toddlers, tucked my whimsy in my suit pocket, and embarked on an amazing law library career.
What's so amazing? I never know what's going to happen when I get to work. I might be asked to find an old government document or the current contact information of a long-retired inventor. I might search for specific terms in court documents or in Securities and Exchange Commission filings. I have to teach myself new subject areas on the fly when unusual questions come up, and I routinely teach attorneys and staff to use research databases.
My Geneseo education prepared me to document all the steps in my research and to write memoranda clearly. As an English major, I learned to read and absorb huge swaths of text quickly. My English coursework and my work at Geneseo's Writing Learning Center taught me to use concise, accurate language.
It's been a winding road from literature to teaching to children's library work to fast-paced corporate research! If you're an undergrad, regardless of whether you are very sure or very unsure of your professional trajectory, you may well face some winding of your own — and I hope you will roll with the turns and enjoy them all.