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Transplanted Roses Sometimes Die

Published onMar 29, 2024
Transplanted Roses Sometimes Die

In 2022, as I was contemplating the reality of leaving my home state and never seeing the front stoop of my home or the carpet of white drift roses I had planted in the front yard again, I was struck by the humorous but true comment my partner’s grandmother shared when I told her we were moving 2,600 miles across the country: "Transplanted roses sometimes die." No stranger to change, she had acquired this bit of knowledge during numerous cross-country moves and travels throughout her own life. She knew first-hand the sacrifices that came with leaving “home,” and the fervent hope travelers have that where they are going will be worth the trouble it took to get there.

When I was in my MLIS program, my professors and fellow students talked about moving for a job as if it was an inevitability. "To get a librarian job you often have to leave your home state," "If you want a librarian job you must move to where they are," "My best advice to young MLIS graduates is to take whatever you can get, wherever you can find it," and so on. As I worked my way through my MLIS, this advice influenced the steps I took. I was terrified at the thought of moving for a job. Growing up, I had moved 22 times by the time I reached 18 years old. I was seeking a career in libraries because they had always seemed like a lighthouse on a hill during my childhood. In a world of constantly revolving homes and adults, libraries were a constant beacon of safety and stability. From the small, green-carpeted library I went to for several summers as a child in Colorado to the red brick libraries scattered across the Southeastern states I grew up in, the library was always a place with tall stacks of books and a kind, helpful adult who could answer almost any question I could think of.

Ever a rule-follower and list-lover, I became determined to not be an MLIS graduate who would have to move to begin their next career. I joined every library-affiliated club or council I could, I presented at conferences, and I applied to jobs—many of which I'm still not entirely sure I would have wanted or enjoyed had I been fortunate enough to get them. I was far more focused on the stability of a job and a salary than I was on professional development or personal growth, sometimes to my own detriment. Thankfully, due partly to what I still believe is blind luck—and partly to a series of incredible mentors who believed in me and pushed me to be my best—a library took a chance on an eager but untested MLIS student. I began my first librarian job only a few months after graduation in the small town in the Southeastern United States that I called home.

I found myself so busy with daily tasks that I didn’t consciously categorize anything I was doing as professional development, but working in a fast-paced environment ended up feeling like a professional pressure cooker. I learned what parts of the job I loved, which parts gave me headaches, and how to juggle often competing priorities without losing my cool. For a long time, the goal had been to "become a librarian," and now it seemed the goal had been accomplished. But as the post-Covid world continued turning, both personal and professional reasons combined to provide motivation for a move from my home state; I found myself looking for a job in an area 2,600 miles away from my home.

Getting a job at an academic library is like trying to hit a moving target. After a grueling job search involving a spreadsheet I meticulously updated, I accepted a job, and began the tough work of saying good-bye to every colleague, friend, family member, and neighbor I'd ever known, and planning a cross-country move through several feet of snow on mountains I'd never seen. The United States for all of its emphasis on the word "united" is a vastly different place from one end to the other. I worried about the roses I left behind on a sunny 65 degree November day in Georgia. I worried about my family too, and felt like figurative transplanted roses in a U-Haul truck on a 11 degree day as we crossed the plains to our new home in Washington.

I had prepared for a new set of social norms, unfamiliar streets, new people, and a devastating lack of fried food in Washington. However, the thing that surprised me the most about my new home was how much the journey had changed me and my perspective about libraries. Not just the move from one library to another, but being someone who had moved into a new phase of their professional career. I no longer inwardly panicked when I got a question at the reference desk to which I didn't know the answer. I was comfortable enough with my new institution's learning management system to assist other faculty. I found that the information literacy frameworks and core values of librarianship are just as important and relevant to our work as ever, despite what critics would say. Somehow, I had grown out of being the child in the library seeking help, and I’d become the helpful adult providing answers.

Here, 2,600 miles from “home,” I find myself making connections with patrons over a mutual love of Dolly Parton, a shared awe of Pacific Northwest fog, and a deep passion for protecting the work that libraries and library workers do to uphold the fabric of society. I’ve grown from being scared to leave the county I lived in for a library job, to following a library job to the other side of the continent. When my patrons talk about feeling “at home” in the library, I think about how the libraries of my adolescence, my previous libraries, and my current library are all connected by the same threads of community and curiosity—by the magic of libraries as a type of home. My husband’s grandmother often checks in and asks how we are doing. One day I will tell her that transplanted roses sometimes thrive.

Caroline Evergreen's photo shows her smiling at the camera with a wooded background. She is wearing a pink button-up shirt and has wavy brown hair.

Caroline Evergreen joined Olympic College as a Librarian from Georgia in November of 2022. When she is not at the library you can find her reading, quilting, or exploring this corner of the world with her family and her two pups.
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