Half-Done Part II: My Statement of Intent

A week ago I blogged about how, since I was half done my second semester of three, I was half-done the program. 

But in my head, I've always thought of June 30/July 1 (okay, July 2 as I'm getting to this post a day later than I meant to) as the “real” halfway point of my program since that's the actual mid-point of my year in London. 

I thought I'd do something special for this milestone and so have decided to post the “Statement of Intent” that I wrote as part of my application for library school.  As with my “hypothetical Spirit of Librarianship acceptance speech“, it's just a wee bit over the top in a few places. Let me explain why…

I was incredibly nervous applying to library school for a number of reasons:

– I'd made note of the application deadline a few months before deciding to apply but when I decided to finally go for it, I checked the MLIS web site, only to see that the deadline had been moved up by ten days which put me in a pretty heavy time crunch to pull together everything that was required for the application. 

– I'd been out of school for so long that the only University professors who could write me reference letters were people I knew because they were part of the writing community. (I still had to remind them what they taught me and what my marks were.)

– my undergrad marks weren't awful but they weren't great either.  (Luckily I was above average in the classes I took with the two profs who became my two academic references.)

– I'd only done a regular BA, not even an Honours one let alone a Masters degree.

– I didn't hedge my bets by applying to other schools because I knew that Western was the only one with an accelerated program and I also knew I could barely afford to be out of the workforce for one year, let alone two. 

– two of my professional reference letters came by fax and e-mail respectively so I wasn't able to include them in sealed envelopes as was specified.  (Having seen how publishers look for any excuse to prune the slush pile and knowing that “not following submission guidelines” is one of the easiest ways to do this, I honestly thought this might get my application into the recycling bin right there, before they even looked at it.)

So feeling that all of that was counting against me and even though I had no idea what a Statement of Intent was, I knew it was likely my best chance to convince the powers-that-be that I should be admitted to this program. 

All of my undergrad classes in expository writing and creative writing, all of that time working with writers and reading manuscripts and books on writing techniques and theory – it felt like it all came down to this one letter (or am I just being “over the top” again?)…

Statement of Intent – Jason Hammond
They say that everyone has that one special teacher who touches their lives.  For me, it’s not a teacher but a librarian who fills that role in my own life.  Mrs. Tuttle was a kindly old lady who worked at the Indian Head public library when I was a child. 

My first experience with her was when my parents would take me to the library to pick out books.  I can remember how, even at that age, I was amazed that I could choose any book off the shelf, take it to the desk and then take it home with no money changing hands like I saw in every other transaction that I witnessed in the adult world. 

Mrs. Tuttle helped influence my reading habits like no one else (my parents, my teachers, my friends) could.  I still remember the day I took yet another Hardy Boys adventure to her desk and she gently suggested, “Would you like to try something a bit more…advanced?” I nodded cautiously then she placed a copy of The Hound of Baskervilles in front of me. 

As the months went by, she would continually suggest other classics I could try.  I didn’t always listen and managed to read a fair amount of Stephen King and Tom Clancy during that time as well.  But my love of books (and libraries) grew out of those early experiences in that small, rural Saskatchewan library. 

I excelled at English in high school, edited our high school yearbook and after some initial debate between doing what I thought would guarantee a good job (Business Administration) and what I knew I loved (English), I chose the latter as my major in University. 

Upon convocation, I was fortunate to find work with the Saskatchewan Publishers Group (SPG), a literary non-profit umbrella organization for book publishers in my home province.  I worked with this organization from 1997 to 2001 when I moved to Calgary with my then-girlfriend, now wife.  Again, I was fortunate to find work with another literary non-profit organization, the Writers Guild of Alberta (WGA).  Essentially, this was the flip side of the coin to what I was doing with the SPG – instead of running programs for publishers, I was running programs to benefit writers.  Taken together, these two sides of the same coin have given me a great knowledge of the Canadian book industry and convinced me that no matter where life leads me, I will be working with books in some way.  

In October 2004, some difficulties at the SPG led to a staff vacancy and my wife and I jumped at the chance to return to our home province when this position was offered to me.  Unfortunately, those difficulties have continued throughout the year and so I made the extremely difficult decision to hand in my resignation in October 2005 and to pursue the career that I’ve had in the back of my mind as my “dream job” since my first meetings with Mrs. Tuttle twenty-plus years ago. 

In the course of my work with both the SPG and the WGA, I have worked with numerous librarians on a variety of projects and have continually been in awe of their intelligence, their sensibility and contrary to the “Shhh!” stereotypes, their passion.  

Allan Johnson who is the head of the Southeast Regional Library in Saskatchewan served on the board of the Saskatchewan Book Awards with me and had a skill I greatly admire but rarely see – the ability to cut through baggage surrounding any issue and get to the core point.  He was one of the few on the board with the necessary skills to help the Book Awards re-work its finances and improve its financial position at a critical time in the organization’s development. 

I have worked with Susan Anderson of the Calgary Public Library on that city’s Freedom to Read Week committee and was happy (but not surprised) when she told me of how it was members of the American Library Association who started the fight to keep Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men from being pulped.

I was honoured when Rosemary Griebel of the Calgary Public Library asked me to join her as a “community representative” at the grand opening of the new Crowfoot Crossing branch in Calgary.  (She maybe regretted the offer as I peppered her with questions about the behind-the-scenes workings of a library and her decision to become a librarian thoughout the day.)

In numerous readings I organized in various small towns around Alberta, it was always the local library that was the first place I would call for assistance.  Leslie Greentree at the Red Deer Public Library went so far as to allow me to crash on her couch the night before a conference we held at their facility. 

As an exhibitor at trade shows, I was often able to “sit-in” on sessions such as those at the recent International Indigenous Librarians’ Forum that was held here in Regina.  The issues that were being discussed were extremely interesting to me – protecting Aboriginal languages, serving remote communities, and the ongoing struggle for funding and recognition.   These are major issues that not only Aboriginal communities but small publishers and rural libraries are dealing with in Saskatchewan.  If I return to my home province upon completion of the program, I know these are issues that I will have to be prepared to deal with as well.  My main area of interest is the public library system and I look forward to a day when hopefully I can help contribute myself to what librarians offer – information, community involvement, and public service. 

This is why I am applying to the MLIS program at the University of Western Ontario.  Although I now know that Mrs. Tuttle wasn’t a professional librarian with a Master of Library Science degree, it’s because of her and indeed, all of the librarians and library clerks I’ve known over the years that I want to be a librarian myself.   

Thank-you for considering my application,

Jason Hammond

Oh, and one other detail I debated putting into the letter but decided (probably wisely) to leave out.  Mrs. Tuttle, that kindly old librarian, was the first woman I ever saw that had a mustache! image

(Update: Links to Other MLIS “Statement of Intent” Letters…
Chris Graves
Quinn Dupont)

Comments 3

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    So interesting! I decided to post up my Letter of Intent for Western as well. It is clear who has the English degree (Jason), but I find it interesting that the same problem received two such different solutions. Read mine for comparison at: http://iqdupont.com/blog/?p=6 .

    Posted 02 Jul 2006 at 10:46 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    I don't rememebr havign to write a SoI, but if I did, I'm sure it wasn't like yours at all!! It might've been more like Quinn's.
    in fact I think i forgot most of my library moments until I was in my MLIS remembering childhood.

    Posted 06 Jul 2006 at 12:22 pm
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Mine wasn't like Jason's or Quinn's or Chris', either. It was, ummm….one sentence long. (Hey, they said to be brief! *she protests*) My initial draft was longer, but I took out everything I thought sounded stupid or cliched…I did a whole paragraph at the end where they asked for “other information,” though. 🙂
    I suppose I should reveal what my single sentence was…oh, all right, here goes: “My interests lie in public librarianship, and I am particularly attracted to the flexibility offered by the different career tracks within the information field.” Thazzit. 🙂

    Posted 06 Jul 2006 at 7:12 pm
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