Arkansas: They tell me I was born there, but I really don’t remember.
Mississippi, regrettably, I do remember. We lived in a few dinky towns as well as Vicksburg, and though there is a certain je ne sais quois quality to the Deep South that you can’t help but love, there is also the matter of rampant poverty, dismal public schooling, and sticky slimy nasty-hot weather.
Escaping from there, when I was seven, was a huge relief. We landed in Mars Hill, North Carolina, deep in the mountains and in the middle of nowhere. A few months after that we moved to the neighboring county, to a town called Weaverville, which is bigger than Mars Hill, but that’s not saying much. Somewhere in that convergence of the Smokies, the Appalachians, and the Blue Ridge Mountains, near the city of Asheville but sequestered in the country, I finished elementary school and then middle and high school, and fell in love with the land.
I would not normally make such a bald-faced statement, especially one that flirts with cliché, but it is true. I fell in love with that slice of North Carolina. Ever since I left for college and grown-up life, I have been missing it– and it goes without saying that I have missed my parents, who still live in the same place in Weaverville.
There’s a chance I may be moving back.
Madison County needs a library director. It is the lowest-paid directorship in the state, and would be a significant paycut for me; the entire budget for their three branches is smaller than the collections budget for my current library; you could count the number of full-time employees on one hand, with fingers to spare.
So of course I applied.
There are three strong reasons for my wanting the job. I want to return to the area, and I would love to be near my parents, and I think I would love being a director of a small system.
My first job out of library school was in an underfunded rural system. It was incredibly hard work, but here’s the thing: I was an administrator– not the director, nor the assistant director, but one tier below that. In such a small pond, there was a lot of room to make a difference. In my current library, I am comparatively on a much lower rung, so the work is more scripted and my opportunities for making change are more limited. That’s not a criticism. Actually it’s a compliment; it means the system is working. But, and I do not mean this in the megalomaniac way, I miss the power of being an administrator. I miss saying “Hey, let’s build us a new website,” and then six weeks and a three-person team later, bam! There’s a new website.
Not to tempt the gods or anything, but I love a challenge. In a small system like this, I could really dig in, get my fingers dirty, and make a difference.
My interview is next Friday, the 22nd, at 8 a.m. My colleagues have already pitched in to rearrange our work schedules so that I can travel there and back. This is really great of them, especially since, if I am successful, there’s going to be a lot more work for everyone.
I’ve got the catsitter booked and the haircut scheduled. I have somehow misplaced the top half of both of my two interview suits, which rather boggles the mind– how exactly do you lose the blouses and jackets, but not the skirts?– but I think I’ll be able to beg, borrow, or steal something. (Note to Madison County HR, if you’re reading this, and I hope you are– you should really google your prospective employees– I would not actually steal clothing. I have a sophisticated moral compass. And if I get the job, I promise I will buy some suits.)
Thomas Wolfe famously said that you can’t go home again. Tom was from western North Carolina. Here’s hoping he was wrong.