Working Knowledge

A Monthly Column about Life on the Job


By Mary Pergander
American Libraries Columnist

Mary Pergander is director of the Deerfield (Ill.) Public Library. Send comments or questions to

Column for June/July, 2008

This and That

Holding Down Two Dream Careers at Once

While attending a professor’s retirement party, I met a new librarian who told of an interesting discovery. She had struggled with deciding whether to become a high school librarian or find work in an academic setting. Then she discovered a position that would offer the chance to work in both settings. That chance encounter helped me realize that we sometimes mistakenly believe life is asking us “or” questions, when life is really offering us “and” opportunities. That is, we can do this and that, not merely choose between two options.
    Consider this example: Michael Rogalla, children’s librarian at Champaign Public Library in Illinois, lives two lives. In addition to presenting children’s storytimes, participating in literacy initiatives, and collaborating with children’s librarians across the state, Rogalla also serves his community as a part-time firefighter and emergency medical technician. Here is his story.

Emergency situations
“It all started when I was the youth services and outreach coordinator for the Scott County Library System in Eldridge, Iowa,” said Rogalla. “Essentially, I was the children’s librarian for a rural county with some 14 towns.” One day, after seeing an advertisement in the local paper for fire department volunteers, he signed up. From then on, he would literally run down the block when paged with an emergency call. “It made for some interesting times as kids cheered me on during story time when my pager went off. Luckily, I had supportive co-workers to fill in at a moment’s notice.”
    Three years later, Rogalla moved back to Illinois and took the library job in Champaign. When searching for a place to live, he looked for a place with “guess what, a volunteer fire department.” That place was Mahomet, a town within easy commuting distance of the library.
     “Within the year, I was a member of the Cornbelt Fire Protection District in Mahomet. Since 1994, I have served there in my spare time, dispatched to all manner of emergencies that the fire service handles,” said Rogalla. “I respond to some 200 to 300 calls a year. Not too bad, because I spend my workweek at the library and I am only available when at or near home.”

Taking two jobs
Rogalla feels fortunate that he has been able to benefit from two kinds of public service: youth services librarianship and firefighting/EMS.
    “From the occasional patron in distress at the library, to the confidence in providing fire safety education that only 19 years of programming and storytelling can impart, I have found two complimentary ways to serve,” he said. “I am very passionate in my work in both professions.”
    There certainly are situations when economic necessity compels a librarian to work a second job in an unrelated field. Still others do it for the variety. Do you know someone who works a library job, but holds an additional occupation just for the joy of it? Contact me at


Life sometimes compels you to ask what will happen if you seek the “and” in your career. Can you have your librarianship and another dream at the same time? Can they combine into one opportunity? How will you explore the possibilities?

    (c) Copyright 2008 American Library Association