Transitioning From Bookstores to Librarianship

Community Profile
Leo Buckley

Leo Buckley is an MLIS student in his first semester at San José State University. He is of Irish heritage and is a quarter Japanese.

Leo Buckley, MLIS student
San Francisco, CA

Working in the Bookstore

Initially, Leo applied for an internship at a library but was rejected, which drove him to apply for an MLIS degree. Currently, he works at a bookstore in San Francisco. He mentions how he enjoys the face-to-face interactions in the bookstore: “People meet the staff to get recommendations,” Buckley said. While the bookstore he works at has increased its online presence, people still enjoy coming in, “There’s still something to be said about having the physical copies.” 

Christmas is when sales at the bookstore grow. Leo also points out how the bookstore has expanded their products to other items, such as “backscratchers, soaps, headscratchers,” as a way to attract more customers. Leo’s description of the bookstore he works at shows just how much the operation of bookstores has changed in the past, especially since making readjustments after the COVID pandemic hit. He observes that people were doing retail stuff more online, but it still does not replace the experience of going inside the bookstore.

Connecting to His Irish Heritage

Since the Irish side of his family came to America during the second famine and no records were maintained, “things got lost on the way,” Leo connects to his Irish heritage by reading history and fiction books, watching movies or documentaries, and listening to music about Irish culture, the famine, history of Irish, ultimately to “connect in my own way.” He shares the knowledge he has learned from those books, such as the control the British had over resources and how they caused the famines. Additionally, he listens to Irish bands playing music about Irish folklore and mythology. The fictional books he read related to Japanese and Irish culture were hard-hitting and real, and “so many of these books resonated so much, no matter what timeframe or what era” the book was written in. Knowledge is being passed down in these books, and Leo enjoys his experiences reading and learning about different cultures and different roots.

Buckley points out the abundance of Irish authors and music that are out there and how libraries can make them known, saying, “Just having the collection available and showcasing it” is enough to celebrate heritage. At the bookstore, Leo puts books and music on display about Irish culture, Ireland, and authors who are Irish to celebrate his culture.”At the bookstore, I love trying to put displays of Irish authors, poets, playwrights, and stuff like that.” He also states there is so much “influential literature” out there for people to gain access to and that much of Irish culture is preserved. He still hopes to visit Ireland one day. “We’re all just a collective of people from different countries,” he pointed out, and access to poetry, literature, and music from around the world maintains connections to our roots, which “keeps you grounded,” he added. 

Leo Buckley in Bookstore

Different Librarianship Pathways

Leo has an idea about going into public librarianship but still wants to explore and figure out exactly what he wants to specialize in. Archiving is another area he has his eyes on, noting how “their domain is not specifically a library, and I’m intrigued by what other opportunities are in that.” While he sees his end goal in public libraries, there are many fields he wants to experiment around with and see what other opportunities lie in the MLIS program. 

Advice for MLIS Students

Based on his experience so far, Buckley advises MLIS students to prioritize finding ways to manage time. As he readies to tackle his readings and assignments, he asks himself, “Okay, what do I have to do now?” Managing his time is especially important for him to figure out how to focus mainly on the program while working full time: “The main thing now is how to manage my time between work, school, social life, and domestic life.”

Currently, Leo is reading Milkman, an Irish novel by Anna Burns. He also mentions Cormac McCarthy, who has written books such as Blood Meridian, as his favorite author.