Header image for From Libraries to Fires: Meet iSchool alum: Mike Siriwardena

From Libraries to Fires: Meet iSchool alum: Mike Siriwardena

Libraries by day, and Fire Fighting by night; this is the life that Mike Siriwardena chooses to lead.

Mike first started working in Florida State’s Strozier Library in the Collection Maintenance Unit while in his undergrad.  Not content with only performing the daily tasks and projects of his assigned department, Mike spent his free time observing and learning about the different areas in the library, like Special Collections, Reference, and Circulation.  He was most interested in learning the various policies and management styles for handling the needs of the patrons.  Around the time he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Language Education, Mike was given a full time Senior Library Associate position in Collections Access.  Here, he coordinated library collection maintenance projects, as well as assisting with the Circulation and Virtual Reference departments.

In these two years working as a Senior Library Associate and continuing to learn about the various departments in the library, Mike realized that a librarianship was a viable career path for him, and he began taking classes towards a Master’s in Library Science degree.

While in the program, Mike was promoted to Collection Access Supervisor, where Mike began to hone his managerial skills and gain an in-depth understanding of library procedures through trainings and his work on committees.  While in this position, Mike graduated with his Master’s in Library & Information Studies, as well as a profession certificate in Reference Services.

To date, Mike is now the General Collections Coordinator, where he oversees the daily operations and logics dealing with the general collection materials spanning two libraries and two remote storage facilities.  He also directly supervises 6 full-time employees and 18 part-time employees.

“The thing that I love most about my job is that I have the flexibility to work outside the box, with ample opportunities to learn new skills. I look at every day as a learning experience,” Mike explains.

“I refuse to say that something is not in my job description, since I believe that my job is to help anyone that walks through the doors of the library. We should never be hindered by a title or department name.”

10010484_10105174391544713_4517143278470828616_oA few months ago, Mike decided that he wanted to serve his community in a different way, and joined the Midway Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter.  Through firefighting, he is able to be a symbol of hope and goodwill to the community.  As Mike recalls, “Firefighters show the community that a few normal people choosing to face extraordinary situations can make a profound impact in lives of complete strangers and neighbors. It’s what makes the job so amazing: working with a group of people who are willing place the needs of others ahead of their own.”

The main reason that Mike decided to become a firefighter is actually the same reason he enjoys working in libraries: “I like to serve people who are in need.  Obviously, the types of need that we see in the library are very different compared to the needs served while firefighting, but the core concepts are there: we see people in need and want to help the best we can.”

While it is no walk in the park to get called out at two o’clock in the morning for a fire, to then turn around to shower and be at the library at six-thirty in the morning, Mike still enjoys serving in this capacity.  “It takes its toll, but the service we give the community makes it completely worth it.  At the end of the day, I might be tired and banged up, but I have never regretted joining the fire department.”