The Library Routes Project enables librarians to share details of their career paths, and I’ve enjoyed reading various submissions. It’s interesting and informative (and – at times – comforting!) to read about the experiences of other librarians. With this in mind, I thought I’d contribute and chart my own career to date.
I graduated with a history degree in 2000 at the age of 21. Before this time, I’d never given any thought to what I’d do as a career. All I was interested in was studying history and what I’d do after that time had never crossed my mind. Confronted with the concept of entering the big wide world, I flirted with retail graduate schemes. I’d worked in a supermarket since I was 17 and it was the only thing that came to mind. A few interviews later, no luck. After a few weeks of working in the supermarket full time, I found an office based job within the NHS. Number-crunching all day was mind-numbingly dull and I was far from a model employee; however hard I tried, I simply couldn’t make myself actually care about data inputting. I could do it in my sleep and it was unchallenging. On the plus side, it was local and offered flexi-time!
I decided to take stock of my life and started to seriously think about what I wanted to do. I felt guilty that after the financial cost of university I wasn’t making use of my degree. I put my thinking cap on and gave myself a grilling. What did I enjoy doing? What made me happiest about my current and previous employment? I’d enjoyed serving supermarket customers far more than sitting at a computer all day. It made me feel that I was helping people and making a difference (albeit it only to their shopping experience). The more I thought about it the more apparent it became – I wanted a role that allowed me to help people and make a positive contribution to the lives of others. Okay, now I’d got that sussed I just had to work out where I could actually achieve that. One day, out of the blue, it hit me like a thunderbolt… libraries! I had been a library user since my early teens, not just for my studies but also reading for pleasure. As soon as I’d thought of the idea it felt right, and I couldn’t believe it had never occurred to me before. I felt at ease in libraries and understood how to use them. I valued them and found them interesting. I could help people and use my brain at the same time. I researched the career and discovered you could study library science at university. Doing a Masters degree had always been a secret dream of mine, and here was the perfect subject to study. The next step – find a vacancy!
I saw an ad in the local paper for a Learning Resources Assistant at an FE College. I applied and to my utter amazement I was offered the job. It meant taking a paycut but I was prepared to do that as I knew I’d found a career rather than just a job. I started work in that particular library (which will always remain dear to my heart!) on April’s Fool Day 2003. From day one I knew I’d make the right decision. I applied for the degree course and was accepted. Due to personal reasons I deferred my entry for a year and started Sept 2004. I had to thrash out a ‘deal’ with my employer about my working pattern and I aimed for the stars. Incredibly, they gave me everything I asked for by agreeing to pay university fees and full wages whilst allowing me day release each week. When it came to starting the course I was very nervous; it had been 4 years since I’d written an academic essay and I worried that I’d lost the knack. It went well though – I was never top of the class but I enjoyed it (mostly!) and pulled in decent grades. It was hard studying and working at the same time, and maintaining a social life was quite the balancing act, but I managed. I very nearly fell at the last hurdle and sacked the idea of completing a dissertation. I found the 20,000 word limit off-putting and it seemed a mountain. My boyfriend gave me quite a stern talking to and made me realise giving up so near the end was foolish. I graduated in 2007 and was glad I'd stuck it out. Thank you, Dunk!
Meanwhile… After almost 3 years at the FE College I was starting to feel frustrated being stuck at the bottom of the library ladder but having all this new found knowledge from the degree. There was no chance of internal promotion so I started to think of moving on. I saw a school librarian post advertised which was local to where I live. I still had a year left of the degree course but thought ‘what the heck…’ I was, again, utterly amazed to be offered the job. In fact, I was so convinced that one of the other candidates would be successful, that I went straight from the school to McDonalds for some serious comfort food. When the headteacher phoned to offer me the post I answered the phone with a mouthful of fries!
The rest, as they say, is history. Well folks, this is one l-o-n-g account and I’ve been quite self-indulgent, but hey-ho! It feels alien writing about oneself not knowing who will read it, but I think I’m getting the hang of it! My career plans for the future? I’m currently battling chartership and hope I’ll have the opportunity to work in a variety of different libraries - I’d hate to be pigeon-holed into one particular type. Not having studied ‘education’ I often ponder the realities of working in a school environment, but I’ll save that story for another blog…
As Winnie-the-Pooh says: ttfn