Wednesday, 14 September 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 10 - Becoming a Librarian

Thing 10 asks us to share the details of how we became librarians. My journey into librarianship didn't follow the most direct route. Traineeships sound great but I didn't do one myself. More controversially I didn't have library experience behind me when I started studying for my Library Science MSc.

Where had I come from? Why did I think that this profession was for me?

I came into librarianship via teaching. I spent nearly two years working as an English teacher in secondary schools. Towards the end of that second year I realised that I had chosen the wrong career path. I needed to try something new.

Despite my disillusionment with teaching I was still the same person. I still had the same interests, ideals and motivations that had drawn me to teaching English. I enjoyed helping people to learn and to explore their world. I wanted to stay in education.

I also really liked reading of course (although it sometimes seems that it is the done thing in library world to pretend that this had no impact on our career choice).

Libraries have always played an important role in my life. Without them my world would be a narrower place. My enjoyment of life, and my understanding of the world would be diminished.

Ever since stumbling upon 'Bunnicula' (the first non-picture book I read on my own, it's about a vampire rabbit) in my year 1 class book corner I have devoured books with a ravenous hunger that only libraries could meet.

Later on I relied on libraries to support me through my studies. They opened up new perspectives and revealed new horizons. I see an educational library as a base camp. Librarians give students the equipment, training and guidance that they need to explore their world.

With these formative experiences to inspire me it seems almost natural that I decided that the library was a better place than the classroom for me to pass on my love of learning. If anything I should have thought of it before but it is good to have some teaching experience. Librarianship has definitely turned out to be a better fit for me though.

Having decided that this was the path for me I looked into how to make the jump. I spoke to people I knew who worked in the sector. I investigated different courses. I applied for a couple of library jobs (without success). I investigated all the avenues.

In the end I enrolled on the Library Science Msc at City University. I enjoyed my year there and I learnt a lot. It did seem to go by very quickly though. One minute you’re in the ‘welcome to the course’ lecture and the next the dissertation is due in. I would advise any current library school students to realise that you’re not actually going to be there for very long. This is corny but it’s up to you to get what you can out of the experience in the time that you have.

Luckily I did manage to get some library experience while I was studying. I worked voluntarily in a local secondary school library. Then I started to work Saturdays as a Library Assistant in a public library. That was completely invaluable. Library school students do need to get as much experience as they can while they’re studying.

Look at me handing out advice. The really sensible library students have a job already and combine the course with their day job but where’s the fun in that? More seriously it obviously doesn’t work out like that for everyone.

Having gained my shiny new qualification in library science I set out on the great library job hunt. I stumbled across my notes from that yesterday. I had a table of jobs I’d applied for with the responses and the levels of success. The failures ranged from no response to interview offered but then the post was abolished to simple failed interviews. The latter were the ones that really brought back fun memories. The point here is that this part of my journey was a bit of a slog.

As you know there was a happy ending. Almost exactly a year ago I started work here at the College as a Liaison Librarian. Everything that I’ve mentioned has been a stepping stone that has helped me to get to here: teaching experience, my library science course, experience of working in libraries, even all that interview practice. That said becoming a Librarian isn’t the end of my library journey. It is just the beginning. ..

Further thoughts and some clarification

1 comment:

  1. Totally off topic, but I just wanted to say that I LOVED Bunnicula, and also 'The celery stalks at midnight'. Happy days!