Thursday, 20 October 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 20 - Library Routes - Further Thoughts

I wrote about my route into librarianship for thing 10. If you are looking for my post for the Library Routes Project Wiki it's back a bit. CPD 23 - Thing 10 - Becoming a Librarian. The link from the Wiki will take you straight there but I realise this title is potentially confusing. There will be some clarification here but thing 10 is really the place to go if you want to know about my journey into librarianship.

As you've probably guessed I have added my story to the Library Routes Project's collection. For any readers who haven't heard of this it's a Wiki that brings together librarians' stories of how they got into the profession and what they've been up to since they joined it. The idea is that it is a useful resource for people who are considering a career in library and information work or for those who are planning the next step in their career.

Having read some of the other contributions I think my entry might need some editing or perhaps just this postscript. I may have given the impression that my career path was clearer than it actually was. I didn't go straight from university to teaching, then from there to being a college librarian. Dabbling with teaching after finishing your studies then moving into our arm of the education sector seems to be quite a common story. Although a lot of people have the self-knowledge to make the jump before or during their teaching course.

My CV isn't as tidy as I implied. After studying English Literature at Lancaster University I spent a couple of years mostly doing admin type jobs. These ranged from a few days temping to more interesting roles. For example I spent a year working on a digitization project for a planning department which in retrospect isn't a bad thing for a librarian to have on their CV. At the time however it was in no sense part of a plan.

Halfway through those two years I spent nearly six months doing voluntary work in Peru. Unsurprisingly this was much more interesting than admin work in London. I spent a few months teaching English in a Peruvian secondary school and a few months working on a conservation project in the rainforest. As a volunteer teacher I was able to stay with a local family. I loved my time in South America.

My positive memories of teaching in Peru probably nudged me towards doing my PGCE a year later but again implying a straight cause and effect would be me tidying up the reality to give you a neater story. I did slightly fall into that trap in my becoming a librarian post.

The Library Routes Project is very reassuring for those of us who feel that our CV seems to show a slightly roundabout journey. People who feel called to be librarians from childhood (or even young adulthood) seem to be the exception. Frankly I wanted to be a Ghostbuster when I was a child.

It seems to be common for librarians to have come via other kinds of role. The consensus seems to be that this gives people the chance to pick up skills that they can then use in a sector that can find uses for a bewildering array of talents.

It would be interesting to compare this to other professions though. It's a truism to say that people don't stick with the same organisation for life anymore. People move around much more during their working lives than they did in previous generations. Perhaps most professions would show a similar pattern? I'm sure it's pretty common for people to have tried different kinds of job before finding something that seems to fit. Is this truer of librarianship than of other fields? Perhaps we are claiming a general pattern as our own? I'm not saying that's definitely the case. I'm just throwing the question out there.

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