Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Thing 10: Graduate traineeships, Masters Degrees, Chartership, Accreditation

Why did I choose librarianship? So I had a legitimate reason to be uber-tidy of course!! I'm unable to remember the moment when I decided it was the career for me but I do remember chatting to the careers advisor at school when we had to chose a work experience placement. The advisor nearly fell off her chair when I asked if she could get me in at the local library. Her exact words were "no one has ever asked me that before". Thankfully she took me seriously and here I am today.

Career history so far (edited highlights):

Work experience - two weeks at the local library. I remember doing lots of tasks and asking for more things to do. The memory that sticks in my mind is reading aloud at the children's story time and realising that children's librarianship was not for me due to the high levels of sticky fingers and snotty noses.

University - my first degree was not in librarianship but of course like all good students I did go to the library. Looking back I didn't use a database and I didn't meet a subject librarian but I did do an awful lot of photocopying. In my final year I went to the careers office and picked up a leaflet about careers in information and that sealed the deal. I think it was the attraction of being organised, tidy and working with different groups of people. I applied for a graduate trainee position at an enormous multi-site Uni in central London and got the post in the January before I'd even taken my exams.

Graduate Trainee - multi-site Uni in central London - spent lots of time on the various issue desks but my 'home' was the Periodicals office. Every fortnight the 6 trainees would do some sort of training or visit other libraries to get us ready for the Masters course.

Masters - did this full-time. I enjoyed it but with hindsight I'm not sure how much I have actually used in the workplace. There's a lot to be said for having the qualification but on-the-job experience has given me the best training in my career so far. During this time I discovered I was not cut out for Cat & Class - I passed the modules but developed a deep seated fear of Dewey tables. In my current post I have met a kindred spirit and I no longer feel like a bad librarian for pinching class numbers from others.

First 'real' librarianship post - another multi-site Uni in central London - started as a Library Assistant but quickly took a secondment as a Senior Library Assistant. This time my home was the Journals and Document Delivery office. What did I learn? Well how to scan, how to keep fit by shelving journals, how to ferret out free articles.... I also had to supervise the issue desk in the evening which made me a little nervous.  It was here that I met inspirational manager number 1. They trusted their staff to get on with the job. I've always felt this to be a good quality and have tried to do this myself in various roles. Whilst I was here I obtained my Chartership.

First 'chartered librarian' post - a hospice - yep, that's right a hospice. Many people raised their eyebrows when I told them my choice of workplace but I found it hugely rewarding both professionally and personally. Professionally it was my first post that required me to be Chartered. As it was a small library I got to have a go at everything which wasn't the case in the large libraries I had previously worked in. I did cat and class, presentations, helped to run the bookshop, assisted with research queries, made posters for conferences, worked with volunteers.... the list is never ending. Personally, it was an enlightening experience which I shall never forget - it changed my attitude to illness and death for the better. I also met inspirational manager number 2. Her enthusiasm was infectious. She made it her mission to do everything she could to build the best library possible with limited funds and manpower. She cared passionately about her job and taught me the notion of 'added value'. She knew how to go that extra mile with an enquiry. It was her drive that made me think I'd like to be a library manager and lead a team and service.

Then - The Drama School - I was the library manager. Well, this was in interesting experience. Nice library staff to work with but the role was challenging. Issues - never ending issues - with IT, space, lack of web presence and people welded to very old fashioned ideas about libraries (one day someone actually said "why don't we put in some wood panelling and some lamps"). I think I'll leave it there. I learnt a lot about managing staff, running a service etc but I'm sure there was an easier way to learn this stuff! I also signed up as a Mentor for CILIP and took on my first mentee.

Now - multi-site Uni in the South East - In the previous role I felt I'd lost contact with the students and I wanted to get back to a role involving running workshops, giving support and academic liaison. I also did not want to work with acting students - been there, done that, most were very nice, some were most certainly not nice. I enjoy my current role. I like the variety of tasks and the relative autonomy. I find it rewarding when I've helped a student solve a search problem and when academic staff ask for my advice or expertise. I'm still mentoring for CILIP.

As for what I'm planning to do next, ideally I'd like to stay where I am, revalidate my Charteship and gain some sort of teaching qualification.

Writing this post has made me realise how far I've travelled in librarianship. For the most part I've enjoyed and made the most of every role. Hopefully there's a lot more still to come.

1 comment:

  1. Your career sounds so interesting and varied. I agree, it's nice to find a career where being tidy is ok!