I really enjoyed reading a blogpost by Woodsiegirl on her Organizing Chaos blog about how she became a librarian, and it seems others did too, as another librarian blogger, Jennie Law, followed suit with a blog post on why she became a librarian, which inspired Ned the wikiman to set up a wiki called The Library Routes Project encouraging others to do the same, and gathering the posts together in true librarian style.
So I thought I’d do a blog post on this subject!
Why am I a librarian? For me it’s probably a mixture of chance and desire. From pretty much as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and have written stories and poems most of my life. At times, I also wanted to be a film star. I liked the idea of wearing glamorous outfits, though when I was little, I was a bit put off the film star idea by the possibility I might have to kiss boys. As I got older, I didn’t mind that thought so much.
Now very few people do become famous authoresses or film stars, and when I was sent on school work experience in the first year of my A-levels, I didn’t ask to go to Hollywood. To be honest, I don’t think my secondary school would have sent me there anyway. Maybe to Holyhead, which is a bit nearer. Anyway, I had already done two work experiences during GCSEs, one in Penrhyn Castle (I always liked heritage and old buildings) and one in Sain Records (I liked music), so the next obvious choice seemed to be a library, as I loved books. The school sent me to the local university library for a work experience, and that’s where I work now, wow, pretty much half my life later!
At university, I did anthropology and archaeology, because it sounded interesting (it was), but I also worked in my college library, for extra money to keep me going whilst I studied. I began by shelving books, moved on to working as a afternoon library helper doing all kinds of things, and ended up working as part of the team cataloguing the library books for the new computer catalogue. When I finished my degree, the library kept me on, and when all the books were catalogued (not all by me!) I stayed on as a desk assistant, working in the library for 3 years after college. This library was a small one belonging to King’s College in Cambridge, so I got to do a wide variety of tasks.
After a year off, I ended up back in Wales, and took the first library job I could find, which was in Coleg Menai, the local FE college. I enjoyed working there, as you get a wide variety of people, from school leavers, to international students, to mature members of the local community returning to learning; and the books are quite different again to university library collections.
One day (it really was this random) I suddenly decided that as I still seemed to be working in libraries, it made sense to get a library degree, so that I could earn a better wage in library work; and at the same time, I started thinking about the fact that I quite liked the idea of moving to Brighton. Luckily, Brighton not only had a postgraduate library degree, but it happened to be an “Information Management” course with some focus on electronic information, which was the route I wanted to follow, rather than a more traditional library degree focusing on a lot of the things I had already done.
So in the first year of the new millenium (2000), I headed down to Brighton to do a library degree, at the University of Brighton, which was pretty interesting, I think I picked the right course for me. At the end of the degree, I was lucky enough to get a post covering maternity leave in the Development Studies library at Brighton’s University of Sussex, which I really enjoyed, as it was relevant to my anthropology degree; before being offered a job working in e-learning back in Wales.
I then side stepped into e-learning for about 5 years, which taught me many new skills, such as presenting and organizing meetings, and gave me an interest in new technologies; oh, and squeezed in a job as an English GCSE teacher for a year, and did a postgraduate Heritage Management degree, it was a busy time!
A couple of years ago, I left e-learning and returned to library work, beginning with a post back at Coleg Menai library (the local FE college), followed by a post in User Support in Bangor University Library, which is where I am now.
As jobs go, I really like mine, and think it suits my abilities. I worked for a month cooking starters in a pizza restaurant once, and I was useless, you have to know your own strengths and weaknesses. It might be a stereotype, but I really do like “working with books and people”, though for books, substitute “a wide variety of electronic and printed information sources”. I love research, I love helping people with research, and I like explaining search skills and complicated electronic databases to people. I think I’m pretty lucky to do something I enjoy. Oh, and just to add to that, I also like quite a wide variety of subjects, which is ideal for library work; as opposed to being an academic who specialises in certain subjects or areas.
I haven’t done much writing lately as I’m so busy working full time, but I still carry that dream of being a writer; and as for the film star dream, well I joined a local drama group, and have had a couple of incredibly unglamorous parts as peasants in sackcloth, and played Madonna in a blonde wig, somehow, I don’t think Hollywood are going to steal me away from the library…