So my Thing 10 looks into my journey into librarianship. Apologies for the length of this post – I’ve been around a while.
From A to B
Career 1 was a plan to work as a scientist – did science-based A levels and got a BSc in Chemistry from Bath University and did a one year placement with a pharmaceutical firm. Sadly by the end the prospective career spending years in labs didn’t appeal. So what next?
Career 2 was a plan to work as a computer programmer – was lucky to get onto a good graduate trainee programme with a large (then) public sector company. Had a pretty good career over 13 years, got the opportunity to work with a number of different technologies and develop lots of skills. But I’ve never had a computing-based qualification. For probably the last couple of years I was looking for something that dragged my head away from the code-crunching now and then. Action was needed when I was made redundant. So what next?
Career 3 was a plan to work as a librarian. This followed a fair amount of self-analysis – what can I do, what do I like to do etc. The Open University had some good tools that helped me along the way. The Internet revolution was in full swing, changes in availability, use of, presentation of information seemed exciting. So hopefully I could make the most of my IT skills along the way.
I’ve never actually seen one of these. Are they good? Accredited in some way? Working for a year in either a traineeship post or as a library assistant didn’t really appeal in terms of the salary drop and time added to eventual qualification. I don’t think that I have missed out on anything by not being a library assistant first.
So somewhere in my thirties I went back to university (at Liverpool JMU) to do an MA in Information and Library Management. It was a revelation! The changes since the first time I went to Uni were staggering. I enjoyed the whole experience (well except for writing up my dissertation – moan, moan, moan). My course did cover classification and cataloguing – hoorah for Keith Trickey! Absolutely believe all courses should include this – it is the basis for librarianship. And obviously enjoyed modules that dealt with electronic resources (I took the modules on business and healthcare resources) as well as creating web pages and Internet searching. My course included a 3 week placement, and I spent a lovely time at the University of Liverpool.
I do think a qualification is required for a career in librarianship. You get a good grounding in the ethos, theory and the basic principles; various elements can open your eyes to the possibilities out there. I also think that you need to have done a dissertation or some piece of research work if you are going to train users on searching skills.
The 5 Year Plan
OK so the MA won’t prepare you for every single job but it gives you the grounding. Then it’s up to you to make the most of your opportunities and take on that “continuous development” aspect.
Job1 – was subject librarian at an FE Library. This was brilliant in terms of exposure to a whole range of library-related activities – managing (small) budget, selecting stock, developing a collection, cat & class, training, creating leaflets, posters, displays, enquiry desk duties, dealing with reader issues. This was hard-going in terms of low salary, limited resources and challenging student behaviour.
Job2 – was assistant librarian at an NHS library. So this was a step into specialism. I really got to hone my literature searching skills, developed current awareness bulletins as well as delivered training. Our users were medical staff and nurses and they were absolutely wonderful.
Job3 – I’m the eresources librarian at a joint HE / NHS library, serving medical, midwifery and nursing students as well as NHS staff. I used to see the library from the A34 when I visited relatives here and always thought it would be great to work in a round library. It always looked so inviting.
I got the job at the second attempt. I admin our access to eresources, develop our website and get involved in all sorts on online-based projects.
Along the way I also did a couple of Open University short courses – beyond google and an introductory management course. To be honest I think that these represented better value than Cilip courses.
I’ve mentioned before about this. It is off my radar at the moment, probably for good. I think so far my career demonstrates that I can develop new relevant skills and that I have an open attitude to change and new developments, so I feel this is sufficient for any prospective employers.
What is essential?
Yes I feel the MA was essential. As well as learning the specifics of the course this also demonstrates that you can learn new skills, be adaptable, analytical, self-reflective and have the ability to plan. I think my career choices have given me a range of experiences that all add to my ability to perform my current role. For any kind of career progression and service development I would think that these are all essential skills in modern librarianship.