The Library Routes Project is really quite old, but I’ve had a vague intention of adding my story to it for some years. So finally, here it is.
When I eventually became a librarian, none of my friends expressed an awful lot of suprise. I think it’s the books thing. I rarely go anywhere without reading material and practically used to live in my local library (which is now a horrible modern building in the shopping centre, with no snuggly quiet corners).
Of course, as we all know, ‘liking books’ really has very little to do with librarianship, and even less to do with the sort of work I now do as an ‘Information Specialist’.
So, how did it happen? I remember being home, possibly at Christmas, possibly the spring half term, and wondering what on earth I was going to do with a second class degree in Geography. The obvious choice, teaching, was a definite no. Generalised ‘graduate jobs’ (and I did investigate!) weren’t of any interest. At the same time, Mum had heard from one of her old school friends, who was re-training to become a librarian (I believe she was actually studying at the time), and suggested it to me as a vague idea. I jumped on it – without really having any understanding of what being a librarian involved, it just felt perfect. And so began the applications to see if I could get a Graduate Trainee post (this was the best thing – it was a job for a year, so even if I didn’t get on with it in the long term, it really didn’t matter!). Several applications later (and I would still prefer not to remember the disastrous interview at LSE on my birthday), I was offered the post at Christ’s College Cambridge.
What followed at Christ’s was a year of, well, many extremes. For a lot of it, I was dead set against the idea of going back to University to do the Master’s course. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to stay in libraries. The great thing about the Cambridge traineeships though is that there are 6 or 7 of you (more, these days!) scattered across Cambridge.
However, things sorted themselves out, and I was offered places at both Sheffield and Northumbria for the MA in Information and Library Management. I chose Northumbria mostly because I didn’t have any great desire to go back to Sheffield again immediately (having done my undergraduate degree there), and because I’ve always wanted to live in Newcastle. Well, a year was enough to get that out of my system! Not the best of reasons I guess, but it all worked out fine.
And thus, that last summer of dissertation (you really cannot imagine the relief I felt at finally FINALLY getting out of education forever!) and the job hunting started. I had vague intentions of wanting to stay up north somewhere, but ended up in Berkshire at the Transport Research Laboratory as an Assistant Librarian. I’ve now been here for almost 5 years, and the changes within the library have been enormous. Now there is hardly any paper stock left, changed procedures, 2 Information Professionals instead of an entire library staff…and mostly, though it didn’t seem so at the time, it has been changes for the good. But it’s hard work.
Funnily enough, part of my reason for liking the idea of librarianship as a career is that which everyone else dislikes about it – that there’s a lot of women, and therefore lots of part-time work for post-child-ness. Ironically however, as life has worked out, I’m no nearer to having a family at 29 than I was at 18, so now those very same jobs frustrate me as I keep an eye open for that next step up.