My Library Roots and Route
As I’m still easing myself into blogging at a typically slow and steady pace, I thought I’d write my Library Routes project entry.
Maybe it started with a random visit to Manchester Central Library (still one of my favourite library buildings), or perhaps it was the library at the University of Hull, which was ace, especially for the view from the top floor, but I just have a thing about libraries. I love the buildings themselves – well, a lot of them anyway – and will insist on visiting (and photographing) the library in every city I visit. But it wasn’t like I always knew I would end up working in libraries. I confess that I didn’t really use my local library much when I was younger. And it wasn’t like there was anyone in my family working in libraries in whose footsteps I was following (although I did find out later, strangely enough, that a member of my family actually used to work in the aforementioned, much loved, Manchester Central Library) so it’s perhaps strange that I happened upon librarianship as a career choice. But I know I’m pleased that I did.
As with many others I took a roundabout way into the library profession, so although not necessarily a traditional route, it was perhaps not all that atypical either. I finished University in 2003 with a degree in English and still no clue what I wanted to do “when I grew up”! So off to the agency I went and started temping in the Finance Department at Northumbria University, where I ended up getting a permanent job and staying for over 3 years. I knew all along though that it wasn’t the job for me and had been on the lookout for new things the whole time I was there. The job wasn’t a total loss of course – it made me realise how much I enjoyed working in higher education and I certainly gained some valuable customer service skills – but I also realised that I really wanted to be in a position where I could help students with their academic studies rather than being someone they saw just because they owed us money! Over my time there I’d been pondering what I wanted to do next and librarianship (in particular academic librarianship – it was, and still is, my ambition to become a Subject Liaison Librarian) was the one career I kept coming back to. During my undergraduate degree it was the research process that I enjoyed the most so I suppose I thought I had some kind of knack for finding information. After a few unsuccessful applications for library assistant posts and assuming I was perhaps ‘too old’ for a graduate trainee position, I took the plunge and applied to do a full time Masters in Library and Information Management at Northumbria University, thinking that would be my best way to get in to the profession. Knowing what I do now, I probably wouldn’t have done it that way round as previous experience of working in libraries (from a graduate traineeship or library assistant post) would have been really valuable when doing the Masters and afterwards when trying to get that first professional post. Still, I managed to get a job working part time in public libraries whilst finishing off my Masters dissertation – working in almost all of the branch libraries across Newcastle at some point during this time – and eventually got a full time job working on a cataloguing project with the same authority before finally getting my opportunity to move into academic libraries, albeit into another library assistant post. And I’m still there now – stuck in a bit of a catch 22, but perhaps that’s a post for another day!