Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Routes to librarianship

My Route to Librarianship

Ok, let’s be honest about this; I always wanted to be a musician and librarianship was a second choice career! There! I’ve said it now; it’s out in the open, so now I can move on!

In retrospect, however, I can’t understand why I was side-tracked by the idea of a career in music, as the signs pointing me in the direction of library work were all there from the time I was about 6, unless every child used to create Browne issue cards for their friends and issue slips for their books, and then lend out their books to their friends!

Then, when I was about 7 my mother took me to what was then the college of Education Library in Cambrian House. What a treasure-trove that was, but maybe I was side-tracked by the excitement of finding the piano music for Tommy Steele’s Little White Bull on the shelves! Next came an introduction to the local public library. We lived in a small Welsh town so the library was only open a few days each week, and shared a space with the local secondary school. What a treat that was, pretending to be grown-up, going through the school gates and then rushing off to the library.

My mother introduced me to the librarian who showed me how to use the catalogue cards. This must have been a fairly forward-looking, or a newish library, as the catalogue drawers were the modern, light pine coloured ones, the smell of which still haunts me today. The joy I experienced when looking through the cards and then being able to find the books listed on the cards on the actual library shelves was immense, and my skill at using them led me to read the most unsuitable literature I could find, while by-passing the traditional children’s stories!

Moving from Wales to England at the age of 16 was, to say the least, a bit of a culture shock, and I only felt comfortable behind the issue desk of the school library, or when shelving the books that other kids had returned. It was during this time that I realised that becoming a musician was a dream rather than a career, and so it was that I decided to go for librarianship. The careers advisor strongly advocated that if I knew I wanted to be a librarian then I should go the quickest route and study librarianship. This may be the one decision of my life that I sometimes wonder about; would there have been more open doors if I had done a different degree first and then done a Masters in librarianship? Well, who knows! I’ve certainly been lucky and happy in my career to date, so I probably took the best option anyway. But music was never far away; I studied music as a subsidiary subject, and persuaded the university to let me carry on with this instead of a librarianship options in the final year, and I also studied music librarianship as one of my other options! Despite this, I didn’t go down the music librarian route as I chose to limit myself to a specific geographical location.

After a couple of work placements in libraries (first a public library and then a college of education library) my first proper job was as a Retrospective Cataloguing Supervisor for a public library, converting their records from a card catalogue to machine-readable form, using BLCMP batch forms, and re-classifying to whatever was the current edition of Dewey. Hah, hah, this should have told me something too!

This first job lasted nearly 2 and a-half years and taught me so much. Then I moved to a pharmaceutical library, where I learnt a different set of skills, ranging from helping users, developing guidance leaflets for users, to ordering books and helping to develop an in-house automated library management system. Although I enjoyed this varied work and the journey to work was ten minutes on a bicycle, this was at a time when the Animal Liberation Front were very active, and I became worried for my own and my family’s safety, and so I looked for a job elsewhere and was lucky enough to end up where I am today, 24 years later! Having spent some time as the Lending Services Manager, I am now the Bibliographic Services Team Manager – looking after, amongst other things, cataloguers who are currently embarking on a re-classification project!

I wonder what the future holds for me?