Friday, 7 October 2011

Thing 20 - the Library Routes project

Thing 20 – the library routes project

I contributed my story to the library routes project before the cpd23 programme came along, so for this thing I am charged with reading other people’s routes and seeing if my route was typical or unusual. This is a hard one! Lots of the routes I read about had some similarities, but equally, lots were completely different from my own experience.

I think there may be several reasons for the differences:

· The routes project has contributors from several different countries, so the routes are almost certainly going to be different too.

· Certain routes seem to be characteristic of the age, so the journey in the 1980s is not the same as the one in the 1990s or 2000s.

· Lots of people seem to have come to librarianship by accident, or because they didn’t quite know what they wanted to do.

I remember going to a careers evening at school when I was in year 4 (that would be today’s year 10!) very shortly after starting O level classes. We had the chance to go to talks so I went to learn about what I could do if I followed a music career, what a career in languages might involve, how to become a journalist, how to become a librarian and what the civil service had to offer. Prior to these sessions I was obsessed with boats and music, so I thought I wanted to join the WRNS as a clarinettist, so I was most interested to hear what else I might do with the O level choices I’d made.

As I said in my original route post, once I’d got the idea of the WRNS out of my system (I was too short!), I decided I wanted to go to music college and I wanted to be a musician, but by the time I got to the sixth form I realised that I just wasn’t going to be good enough, so decided to go for the next best career: librarianship- seemed obvious once I’d realised that being a musician was a dream rather than a real career option. Next best makes it sound as though I was a reluctant librarian, but this just isn't the case! From an early age I had been interested in books (though not much reading!) and libraries, especially catalogue drawers, so this really was my obvious career choice. Combining this with music would have been perfect (I had a dream about becoming the librarian for WNO, but ...), but I am perfectly happy with the route I have taken.

So, on the advice of the school’s career officer I took the fastest route through university, I came out the other end with a BA (Hons) degree and, as a member of the Library Association as it was then, a professional librarian. Chartership took a couple of years, and I’ve been a chartered librarian ever since! Music is now a hobby, although I rarely play nowadays (varifocals do not help!), I do try and sing whenever time allows.

In many ways, the 1980s was a comparable time to today; when I was applying for jobs the Vacancies Supplement was a single side of A4 and jobs were scarce. I suppose the difference is that the early 80s was a time when libraries were looking at computerising their catalogue records and the government had several programmes to get people into work. This is how and why I got my first real job (after a period of volunteering), through the Manpower Services Commission, as retrospective cataloguing supervisor in a public library, which involved converting card catalogue records to computer-based ones that were produced on microfiche and checking classification numbers!

Looking back, that first job really did provide me with a huge set of skills that I was able to put into use in future jobs: cat/class knowledge, supervisory skills, time management and project management skills, communication skills and - commuting skills (wrap up warmly as train stations are cold at 6.30am, wear comfortable shoes as the walk to/from the station can be long, always anticipate a long queue at the ticket office on a Monday morning, don't fall asleep and miss your stop, don't leave your bike at the station when the monsters of rock is on because it will get pinched, and don't do it for more than 2 years because you will get tired ...)!

Luckily for me the next job was a mere 10 minute bike ride away! working in a pharmaceutical library introduced me to the concept of a divide between information professionals and librarians, a divide which has long since been dissolved. I was also lucky enough to be responsible for a whole range of library activities that I hadn't previously experienced: circulation, ordering, inter-library loans, journals, current awareness, reference work, marketing, liaison, UDC!

I have now been in my current workplace for 25 years! Not 5 minutes away, but not an hour's train journey either. Having stayed here for 25 years, I guess I must have found it rewarding and challenging enough!

Now the children are less dependent, I will have to see what work life now brings ...

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