Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Routes into librarianship

The beginning
I'm one of those people who has always loved libraries. You know the sort. I volunteered as a library prefect at my school library while I was in sixth form. During my undergraduate degree in History and French, I was on the committee for the student-run history duplicates library. The experience gained from these voluntary positions helped me obtain holiday work as an Archive Administration Assistant at a local government agency library, where I helped out with a project to reclassify some of the library stock. This involved a lot of fetching, relabelling and reshelving, but I also got to do some work on the thesaurus.

Graduate trainee year, but no formal graduate trainee scheme
After finishing my undergraduate degree, I was lucky enough to find work as a Library and Enquiries Administrator in the same government agency library for 12 months. The librarian there was very supportive and since I was working in a small team of 4, I got to do a bit of everything and learnt a great deal about different aspects of a library service. It was here I learnt that I really enjoyed enquiry work, although I found it daunting at first! While it wasn't possible to follow a programme of visits, like a formal graduate traineeship, I did meet people at training courses and events. Since the agency I worked for was about to merge with another agency, it was an interesting time. I was involved in some of the preparation work before the merger, such as creating FAQs and other documentation that could be shared between the two agencies. Graduate traineeships can be very competitive, but other experience is useful too and I'd also recommend small libraries for gaining a broad experience.

Masters course
I enjoyed my time at Loughborough University, doing the full-time MA in Information and Library Management. The modules covered a wide range of topics and skills, including marketing for information professions and cataloguing and classification. One of my favourite modules was the web design course, and my interest in this led me to a dissertation on public library websites.

Next steps
After this, I worked part-time for a year as Library Assistant in the Digital Resources Area of a university library, supporting users with electronic resources and computers. Then I successfully applied for the part-time position of Senior Library Assistant. This is another user-focused role, supervising a reading room, dealing with enquiries about official publications, inter-library loans and microfilms, and maintaining the department's website amongst other things.

Full-time library work
I recently started an additional part-time post as eBooks Assistant based in the same library, but providing a university-wide service. This is a great opportunity to meet new people, and new developments make ebooks an exciting area to work in. Four years after graduating, I am finally full time in library work, albeit in two different jobs. I love the variety of experience this gives me, and the opportunity to use different skills.

Chartership and the future
I started working towards chartership nearly 6 months ago, so one future aim is to become chartered. I will probably write more about my chartership experiences on this blog in future, so watch this space! I aim to continue developing professionally and learning new things, and am looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities that I'm sure the future will bring.

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