Monday, 3 October 2011

Thing 20 Roots/Routes

My dad        

was responsible for me getting into libraries. Throughout my school years I was an avid reader and a constant user of public libraries. (We lived in a small village that was served by a mobile library which we all used to call the 'bus library!')
After my A-levels I couldn't decide what to do...this was 1975 and jobs were a-plenty then! With hindsight I wish I'd gone to university, but the lure of a regular wage was too tempting!
But what to do?
Dad was obviously sick of me mooching around the house and one evening wafted the 'Situations Vacant' section of the local paper under my nose! In it was an advert for a library assistant at the then Sunderland Polytechnic. 'You love books...and libraries' he said, as if it was a foregone conclusion I would get the job!
And I did! Me, from my little village was going to work 'in town' in a very grand building. Would you believe I actually got a weekly wage packet with real money in it?!!!
And so began my love of working in libraries which I'm still doing today...36 years on. Not the same one I hasten to add...I've travelled about the country and across the sectors!

I stayed at the 'Poly' for nearly 4 years and in that time achieved my City and Guilds Library Assistants' Certificate. My teacher on the course was Lawrence Tagg, and for those of you who knew him you'll know I had a thorough grounding in the basics of librarianship! Back in the 1970s he wanted to pioneer qualifications for para took until the next millenium before that actually happened!

Armed with my 'Certificate' I applied for a job at our local general the Postgraduate Medical Library. It wasn't as grand as it sounded (this was the first proper library service the doctors had...they were used to having their loans written on a scrap of paper on the secretary's desk!))but it did give me more experience to add to my CV. I also met another librarian who inspired me.

After a year in this job I found myself moving to London (husband relocating for his job.) Once again (1980) jobs were a lot easier to come by...I simply wrote to both Kingston and Sutton library authorities asking about the possibility of work and both offered me interviews! I chose the Sutton offer and spent a wonderful 8 years working in a very dynamic, go-ahead service. I started in the branch libraries but was soon moved to the most impressive central library. Here I worked with some wonderful people who were keen to promote and advance public libraries. One summer I spent my working hours selling tickets for the Bubble Theatre performances in Nonsuch Park! And I remember fondly the Local History tours and fascinating books which were published. June Broughton was a great librarian to work for.
Again, with hindsight, I wish I had used those years to qualify as a professional librarian as there was no career structure for library assistants in those days. Still, I did gather a lot of practical experience and a tremendous enthusiasm for the profession.

Those happy years came to an end when my husband developed a brain tumour, and we moved back to the north-east as we needed the support of both families. I didn't work for a couple of years while I looked after him, then recovered after his death.

By the summer of 1990 I felt ready to 'get back to normal' and saw an advert in the local paper (the same one my dad had spotted the advert for Sunderland Poly in way back in 1975!) for a senior library assistant. This time the job was for a local FE college, in the library at their sixth form centre.  21 years later I'm still with the College...but am now Campus Librarian at its' newest sixth form build.
Yes...during these years things changed at CILIP!  A new Framework of Qualifications was introduced which allowed me to acquire ACLIP status. Having that helped me to be appointed to a campus librarian role in 2008. And , of course, being in a professional role allowed me to prepare a portfolio for Chartership which I submitted this summer. I've got everything crossed that I'm accepted as a Chartered member as I will feel that, at last, I'm there!

Talk about doing things the hard way! If I achieve Chartership status it will have taken me 36 years to 'arrive'
However, I'm proud that I stuck at it, did lots of CPD even when it wasn't trendy to do so and took advantage of the Framework when it came along.  I've worked with some amazing people who inspired me (and some who seemed to actively discourage me for whatever reason.)

In the last year the College has employed a Consultant to completely review and restructure Learning Services. She has changed my job title from campus librarian (which I was so proud of) to Learning Centre Co-ordinator (I've yet to meet anyone who can define this role!) I usually manage change well, but am finding this radical new way difficult to adapt to.

Have I finally reached the end of the road? My next birthday puts me in a position where I can make choices regarding flexible retirement. I'm tempted!
But if I achieve Chartership status you can bet your life I'll be looking for a new challenge!
I can't define exactly what has kept me in the profession for the whole of my working life. I haven't made huge strides like many others have. Personally, though, I have achieved a lot. A great sense of helping people to realise their potential. Lifelong friends. Just lately a good social networking scene.
If it really came to it would I walk away without a backward glance...I don't think so. As dad spotted all those years ago, a love of books and reading opened the door to a wonderful world of learning for me. I hope, along the way, I've been able to inspire this in many others.

Libraries forever!


Nikki said...

Go for it girl! You've been brilliant to keep at it over the years. Chartership isn't everything. Sounds bad in some ways, but there are plenty of ways to feel proud about your achievements without those letters after your name, and I reckon you should be proud.

paula.short said...

thanks, Nikki, for those very supportive words