This is in response to the Library Routes wiki I have already posted something very similar to this on the now defunct New Professionals Blog but thought I should have it on my own too...
I really very much fell into the idea of Librarianship from nowhere (like many other people) but once I had thought of it, it seemed so obvious I could not (and still can’t) work out why I didn’t think of it much much earlier.
I studied French and German for ‘A’ level, I also got stuck with Law (rather than politics and the four other subjects I had as preferences!) The plan was to apply to study French and German with perhaps one more language at university. Then on a whim, after having a really interesting lesson in Law, and atrocious language lessons, I decided to apply for law degrees instead.
There was then no going back, so I studied Law, enjoying the theory but being very sure that it was not the career for me. In the second year of my law degree, we had to go to the careers service and do one of those online quizzes to see what jobs would suit me. The top three which came up were interpreter, translator and librarian.
As I had no intention of going back to university for four more years after the end of the degree, I decided to look into option three: libraries. I went onto the CILIP website and looked at the graduate training opportunities page. I took the contact details for everyone in London and Cambridge and started emailing looking for work experience. I had found that I would need a year of work and a masters if I wanted to do the job, so I thought I should make very sure it wasn’t awful before I made up my mind.
Of the people I contacted, a number responded – many apologising but giving links or advice, some offering tours of their service or chats, and three offering work experience. I took everyone up on their offers, so I met a lot of people, spent a day shadowing staff, looked around a lot and most importantly arranged the actual work experience.
I spent two weeks at the Institute for Commonwealth Studies, two weeks at Drivers Jonas and two weeks at the Institute for Historical Research during the summer between my second and third year.
All three of the stints of work experience were really interesting, everybody was lovely to me and kept apologising for giving me boring menial work. But I really enjoyed myself. That really was what made my mind up for me, if I enjoyed doing the bad parts of the job, I obviously would enjoy the job if I had an even spread of good and bad.
I went back to university researching libraries and beginning to sort out applications for graduate traineeships. In November, the Information Unit Manager at Drivers Jonas called, and told me that one of the part-time members of staff (two days per week) was leaving and asked if I would be interested in filling the role. I was waitressing at the time, working about 14 or 15 hours a week so to do the same hours for more pay and gaining experience for my career seemed an absolutely obvious decision.
I started work almost straight away but continued to apply for graduate posts, as I could not get my experience on two days per week. The first interviews I got from this (and actually my first ever interviews), were for ICS, IHR and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies all on the same day, back-to-back. I was an absolute mess by the end of that day and unsurprisingly didn’t get the jobs. But then DJ offered to increase my hours to full-time. I admit that I wasn’t sure about whether I should go for a traditional graduate trainee post or stay where I was. I was worried about whether a non-traditional route would harm my chances of getting into Library School, and also of becoming stuck in a rut; I thought it would be better to work in a few different sectors before I qualified.
I looked at all of the jobs I had applied for, or could apply for and compared them with the work I was doing. I realised that I was by then doing work at a professional level and that in many of the graduate trainee roles (although by no means all) I would be doing less interesting, less challenging work. I decided that this, coupled with how nice everyone at DJ was, meant I should stay put.
I started working full-time in July 2008 and started applying for MAs. I subsequently decided that I should limit my search to courses which meant I could remain in post. I then compared all of the courses, and the distance learning course at Northumbria stood out as the obvious favourite given the content of the course.
I was not keen at all on the idea of the Hypermedia for Information Professionals module (I am not a web developer!!!) but all of the other modules were better than comparable modules elsewhere and nowhere else had option modules I particularly wanted to do. I got in to the MA and it turns out that I really didn't mind Hypermedia after all!
I have now been with the firm for almost three years altogether and still really enjoy my job. I get a chance to do a bit of everything from cataloguing to enquiries to organising training sessions to writing reports and trialling software. It is a really interesting job and the fact that I really like all of the people I work with and the level of autonomy I get in my work means I would struggle to leave!