Bit late, but herewith follows the first of two posts which together constitute my contribution to the Library Routes Project. The project was set up in October last year to bring together the thoughts and experiences of Information Professionals on how they got where they are today, and why they chose to work in libraries at all...
Does one 'chose' to become a librarian? Are we not born? I think it just takes some of us longer to realise that that's what we are...
Anyway...librarianship wasn't a career I considered at school...and it wasn't ever suggested to me by my careers advisor. In those days it wasn't quite as important to have a specific career in mind when choosing a degree (generally any old degree guaranteed you a decent job). So my decision to study History at Aberdeen University was really down to it having been my favourite subject at school. During my time at uni I had vague notions of having a go at teaching and archaeology appealed at one point, but librarianship didn't register with me at all. When it came to my final year I applied - with little enthusiasm - for a range of graduate recruitment programmes. Unsurprisingly I didn't get past the first interview with any of them.
So I left university with a pretty good MA(Hons) in History and Economic History and no job to go to. I remember considering an Information and Library Studies (ILS) post grad at this point (but I don't remember why!), and also thought getting into IT might be good move, but I was fed up being skint and didn't think I could face any more studying. So I did some short courses in word processing, desk top publishing and the like (including a typing course, which turned out to be one of the most useful courses I've ever done! No one fingered typing for me!) and applied for any job I thought I might have a hope of getting. To boost my CV, I also did some volunteering at the Citizens Advice Bureau - where, incidentally, I developed skills that I've used in every job I've had since.
Four months after leaving university I got a short term contract with what was then the Scottish Office Agricultural and Fisheries Department as an administrative assistant. It was pretty mind numbing stuff but from there I got a permanent position at the Department of Social Security (now the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)) in Aberdeen. Over the next couple of years I had various roles from filing to interviewing benefit claimants.
At first it was great having money...I bought a flat, did some travelling and generally had fun...and I worked with a really great bunch of people. But after three years I felt increasingly in need of something more challenging and thought it was time I worked out what I actually wanted to do with my life.
I can't remember what made me consider librarianship again at this point, but I found myself applying for the first intake of the Robert Gordon University's (RGU) new distance learning post grad diploma in Information and Library Studies. (Bit bizarre doing a distance learning course at a uni located 20 minutes up the road, but I wouldn't have been able to fulfil the weekly attendance required to do the course part-time.)
I was the only one in the cohort who didn't already have a library job, so to get some practical experience I took on a part-time job in RGU's library.
By this time I'd moved into an IT support role at work - which proved to be another opportunity to acquire knowledge and learn skills that would stand me in good stead in later roles. I also ended up having to do a lot of overtime, and looking back now I'm not sure how I managed to fit everything in - full time job with long hours, part time job and part time degree. I certainly wouldn't have the energy to do it now!
I was about two thirds of the way through the post grad course when I applied for, and got, a promotion. A promotion which entailed a move south of the border. I took a break from the studying while all the moving stuff was going on, but because it was delivered by distance learning I was ultimately able to complete the course - and only two years after I should have done!
At this point, I fully intended going for the Masters and put together a really good research proposal looking at information literacy in the workplace. But then I saw an advert for assistant librarian posts at what was then the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI). So on to my first professional post and a move even further south (to London).
So, the scene is set. Tune in next week to find out how I got on as a new librarian in the big smoke!