Sunday, 24 January 2010

My Life as a Librarian Part II - The London Years

Part I - in case you missed it

So, there I am, innocent newly qualified librarian all alone in the big smoke. (OK, maybe not quite innocent, but still a bit of a country hick. To illustrate the point, I thought Luton was a good place to commute to London from. Well, it's looks quite close on a map)...

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was very clued up about the skills that a qualified librarian could bring to a range of posts - including 'non traditional' roles like records management and web management - and carried out a general librarian recruitment exercise every year. Successful applicants were then allocated to the most relevant role dependant on their particular skills/experience.

I was lucky enough to be allocated to the web team at UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) - an agency of the DTI and the Foreign Office. I probably didn't see a book in my entire time there, but got to put my librarian super powers to use helping to manage and develop UKTI's website - which was pretty groundbreaking at the time for combining external website/extranet/intranet in the one site with more or less completely devolved content management.

Over the next two years I worked with a great bunch of people, gained experience in a range of web management activities (user testing, stakeholder management, user support, etc) and even managed to (reluctantly!) pick up some coding skills. The highlight of the job for me though was the training activity. Being involved in a massive programme to train colleagues all over the world in the use of our Content Management System and to 'write for the web', meant developing my trainer skills, but also visits to lots of exotic places, specifically for me: Cairo, Muscat, Madrid, Oslo, Johannasburg, Beijing, Shanghai and...Leeds.

But all good things must come to an end...the endless international travel was becoming a bit tiresome anyway, honest! So after two years I prepared to go back to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Newcastle - unsure of the job I'd be doing, as my old post had long since gone!

But with the fortuitous timing that seems to have been a feature of my career, I spotted a job in the Scottish Government (SG) library and I went for it. I really liked living in Newcastle and hadn't intended a move back north of the border at this stage, but it was too good an opportunity to pass up. So I got the job and spent the next two and bit years as an assistant librarian with the SG in Edinburgh.

A rather more 'traditional' role this one - literature searching, information enquiries, current awareness, I even stamped a book or two. The opportunity to develop and deliver training - this time in information literacy skills - was again the best bit of the job for me.

(There's a whole other blog post to be written about the current state of government library services and their future, but I may not be the best person to write it!)

I really enjoyed this job, wasn't looking for anything else and hardly ever bothered to look at the vacancy page on our intranet. But one day I did and spotted a job for a Knowledge Management Officer - at a grade up from the job I had.

So here I am. Back in a non-traditional role doing knowledge management, digital communications and community management to name but three aspects of my job. But I draw on experiences from all my previous jobs in this role. I mostly think of myself as a librarian. Some days I have something of a split personality. I was a civil servant before I was a librarian - and the two mindsets can be contradictory (something I've blogged about recently).

As for how I got here, well it's obvious that I've had no career plan to speak of - I think it's mostly been a case of taking opportunities when they have presented themselves. I'm quite happy with how things have turned out. If I could do things differently, I'd be more focussed about CILIP chartership and I'd have found some way of completing my Masters dissertation...but I may still do that...

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