Oct 23 2009
Library Routes – why I became a Librarian
Again, it is some time since I posted here. I must admit that I have found the last few weeks very difficult professionally – not in my own job, but in the wider profession of school librarianship. Anyone passing by this blog, wondering about my reaction to recent announcements, will have to contact me privately as I am still thinking about how to deal with my feelings on this matter. Most UK school librarians will know what I am talking about here.
I will move on, because that issue depresses me totally and I don’t want to feel depressed right now! I love my job and am thrilled about our recently opened library. So, I have decided to write about the hows and the whys of becoming a Librarian following (a bit late) on a meme going around called Library Routes. If you are interested, have a look at The Library Routes wiki.
Well, I am probably more than a bit strange as I have always wanted to be a Librarian! No, I wasn’t born with a bun, glasses and a book in my hand – but I did learn to read at about 3-4 years old! My Mum’s family were avid users of the public library – particularly my Grandfather, who left school at 12 and educated himself by reading as many books as he could. As I grew up, I remember vividly my Mum taking us to the public library every week and before we went back again, I would have read all of my books, all of my sister’s and all of my Mum’s too! In many ways, the library was a forbidding building, but not to me. I just loved the books and the comics and especially admired the Librarian who helped me to choose what to read next – I wanted to be just like her!
Funnily enough, my school libraries were not up to much – I have vivid memories of hiding underneath the shelves in one of them with a book, trying to avoid a PE lesson. But the books were not the colourful and attractive creations that they are these days – old cloth bindings were the norm. I probably borrowed far more from the public library than from those at school – these libraries were small and pretty unloved, with no staffing.
What I did enjoy, was going on the mobile library that visited my primary school. The Headteacher used to ask me to help return our class books to the mobile as I was good at alphabetical order! Oh, the stereotype was beginning already!
All through my school days, I cannot ever remember wavering from my goal of becoming a Librarian when I left. Without much career advice, I wrote to the Library Association, as it was then called, when I was in the Sixth Form and asked what I should do to further my career. I decided that I did not want to do a first degree in Librarianship, but went down the route of taking a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology, followed by a Master’s in Librarianship.
In those days (late 1970s), you had to do a Graduate Trainee year between the first degree and the Master’s. With my normal laziness, I didn’t try seriously enough to get this post and messed up interviews with Sheffield Public Library and Birmingham University Library! Instead, I took a Master’s in Ancient History and Archaeology, then was able to try again the next year and was lucky enough to get a post at Lancaster University Library, with a place at Sheffield to do Librarianship.
At this point, I was convinced that I was looking at a future career in academic libraries. The year at Lancaster totally changed that view! The staff there were brilliant, but I did not have a happy year at all, although I did learn a huge amount. During my time at Sheffield, I became convinced that I would go into public libraries – my first love after all. But, on leaving, the first post I was offered was in the Schools Library Service in Nottinghamshire – the Education Library Service.
I had a fantastic time working for ELS – it was great because a lot of my friends from Sheffield were also working for Nottinghamshire in a variety of library posts. After a year, some new posts came up in the city of Nottingham. These were to be the first professional librarians being placed into a number of schools. My boss, suggested that I try for one…. and a School Librarian was born!
So, looking back 27 years to that day when I first took up the date-stamp at The Manning School, do I regret the route and the choices that I made? After all, I have now worked in six schools and have never changed into another area of the profession – could I have done anything differently?
Well, I did try to change a couple of times, but somehow it wasn’t meant to be. My Mum said something to me a while ago – she said that I found my vocation when I “fell” into school librarianship! I think that she was right. From those first stumblings at Manning (I was pretty awful), to now, I wouldn’t change a thing. Along the way, I developed a passion for school librarianship – I honestly believe that it is the most important area of the profession. We play a part in shaping young minds and are privileged to see students grow and attain amazing things with our help. This is why I firmly believe that school librarianship must not be watered down – our students deserve the best-qualified and experienced people to run their libraries.
So, if you are reading this and are thinking of becoming a librarian – consider coming into schools. You can make such a huge difference! We need people who are highly educated, committed, passionate, caring, expert, knowledgeable, ICT literate, resourceful, assertive, well-read, brave, strong and bold!
School Librarianship – the greatest job in the world!
(Most of the time)