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23 Things: Thing 20: How did I get here?

My Library Roots

I can clearly remember the moment my mum told me she thought I was going to be a librarian when I grew up. I thought Nooooooooo! because I was going through the stage where I wanted to do the exact opposite of what my parents wanted. I also probably said that I would never like boys or want babies!So I promptly ignored what my mother suggested and thought she was crazy for the next 15-20 years.

It was a shame that I had such a reaction to her suggestion because I loved reading and visiting the library from a very early age. I grew up in Hereford, the library was quite small but I used to love visiting it. I was so proud when I first started borrowing the adult fiction books.

I loved reading into my adult life and had a particular passion for English. I studied English at A’Level and I had always just assumed that I would become an English teacher. I don’t really know where that idea came from looking back. I know I had always liked my English teachers quite a lot and maybe wanted to emulate them. I went to Sheffield University and got my degree in English Language and Linguistics and then stayed in Sheffield to get my PGCE. In hindsight perhaps it would have been a good idea to take a year off and get some experience, but I was accepted on the course so why not?

Unfortunately I did not enjoy being a teacher and within a few months I saw the career I had mapped out for myself since I was 12 fall to pieces. I was extremely unhappy. I persevered and gained my PGCE but I knew I would never teach again because I was simply not well suited to it. I think I was the only person on my course who didn’t get a teaching placement before we graduated.

I took some time out after that and went travelling. And then I came home and had to face the reality that I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. At the time I had been using the Prospects website to get some career advice. One day I was searching for careers with an English degree and “librarian” came up. And a lightbulb went off over my head. Of course… why did no-one ever tell me I should be a librarian? And it really was a simple as that.

My Library Routes

Luckily for me I had a lot of time on my hands being unemployed so I did some research into how to be a librarian and that took me to the CILIP Graduate Trainee page. It just so happened that there was a post for a placement as  library assistant in a school in Bristol. The deadline was a week away so I very quickly applied for that one and sent it off. I thought it was better to be on the safe side so I applied for a few placements all over the country but I knew this was the job I really wanted.

I got an interview and was lucky enough to be offered the job. It turned out that the job had actually been given to someone else but they had turned it down so the school had to readvertise and that was why I had seen the job when I came back from travelling. I spent the next year learning all there is to know about working in a school library. I was fortunate enough to work alongside some very inspiring librarians who taught me everything I could possibly need to know and instilled in me a passion for the job.

All this time there was the question of what I would do next. Many of the graduates before me had gone on to do Masters and it seemed like the natural progression for me. I was slightly anxious about going back to uni for a third time. Nevertheless, my supervisor supported me with my uni applications and I also applied for a grant from the Arts Council as that was the done thing! I expected that I was going to have to work my way through uni again and probably have a massive amount of debt at the end of it.

However, the Library Fairy was watching over me again. I received an offer from UWE to study my MSc and at the same time I was given a full grant from the Arts Council. I could hardly believe my luck. Today I count that as one of my proudest achievements because I acknowledge how rare and difficult it is to get! It meant that I was able to study full time without having to worry about my rent and debt hanging over me. Wonderful.

I studied my Masters at UWE from Oct 2007 and I was always thinking about school libraries. My dissertation was even on students’ book selection strategies in school libraries! I was fortunate enough to find a job in a brand new academy in Bristol when I finished my course which meant that I was working while I finished my dissertation. It was extremely hard work , but no more so than any other time I had been working at uni. I stayed in that job for two years and then moved on to the post I am currently holding.

So basically my library roots/ routes come down to being extremely lucky! I often wonder what might have happened if I had listened to my mother from the beginning.

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