I have just landed a very exciting job that I will be starting a week on Monday – I really can not wait, and it’s made me think about how far I’ve come. It was also prompted by the Library Routes project which I think has now fallen by the wayside, but it was a site devoted to how people reached their positions in the library sector, highlighting the diversity of how you can progress. So here is what I have been up to.
In 2009 I got a job as a Library Assistant in a College of Further and Higher Education after completing a Bachelors Degree in English with Creative Writing and working at Waterstone’s for a couple of years. A year in to the job I was able to take advantage of the excellent staff development opportunities, and was enrolled on to the Graduate Certificate of Information Studies at Robert Gordon University. The year after, I enrolled on to the 3 year Library and Information Studies MSc, all through distance learning. The first year of my Masters I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be a Higher Education Librarian for 9 months as a colleague was on maternity leave. I have to say that my entire career has been absolutely generated by the amazing manager I had there, without her support I would never have been able to take any of these things on. During this time I became a part-time Library Assistant, part-time ICT Support Advisor, and part-time Librarian – the number of contracts I held became slightly unmanageable in the end!
I graduated with a distinction in 2014, I can’t quite believe it’s been a year already! In the following September I enrolled on the Level 3 Award in Education and Teaching as a lot of the academic Librarian role involved significant teaching of information skills. I found this so beneficial and would strongly advise anyone to do it – the building of confidence of delivering to a group of people is fantastic if nothing else!
Throughout the final year of my Masters I was becoming increasingly involved with CILIP and volunteered to be the Secretary of the newly formed Yorkshire and Humberside Member Network. This has proved invaluable. I have been able to develop all sorts of skills I didn’t have the opportunity to do at work and it has been great getting to know others in the profession.
I applied for a few roles here and there that stood out to me – focusing more on a job that looked right for me rather than just anything at all. I gained some excellent interview experience, and felt quite enormously embarrassed at times! I became a Subject Librarian, part-time, at another College alongside my other roles – this involved a significant commute but I recognised the limited opportunities that were available in my immediate area. This was an eye-opening experience in terms of getting to know another team and organisation where I hadn’t “grown in to” the role so to speak – it felt quite intimidating at first! It was interesting to see the different approaches despite the two institutions I worked at being very comparable.
I spend a lot of time reading about management and leadership, as I knew that was where I wanted to be one day. I needed to feel confident I could manage well, and not just through familiarity with the theory and psychology of management, but also through maximising opportunities within the CILIP committee role, I was able to really grow to understand the kind of manager I wanted to become. I also spent a lot of time (over a few years, rather than just immediately before an interview!) reading interview and application advice, channeling the good advice was something I felt was hugely beneficial, and I’d like to write a post about that eventually.
I recently applied for a vacancy that appeared to be my idea of a dream role, I could have written the job description. It turns out that my experience in all sorts of different roles within the library, my commitment to the profession through my participation with CILIP and my engagement with current issues really strengthened my candidacy and I very happily accepted the post of Head of Library and Research at a school for pupils 13-18. The hours will be long and it will be very hard work, but I am so excited about all the opportunities I have in front of me. I really think this will be a fantastic opportunity for me to build something great, and I just can not wait to get started!