By “this”, I mean the whole librarian thaaaaang.
Woodsiegirl recently blogged on why she became a librarian, and after conversations in the comments section, I thought I’d join in with my own blog post on the topic.
As I said on Woodsiegirl’s blog, I am one of those odd people who always wanted to be a librarian. My Mum and careers adviser both said it was a daft idea as 1) there’d be no jobs as computers would be doing everything by then (careers advisor) and 2) there’s no money in it (Mums advice, herself a lifelong librarian). I actually was surrounded by librarians: Mum worked in libraries her whole career from the local branch library (when I say local, I mean local: 100 yards from my parents house) to the secondary school I went to (although years before I went there). My Aunt worked alongside my Mum for a while before emigrating, and has worked various shifts as cover in the local library since coming back home. So, I kinda grew up in libraries: I would go to the library after primary school and wait for Mum to finish work, while reading my way through the junior section, and into the adult. Cheaper than a baby sitter, and more educational! To me, libraries have always been friendly, fun places, where people come in not to just look for books, but to socialise and find out what’s going on in the community.
But…I’d been told by two reliable sources that chosing to be a librarian was silly. So I went with science, because it’s what I was best at. I ended up studying an Environmental Biology degree (a combination of Biology and Environmental Scince / Geography / Geology) and looking at my future with gloom. I can follow instructions to do an experiment, but not devise it myself. I’m too easily distracted to do the rigourous thinking and planning that’s needed in science, so really, I was looking at a future of working as a lab technician. Not a bad job, but not particularly well paid either…so why not go for a not-well-paid-job that I wanted to do…be a librarian! A year and a half into my course, I was busily trying to figure out how to escape…and found that to get onto a Masters in Information and Library Science at Strathclyde University, I only needed a General degree, not an Honours. Woo-hoo: a year of my life saved!
Cue me volunteering in a local secondary school to get experience. My time there was great, and being able to help point the kids in the right direction to find good sources for their projects and work made me think that I’d like to work in a school, or a public library when I got a job. After being accepted onto the course, it was a long slog of travelling over from Edinburgh to Glasgow for classes, and making flying visit to the Uni library to get articles on…libraries before running back to Edinburgh. A lot of my coursemates were re-training or changing careers, so were really focussed, soit wasn’t a very ‘fun’ or sociable group. Meanwhile, I’d just continued in the student vein…and I’m not a good student. I can do a lot better than I do, but I leave things to the last minute and throw stuff together! So, the Masters option was never going to work out for me…I got my Postgraduate Diploma and scampered back to Edinburgh to begin the job hunt. The first position that came up was a part time job at a legal library within the court complex on the Royal Mile. I knew absolutely nothing about law, but through that job, and the others that followed (and the knowledgable people I worked with who pretty much gave me an apprenticeship in law librarianing), I’ve learned a LOT about it! Luckily, I love law, and having a job that encompasses so much learning and development. I have a friend who refers to me (despite my threats of serious personal pain if he keeps it up) as The Oracle, because he knows that if I don’t know the answer to something already, I’ll make it my mission to find it out. Or it’ll really, really annoy me for aaaaaaaaages 🙂
So, in the end Mum was right, and the careers advisor was wrong (but the dot matrix career guidance printout I still have was right – it said librarian too) – there is no real money in librarianship, but there’s a satisfying career if, like me, you like answering questions and solving problems. Cos that’s what being a librarian is, really, regardless of what tools, techie or otherwise, you have at your disposal. And the computers still haven’t taken over the world!
And no, I don’t fit the “everything’s organised and sorted” stereotype either. My bookshelves and CD shelves are tidy, but not catalogued or in any order (other than books of a series go together). It’s pot luck finding things in my flat! I do read fast, which means I never buy books new, and once they’re read, they go back to the charity shop to be resold, so only unread books, or books I really like stay on my bookshelves.
And yes, my bookcases are Billys!