Some excellent library bloggers have recently set up a project in which our kind blog both our routes into librarianship, and our roots in librarianship, and this is my contribution. I’ll leap straight in, but do check out the other fascinating entries at the Library Routes Wiki. My route into librarianship has been a meandering one, starting with an MSc in Occupational Psychology (the psychology of work and organisations). My roots in librarianship, which we’ll come to later, started a long time before that.
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after my undergrad, but after a year of trying the world of work decided I’d return and study an area of my degree I’d particularly enjoyed, Occupational Psychology. My MSc dissertation focused on a centre in Sheffield offering work-related IT courses and I became interested in learning and technology. Looking for work afterwards, I discovered that the University of Nottingham were offering studentships at their new Learning Sciences Research Institute, so I applied. My topic ended up being homework: specifically I focused on how technologies could be embedded in the home, given family’s views on privacy, their interactions around homework technologies, and various other criteria. However, as I worked on my PhD I developed an interest in how the theories I was studying applied to my student / research role. How I and those around me used technologies to learn and search for information became a larger and larger interest.
With my PhD it would have been quite easy to move within fields to study this academically, but I was reluctant to continue an academic career path. I don’t know when I suddenly realised that librarianship contained people-focused and applied roles which encompassed many of my interests, but I do remember increasingly thinking about librarianship as a career. However, given previous multiple changes in direction, I wanted to try a spell in libraries to decide if they were right for me, so I applied for and got a part-time maternity cover job in the George Green Library at the University of Nottingham while I was writing up my PhD thesis.
The job at George Green gave me a broad experience of libraries, as I worked half of my shift alongside a librarian or library assistant, and got to hear all about their work, and was in sole charge of the service for the second half of the night. I liked the job. I could have applied for library school at this stage, but instead I decided to take the opportunity to get a broader background in librarianship, and applied for a number of graduate trainee posts. It was as I started the traineeship that I looked around for others who had blogged their experiences as trainees, and, unable to find anything, started this blog. The rest of the story is quite well documented here: from my traineeship to my MA and then my current academic librarian job supporting students and researchers at De Montfort, just like I wanted to do as a student and researcher. And my Occupational Psychology degree, the starting point of it all, helped me get a job as a subject librarian in Business.
Nice story, isn’t it? However, one of the theories I learnt in my MSc Occupational Psychology is that the ‘career’ as we understand it, can be seen as just a story, reflecting back on how we got to where we are, and editing out all the awkward bits that don’t fit. For those about to start on a librarianship career, I think it’s important to mention some of these roots, which weren’t part of my route, to show that we’re not all perfect, inevitable fits for a librarianship career, that stops and starts are involved.
For example, I did a week’s work experience in a public library as a 16 year old and in my National Record of Achievement it says “I am not sure I would like to continue to work in this field when I am older”. When I finished my undergraduate degree I was a day too late to apply for a graduate trainee post in the university library. And I also have a traditional ‘I was a bookish child’ story to tell, but was nearly put off librarianship because I was worried it was more about the quiet anti-social child I had been, than the more extroverted lover of knowledge I’ve become. It’s fascinating to look back on our routes and our roots, but I’ve learnt not to be too defined by what I’ve done. Who know where I’ll end up next?