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Katie Fraser's blog and website

I'm an academic librarian, working in the UK Higher Educational sector, supporting academics and students. Prior to this, I was a researcher, working with social and learning technologies.

My interests include the application of emerging and traditional technologies, research support in libraries, learning spaces, evidence-based practice and the professional development of library and information workers.

You can find out more about more about me from the links to the left. Note that the views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other individual or organisation.

CPD23 Thing 20: Library Careers

September 29th, 2011

Summer flower

Okay, I need to come up with some more photos. And some more puns. Have a pretty flower photo.

This blog is part of 23 Things for Professional Development, a course encouraging information professionals to explore online tools.

Thing 20 covers library careers, specifically the library routes project, a wiki detailing the origin stories of those working in libraries in all sectors. I’ve already blogged about my library roots / routes in the past, so I’ll focus more on my conclusions, having read the my way round the wiki a little.

What leapt out most at me, from the stories I read, is that I’m not at all unusual in having been around the houses a little, career-wise. When I took my Librarianship course there was a wide range of ages and levels of experience on the course, but I very aware that I’d done a similar Masters course 5 years previously at the same age as many of my fellow students!

Taken from others on the wiki with previous stories, I think there are some shared points to tease out, gleaned from us ‘late’ entrants to librarianship.

  1. Try it to see if you like it. I’ve not really read any entry which claims extensive foreknowledge of libraries before working in them. The best way to find out if you’d like a job in libraries is to try one. (I guess this applies to most careers.)
  2. Librarianship is a great career to get into late. Having done something else before working in libraries is incredibly useful. It’s verging on a truism to say that libraries change all the time, and new, or unusual, skills and ideas are seen as a boon in the field.
  3. There’s no need to hurry. This is almost a combination of the two above points, but I think it deserves its own! Trying out an entry level job in libraries, or going and doing something else, doesn’t really slow down your career. It can do quite the opposite, and in a sense, it IS your career! In an eclectic field, there’s no need to hurry to the next ‘logical’ stage, be it a degree, a job or Chartership.

I think these points would have been useful for me to know earlier in my career (and that last one is also an interesting way to think about some of the challenges I’ll face in the future). I don’t think knowing them would changed my trajectory, but it might well have changed the way I thought about it! I’ve always been concerned my career looks quite purposeless, but all along I’ve been gathering all the skills I need to do a job that fits my preferences. Librarianship really is a career where learning-for-fun is almost guaranteed to be career-relevant!

Further library routes

July 12th, 2010

Since I posted on my library routes / roots as part of the Library Routes Project I’ve moved onto a new job, and after debating what to do about this on Twitter, have decided to add an update post.

Information Librarian Office, Leicester

The Information Librarian Office at Leicester

In my last Library Routes post I was working as an Assistant Librarian at De Montfort University, supporting Business, but as this was a temporary post, I have since moved onto a new job as Information Librarian at the University of Leicester.

The academic subject support aspect of my job which I love has continued, although the context and subject have changed considerably. I’m supporting half of the College of Science and Engineering in my current role: specifically Chemistry, Geography, Geology and Physics and Astronomy.

I’ve never followed a simple academic path in my studies (my A levels were in Chemistry, French and English) which has stopped me from being too stumped by this move from the social sciences. I did my undergraduate degree in Psychology, which is part-science, part-social science and a little bit of an art, so it’s been a great preparation for moving between different subject support areas, although I’ve still got lots to learn about science support.

In moving from one job to another that’s quite a small change in role for me, compared to others in my past. That’s not to say it’s samey, and I’m still doing lots of additional activities: I’ve just finished working on the Defining Our Professional Future Project Board for CILIP and I’ve still got lots of professional (Chartership) and academic (paper writing) activities on the go. It’s nice to be in a permanent post for a change, and I’m looking forward to charting my route within this institution, rather than between different ones for a while!

My Library Routes / Roots

October 10th, 2009

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?