Becoming a librarian (Thing 10)

Skipping over Thing 9 (I will go back I promise!) for now, Thing 10 seems easy enough to cope with after being on leave for several days.

Although as a youngster I toyed with the idea of becoming a librarian, (as well as being an artist/writer who lived in a cottage in the country – still hoping for that dream to come true!), I was apparently not motivated enough to really think about pursuing the dream.  I attempted to get a Saturday job in our local library, but it was kind of the ‘dream Saturday job’ around, so they had huge waiting lists, and I never got anywhere with that and ended up on the deli counter at Morrisons instead (not great for a vegetarian!).

So I did my first degree in Ancient History, and a second degree (M.Phil – looking at prostitutes and gender in Greek and Roman New Comedy), and then erm a third degree (Ph.D. on Helen of Troy), whilst working on the doctorate I got a part time job in the University library (Lampeter) – hurrah dream Saturday job finally achieved!  I remember being amazed at how the other library staff knew what the Dewey Decimal numbers were for everything – students would come in and ask where a section was, or a topic, and would be given the number, as well as the location in the building.  of course after a while doing lots of shelving I realised that you just picked it up as you went along.  In some ways I actually miss shelving and tidying, because you really come to know your stock, and are well equipped to point students in the right direction (n.b. I’ve only worked in academic libraries).  And on the quiet nights I even got to sit and do some tapestry work while on the issue counter!!!  (I’m not a knitting librarian, but I’m handy with other crafts!).

Finally the time came to enter the big wide world, and sadly there are not that many graduate jobs/library jobs out in West Wales (not when compared to the number of graduates living there), and so I ended up coming to Cardiff to get a full time job.  I entered full time permanent work for the first time (argh that was a shock to the system) and became an acquisitions assistant for the Sir Herbert Duthie Library, in the University of Wales, College of Medicine.

This job ended up being quite a good foundation.  There were two acquisitions assistants, and the other girl started about 2 weeks after me – so I was the old hand!  But we also did our stints on the issue desk, and had our sections to tidy in the morning.  The library didn’t have a separate reference desk, so the issue desk handled all enquiries.  It was a bit of a shock from working in a humanities based academic library, to a medical library where suddenly there were lots of databases, and websites, and impact factors to deal with (This is about 10 years ago – and we hadn’t dealt with stuff like that in Lampeter); not to mention the odd stroppy consultant who would think they were God, and could treat you like…..

After a while our cataloguer left, so myself and the other acquisitions assistant started taking up the slack while we waited for them to appoint someone.  He’d shown us how to catalogue, and left instructions, and we muddled through, gradually gaining knowledge and experience.  Months later they appointed a Systems librarian who had responsibility for the cataloguing – in practice this meant no time for them to do actual cataloguing, especially as we were going through a library management system changeover, so cataloguing just became a firm part of our job (sadly without the grade to match!).

Meanwhile we were both enrolled on the Aberystwyth distance learning course, and most fantastically the course was being paid for by our employer (you won’t get that these days), with the proviso that we had to stay with the library a certain number of years after qualifying – which was fair enough.  We had all good intentions to finish at quickly as possible, but life got in the way, so we took a little longer than we’d hoped.  It was however really good to be both doing the course at the same time, as we were able to support one another, even when we were on different modules.  And we were able to attend the study schools together too.

In 2004, UWCM merged with Cardiff University, and our job roles changed.  For most people the merger probably meant little difference, but sadly our roles were thrown up in the air.  CU had a centralised acquisitions and cataloguing department, so our main roles were taken off us, and there was no longer scope for both of us to be doing what was left over, plus as we weren’t yet qualified we couldn’t get the medical cataloguing job that was created.  My colleague got a job in an outlying medical library attached to the University, and I stayed on (though I did try for a full time job in Lampeter, and just got pipped to the post there).

A few years down the line I was finally qualified, and the medical cataloguing position became vacant again in the centralised department, and here I now am.

So, like many librarians I did a degree in a different subject, and then did my Library Masters at a later date.  I’m now thinking about Chartership, especially since taking part in the cpd23 activities.  This year two of our library staff became Mentors – there had been a slight dearth in mentors in South Wales, so this is great news, and I know there will be someone available if I take the plunge.  I enjoy my cataloguing role, and I like to take on new projects where possible (which is good because it has become somewhat of a necessity in this role!).  So, Chartership, here I come…(hopefully)…

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