The reasons I am drawn to librarianship are, like the job itself, multifaceted. I like the variety of work - librarians are the ultimate generalists, which suits my personality, style, abilities and temperament. I enjoy the customer service aspect of librarianship, love the technical side of things, too - I really like playing with and learning technology and databases and software. And of course there are the books (mmm . . . books). I also enjoy that warm fuzzy feeling that comes when working for the Greater Good (I do try to keep my smugness levels to a minimum).
I first knew that I wanted to be a librarian when I was about 30. I can pinpoint the exact moment of the epiphany. I was talking to a neighbour who told me that she had just quit her job to go to library school. And that was that. The more I thought about it, and the more research I did (there’s a clue, right there), the more certain I became that it was right for me. And whenever I told anyone about my plans, the response was always “Yeah, that’s kinda perfect”. My partner was completing a PhD at the time and we couldn’t afford for us both to be studying, so I waited. In retrospect, I should probably have started looking at library jobs - or at least volunteer positions - then. That would have broadened my university options considerably (I could only find one university that would take applicants without previous library experience).
Once I had decided what I wanted to be when I grew up, I started researching the process for making it become a reality - the professional bodies of the library and information profession (CILIP in the UK and ALIA in Australia) were an excellent place to start. Then I applied - for courses, for volunteer positions, for jobs. It took perseverance and time, but I got there. I have been working in libraries now for about three years, and officially as a Librarian for about 6 weeks.
Before starting the Masters, I scored a couple of volunteer positions in different library environments: one as a cataloguing and indexing volunteer at the National Portrait Gallery in London (an AMAZING and fascinating place to work!) and one as a library and archive volunteer for The Ramblers (a tiny little charity library). My first paid role in libraries was as a Library Assistant in a public library while I was doing my MA. After finishing the course, I set myself a target of working as an assistant for two years before applying for librarian roles. I extended my hours and threw myself into the job, getting involved in as many different activities as I could (say ‘Yes' to everything!) - Rhyme Time, Inter-Library Loans, e-books, writing staff guides, special projects, community outreach . . . Once I was known as a person who gets involved, I was offered more opportunities - all great CV fodder (not that I have submitted a CV for a job application in a long time).
Before working in libraries, I managed the music department in a branch of Australia’s largest home entertainment retail chain. There were many parts of that job that are similar to what I do now - customer service, database management, product knowledge, stock ordering, organisation and maintenance, merchandising . . . It was an excellent primer for library work! Other jobs I’ve had include various retail positions, some call centre jobs (market research, customer support) and a musician (guitarist, songwriter, singer in an indie rock ’n’ pop band).
The most valuable piece of advice I received about getting started in the world of libraries was “get experience" - as much as you can in as many different types of library as you can. For example, I learnt far more about cataloguing while volunteering than I did while on the Masters course. It is also a great opportunity to build connections and learn from your peers.
A couple of years ago, after I had started down the Library Path, I was rooting through a pile of old paperwork and found a letter from a career guidance session I did after finishing my undergraduate degree. The letter suggested four different careers including (you guessed it) librarianship. I have no memory of this at all. What was Younger-Me thinking?! LISTEN TO YOUR CAREER GUIDANCE COUNSELLOR! They know about what they speak!