Our second blog post is from our co-founder, Suzannah, where she writes a little about her career so far, and her plans for the future. You can find Suzannah on Twitter as @suzannahbridge
One of the things that I have found most helpful when considering my future in librarianship has been hearing personal stories of how others arrived in the profession and the path that their careers have taken. Not only do these narratives demonstrate the wide variety of ways into the profession, but they show that there is not a ‘right’ way to go about it. Additionally, hearing these personal stories has helped me make some of the difficult decisions required so early in the career of a aspiring librarian. Although only in its very early stages, I hope that an account of my career so far will be of interest to those considering working in the library and information sector.
In my final year of university I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after I graduated, I had managed to narrow it down to ‘something in education’, but I also knew I didn’t want to be a teacher. Between researching and writing my dissertation I was also browsing job sites looking for anything that interested me, with very little luck. It was only after a throwaway comment from my flatmate at the time that I started considering librarianship as a career option. The more research I did, the more the idea of librarianship intrigued me. After graduation I applied for a number of library assistant roles, but wasn’t able to secure an interview. The closest I got was an application to a job at one of the Oxford college libraries; the Librarian kindly emailed me to say that while I hadn’t made the shortlist for interview, I was right at the top of the longlist. I’ll be honest; until this point I had been relying on 4 years of retail experience being enough to get my first library job, but I soon realised that I really needed to get some library experience. Part of the way through the summer I started volunteering at my local public library to gain this all important experience and strengthen my applications.
In late August 2013 I started working as a Library Assistant at Reading College, a further education college, where I’ve continued to work for nearly 2 years. My post was new to the library, and the only pre-defined part of my job was assisting with general library duties. As such the job has grown with me throughout the last 2 years, and I’ve been very fortunate to have the freedom to work on several projects. Last summer I redeveloped our library induction, this has probably been the most interesting and rewarding project I’ve worked on. I learnt a lot from it and it really helped me engage with the wider profession. I’ve also been heavily involved in creating information literacy and study skills resources, alongside developing and delivering IL sessions. This has been a huge learning curve for me as I had never been a confident public speaker and used to dread presentations at university, but I’ve grown to love teaching, and it’s become one of my favourite parts of my job.
Sadly I’ll be leaving Reading College at the end of August, albeit for positive reasons – in September I’ll be heading up north to Sheffield to start a full time MA in Librarianship. The decision to go to library school has not been easy; firstly determining whether I was certain enough about having a career in the profession to invest the time and money required to obtain the professional qualification. Even once I’d decided to do the professional qualification there were still a number of very important decisions to make; what mode of study to take, which university to choose, and exactly which course suited my interests. Some of these decisions were certainly easier than others for me. Once I had decided to do the masters full time then Sheffield was an obvious choice; their Librarianship MA caters best to my interests, but arriving at the decision that I wanted to a full time masters has been quite the process.
Having the support of peers who fully understand the implications of these decisions has been invaluable. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve become friends with a few people in similar positions to myself; library assistants and graduate trainees trying to decide if, when and where they might want to do the professional qualification. However I appreciate that not everyone will have such a network of support; this is one of the many reasons I was so enthusiastic about FLIP when Sarah initially approached me with the idea. We have exciting things planned for FLIP so keep an eye out! In the mean time I would echo Sarah’s advice – talk to fellow library people whenever you have the opportunity; whether that be at a conference, a library camp, a networking event, or even on Twitter.