Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Things 10 and 11 - Masters, Charterers, and Mentors

Things 10 and 11 are about the past and the future: how did you into librarianship, where do you intend to go, and whose help do you need to get there?

I am a ‘baby librarian’: I’ve only been in The Profession for two years and I’ve only had a full-time library job for one year. Nevertheless, there is a story as to how I got this point and it contains Thing 10’s concepts-of-the-week, graduate traineeships, Masters degrees, and Chartership. So gather around, friends, and I’ll tell you a tale...

During my undergraduate degree in philosophy, I thought that in our illogical and ruthless capitalist society, work was something that one had to do to earn money to buy food and shelter. I had never had a job that I enjoyed doing and so I made the generalisation that I would not enjoy any jobs. I took the Stephen King approach to employment: after university, I would spend years toiling in the drudgery of employment before I could finally make a living writing short stories, novels, etc. My drudgery of choice was law: I did work shadowing at solicitors’ firms, I filled in applications for law traineeships, and I got accepted at BPP to study a Graduate Diploma in Law. It was to be a dull but profitable life. 

For various complicated reasons which I can only half-remember, I also applied for a graduate traineeship at Manchester Metropolitan University library. The interview was in July: a week before I’d been to my undergraduate graduation; two months later I was due to start law school. On the morning of the interview, as the previous graduate trainees explained the job and talked about librarianship, I experienced a road-to-Damascus style moment of enlightenment. This was a job that I wanted to do. I would actually enjoy doing this job. I could get the money necessary for my survival and do something that I enjoyed. I didn’t have to play the self-sacrificing artist. I could be a librarian. 

It was a moment of beautiful, librarianly revelation.

Since I had no idea what librarianship involved, I quite deservedly didn’t get the job. But I knew that I couldn’t go to law school. While BPP pressed me to finalise my registration, I quickly applied for MMU’s CILIP-accredited Masters course in Library and Information Management to start in September (and applied for other library jobs just in case). In retrospect, it seems stupid and irresponsible to reroute my life because of an intuition from a single morning’s interview for a job that I didn’t get. But - and I hate myself for admitting this - sometimes you have to be Kirk rather than Spock. 

And it all worked out. I got accepted onto the MA, had a wonderful year studying librarianship with some wonderful people, took a number of part-time jobs including a couple at MMU library, and, in May 2010, interviewed for an Assistant Librarian position at an Army library. While at the Army college, I’ve written some articles for publication, I’ve got involved in public library campaigning, and I’ve spoken at some conferences. 

A particularly intimate mentor/mentee relationship
What do I want do now? Now that I’ve got some practical experience of working in libraries, I want to work in Higher Education: either in a university library or anywhere else I can support academic research. Once I’ve found this ideal job, I’d like to start the process of Chartership. This would involve getting a Chartership mentor and, as per Thing 11, at this point in my career, I feel like I could really benefit from the focus that a professional mentor could provide. As I continue to meet people, work, and write, I’ll be keeping my eye out for potential mentors. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve given some thought to PhD research though I have only the haziest ideas about research topic. 

My plan for the immediate future is to keep an eye out for the theoretical ‘dream job’, to look for a mentor who could help me develop, and to get involved in more stuff in different areas of The Profession including getting more involved with CILIP as the organisation adjusts into its restructuring.

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