As I was sitting getting my head stitched up in a cubicle at the John Radcliffe last night the doctor asked me whether I had always wanted to be a librarian. This made me chuckle as I have been thinking about it a lot over the past few days since a discussion started on Twitter about how we all came to be librarians. A few people (Woodsiegirl and Jennie Law) have already blogged their routes in to librarianship and Ned Potter has kindly created the Library Routes wiki to collate all of our stories. What follows is my contribution.
When I was growing up I changed my mind every 5 minutes about what I wanted to be. For most of my childhood I wanted to be either Indiana Jones or Illya Kuryakin. When I realised this wasn’t an option I focused my attentions on other things, the front runners being archaeology and journalism. As such when it came to choosing a degree (after taking A-Levels in English Literature, History and Maths) I was torn between English and Ancient History. I went with Ancient History primarily because it was something new and I hoped that novelty would be enough to sustain my interest for 3 years.
My first choice university was Durham, second Newcastle. I didn’t get the grade in History to get in to Durham so ended up at Newcastle. I maintain to this day that screwing up my history A-level was the best thing that ever happened to me. 3 years later I graduated and then had the scary prospect of deciding what to do next. At this point I knew two things:
- I wanted to stay in Newcastle
- I didn’t want to be a teacher
Ok so I know I’ve not mentioned teaching before but at the end of your university course it seems that if you don’t know what to do next most people end up doing a PGCE just in case teaching is what they’ve always been meant to do. Both of my parents are/were teachers and if ever I’ve been certain about anything it is that I never EVER wanted to be one too.
Right so what happened next? Well I’m not sure really. What I do know is that I like to have a plan so just leaving university with no plan other than hoping to find a job doing something somewhere was not going to cut it. I knew that if I didn’t have a plan I would end up moving back in with my parents and getting a temping job until I could work something out. This would have meant moving from Newcastle and that was a no go. I think a friend put me on to the idea of staying on at uni to do a masters in librarianship. I had a look around and found that there was a course at Northumbria. I gave them a call, went in for an open day and the rest as they say is history. By pure chance I had found my calling.
I am probably one of very few people who do things this way round, taking the masters before doing any kind of work experience in libraries. I don’t think it had any impact on the course but it did hinder me slightly when it came to finding suitable jobs afterwards. As a result I worked for a couple of years post qualification in non-professional jobs and have been in my first professional post since January this year.