Thing 10 – routes into librarianship

As may be obvious I’ve been slightly slipping with CPD23, I choose to blame this on job hunting, I had been writing blog posts in my lunch break, now I write job applications instead, but I’m going to try really hard to at least come close to catching up. Sadly, this weeks thing feels just a little close to home.

I did a degree in English, came out of university and had no idea what I wanted to do next, only knowing I hadn’t got myself in gear about doing an MA due to a fun mix of personal issues and no money. So, I worked a minimum wage retail job for a while, and quickly worked out that wasn’t what I wanted to do, in fact I ended up having to move home because I could only just afford to pay rent. People have always been saying to me I should be a librarian, I even did my school work experience in a library, but it took a while to click ,and then to work out there was no way I’d get a job without experience, so I emailed all the libraries in Sussex asking to volunteer, and the University of Sussex let me. This totally changed things, I worked there for nearly a year, learning so much, and becoming certain that librarianship was for me. I also stumbled upon information about graduate traineeships and started applying, just when I’d started to give up on getting in that year’s round I got an interview at the National Art Library, and then got the job.

This year has been amazing, I’ve learnt loads, met lots of other lovely trainees, been to both my first conference and my first unconference (unconferences are much, much better), and become perhaps worryingly single-minded in my pursuit of a library career. However, money is still an issue, though I want to do the masters I’ve had to accept I’m not in the position to do so without putting myself into lots of debt, so with just over 5 weeks left at work I have no idea what I’ll be doing once I leave.

I’ve been applying for jobs since May, I have two years good experience in two different types of library, so far I’ve has two unsuccessful interviews and I’m seriously looking at going back to a minimum wage retail job so I’m not made homeless. The chartership and certification sections of this thing are too depressing to even look at, all I can so far tell about my route to librarianship is that it may be traditional but it is also going to be slow, possibly another two years before I even start the MA part-time. I’m sure I’m not the first person to have had issues with the MA’s cost, or to have struggled to get a job despite good experience, in fact I know I’m not, but at the moment I can’t think about wanting to be a librarian,. I have to focus on trying to be a library assistant rather than working in a shop.

Next time – a less depressing post. Have an adorable baby lizard picture:

Image from

Thing 5 – reflective practice

The timing of this week’s thing is very apt, it’s post says that the most common barrier to reflective practice seems to be time, this coming in a week where I’ve had a job interview I found out 36 hours before, so have spent most of my free time preparing, at the interview or chilling out afterwards, with that and it being my birthday  I’ve had less  free time than usual, so this post may not be that detailed.

I haven’t consciously done reflective practice before, but I think I may have started doing it unconsciously. I’m an obsessive note-taker, and have a whole notebook of notes from various things I’ve done for my graduate traineeship, including all the conferences and so on I have been to. These notes haven’t been the most reflective, but they are useful, and I do go and reread them,  it’s like I’m almost there, I just need to push myself a little bit extra and write an extra paragraph or two on not only what I plan to do after attending an awesome event or learning something new, but why I intend to do it and how I think it will help me.

My blog should really be more reflective than it is, but I think 23 Things will help me with that. I like the look of the ‘what, so what? now what?’ precess of reflective practice, nice and simple, and easy to remember steps so that following the process itself isn’t hard even if the reflection isn’t too easy. With hunting for a job it is especially important for me to be able to analyse myself and my work at the moment, yet again the timing of 23 Things is very good.


What? I’ve completed four of the 23 Things programme.

So what? The most important thing I’ve learned so far is that I’m pretty happy with where I am, my personal branding wasn’t bad and is getting better, I use several very useful tools, I’ve joined another couple that should be useful. I’m definitely enjoying it so far, but I am also beginning to find it hard to keep up, though maybe that is just with this week being especially busy. I do feel that I will get more out of some of the upcoming activities about tools I haven’t used before, but that’s not a bad thing, just something to look forward to. Certainly this thing isn’t something I have done consciously before, so I’m off to a good start.

Now what? Carry on with 23 Things and learn as much as I can, obviously. But also I think I need to try and manage my time better, maybe set aside one evening a week to it as well as during my lunch breaks.  Also I need to not just open accounts and then abandon them, I need to keep using the tools I find useful.

Image credit: praziquantel via Flikr

Things 1 & 2: library blogs and blogging.

I’ve been blogging for a few years now, initially writng mostly reviews and mini-essays about subjects I’m interested in, and for the last six months or so about library stuff too, my experiences being a graduate trainee and so on. I mostly blog for myself, I like being able to organise my thoughts in writing, so my style of blogging seems perfect for a CPD23 blog, I’ve already made a start on the reflective practise sides of things.

I’m taking part in CPD23 because I’m passionate about forwarding my career and expanding my abilities. As a graduate trainee but unable to move on to a degree this year I feel like I need every advantage I can get entering a job market where I will be competing for jobs against people with more experience and possible more qualifications. I want to be as well-rounded as possible, and personal development is important to me even without wanting a get a really good job. I feel like I’ve been lucky with my graduate traineeship, it’s been brilliant, but I haven’t been resting on my laurels, just in case I don’t luck out again. Also, and probably more importantly, I love working in a library and want to be as good as it as I can. Simple, but I think a good reason.

Thing 1 was easy, my blog is already well-established, though I do want to write more and be more dedicated to it, Thing 2 is pretty easy to as I already regularly read quite a few library blogs, along with others, on my google reader. One of the blogs I really like actually covers mostly my other big area of interest, comics. The author of Bad Librarianship Now! is a librarian but mostly posts about comics, especially comics art and British comics. I’ve been reading comics since I was a child, starting with that stalwart of the British comics scene – 2000AD. It’s nice to know I’m not the only library person interested in comics, in fact I can thing of at least three others, maybe one day there’ll be enough in one place for a special interest group or something.

I off to read some more blogs now, and maybe even leave some comments. I tend to be a lurker when it comes to blogs so I think being more obviously engaged is what I should be taking from this Thing, not a bad thing online or offline.


I’ve been reading a lot of blogs in the last few days, and a couple have caught my eye. I’m intrigued by SoldierMumLibby because I know very little about school librarianship, reading it over the next year or so should be a good way of learning more.  I really like The Victorian Librarian‘s blog because she seems to like a lot of the same things I do, anyone who gives out I Capture the Castle on World Book Night is obviously to be greatly admired. I’d like to find a good solo librarian blog because I can’t comprehend running a library on my own, knowing more about that would be really interesting, and prison librarianship too.


Library job-hunting

I finish my current job in mid-September, and being the paranoid kind of person I am I have been job hunting for a couple of weeks. What with tuition fees being what they are I won’t be going on to an MA this year, and I know I’m not the only graduate trainee that is in the position of needing a job. Without a library degree there are lots of amazing jobs I can’t do yet, and I only have two years experience, one of that part-time volunteering.  Add the fact I have to have a full-time job, the 6 or 12 hour contracts I keep seeing advertised are no good for paying rent in London, and there’s a whole raft of jobs there’s no point applying for. However,there are some really useful job sites that I’ve discovered, this list is as much for me to make sure I don’t forget to check a useful site as for anyone else who’s just started looking for a library assistant job.

Total Jobs is the only mainstream job site I’ve found to be any good, I never use anything like Monster or Fish4Jobs, they give me far too many jobs that have nothing to do with libraries or the information profession. This can be the case with Total Jobs, but nowhere near so much, and you can save job titles, so now they send me an email when there is a new job with the description ‘library assistant’, rather than just any kind of assistant, meaning I don’t actually need to arbitrarily check the site.

Lis Job Net  I doubt anyone doesn’t know about this, it’s CILIP’s job site and it’s pretty good, though a lot of the jobs need a degree and it occasionally makes me want to go and work in far-flung countries. I follow @LISNPN on twitter, they tend to tweet when new jobs are added, very handy indeed. is pretty handy, no need to keep searching because there is a information management and librarianship section on the front page. Good for academic jobs, and sometimes has some that aren’t on Lis Job Net.

National Museums Jobs is another sector-specific site, good for museums libraries jobs, obviously. I don’t really like the way it works, you can’t search by sector so I end up scrolling through, which takes quite a long time, especially as there aren’t many library jobs on there.

Lastly, LIS career,  from the site name sounds more aimed at people further on in their career’s than I am, but has a whole load of information. Not a job site, but finding a job to apply for is only the first part of the process.  I will be exploring this more thoroughly over the next few days.


One of the tasks at work is to answer reader enquiries, something I’ve written about before. It’s one of the things I really like dong, at it’s best it is interesting and challenging, and I know I am really helping people, I’ve even had a thank you card to prove it. However, recently I have noticed a trend in the types of enquiries I am getting and the people I am getting them from. Of the last four enquiries I have had three of them have been from undergraduates, and all of them could have been answered without reference to a specialist art library, in fact for one of the answers I referred the reader back to her university library becuase a very quick search showed me several books that would be useful to her. This was the same enquiry I found some very useful sites online, including an exhaustive Wikipedia article which was the first Google result.

I’ve seen quite a few blog posts talking about spoon-feeding, such as this one, and this one, both more about working in an academic library but I’m not surprised it affects people working in specialists libraries too, a lot of the people I serve are students, though mostly postgraduate rather than undergraduate. I spend a lot of time doing stuff for people, some of it is good, I show people how to do something, and afterwards they are able to do it for themselves – how spoon feeding should be. However, there are certainly times I am just carrying out tasks for people who point-blank refuse to let me show them how they can do it themselves, this tends to be on the computer or using the digital camera, and it’s very hard to know how to deal with. I can’t say no, that’s terrible customer service, especially as unlike an academic library the users may not use the library again for several months, or at all, but I would much rather be teaching people to help themselves than doing simple tasks for them.

With my reader enquiry I tried to forge a middle way, I found the information that was wanted, but I also explained how I found the information, and suggested they try using their university campus, as there were several useful looking books there, though I did not directly link to them. Hopefully, the user had the initiative to take my advice and visited their library, found the books, and so did some of their own research. If so, then I have given good customer service and also taught encouraged a student to be more independent. The problem with email enquiries is that I don’t know if I have, in a face-to-face interaction I would have a much better idea of what the user did afterwards.

I agree with Ned Potter, spoon-feeding can be useful, but I also despair of an undergradute who has not checked the internet or their university library catalogue before having to email a specialist library for help. I think dealing with people who don’t want me to teach them, they just want me to do the work for them, has made me more determined to help people by teaching them in the future, I’m trying to use an awkward situation to make my customer service better.

Library day in the life – refelections

I found doing the library day in the life project interesting, and I have definitely learnt from it. The first thing I have learn is that I would never be able to blog every day, just for one week I was spending most of my lunch breaks blogging, and still needing to finish it off when I got home in the evening, if I want to have some sort of life I just don’t have time for it. My current thing of about once a week, more if I have something else I really want to say, seems to be right for me.

The other thing I have learnt is how much my job is made up of little bitty things when I am not on the counter. Well, actually I have lots of big things, but if I tried to check in the whole backlog of periodicals in one go I would probably endf up in  a corner crying at the end of it. I’m quite happy to have quite a few things going on at once, and being able to pick up and drop different things, depending on what seems most important at the time, from what I can tell about library work this is a useful attitude to have.

Lastly, I have learnt that putting pictures of pretty people and double basses from psychobilly bands is much more interesting to me than library related pictures. Go on, one last one, the Horrorpops, possibly the most beautiful person and bass:

Library day in the life – Wednesday

I got to work only just before 9 today, so straight downstairs for half an hour shelving periodicals. Realise this is probably good exercise and I spend most of the time going up and down big ladders. Afterwards I check in a few more periodicals, passing some brand new ones over to a colleague to be catalogued, and make a couple of information files, having tracked down more of the folders to put them in. At half 10 I am retrieving, I finish at 11:25, then at 11:30 I am retrieving again, this time in our crypt store, which unfortunately is not quite as good as it sounds, although it is underground.

This takes me until nearly half past 12, lunchtime, which I spend making changes to my personal statement for my MA applications. At half 1 I am on the counter, I do invigilation first, it’s pretty quiet, which is nice, and then I go onto the main desk, which is also quiet apart from about 15 minutes where it’s madly busy and I’m hurriedly trying to do about four things at, it settled down a bit after that but I was still fairly glad to have a break at half 3.

Until half 4 I spent time dealing with the departmental loan requests and shelving. Several departments have their own small libraries and the graduate trainees take it in turn to retrieve from them. Normally this is all very straightforward but today I had several complicated things, including having to find something that it turned out shouldn’t have even been on the catalogue any more. At half 4 I did one last retrieval run, the last one of the day, and also swapped the shelving trolleys around so there was an empty one downstairs, as towards the end of the day we tend to get a lot of books handed in and start to run out of space to put them.

This was probably the perfect example of an average day, though actually a lot of my days are more exciting than this, which breaks up the slightly less interesting tasks well. No relevant picture, this time have a nice picture of The Creepshow: