Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Return of the Pessimist

Funding. Sighs and groans all round. I’ve just received an email stating that I did not qualify for AHRC funding (unsurprising since the money available has been cut significantly yet education fees have risen and the course is highly competitive. A 2:1 just doesn’t cut it. Oh, and conspiracy theorists amongst us are convinced that it mostly goes to male librarians. They create crop circles, you know.). I’m also too old (just) for the Stationers’ postgraduate bursary. Darn graduating at the start of the recession, confound my persistent, resistant depression.
This unfortunately means that I have to find approximately £8,000 to fund the course. Please pass the Kleenex.
So it looks like I’ll be going round banks begging for a Career Development Loan. Unless, you know, some generous soul wants to donate to my MA fund.

Ideas for fund-raising thus far:

Bake and sell cupcakes (they’re in fashion, right?),
Miraculously find a winning lottery jackpot ticket (if this does happen, I would also provide scholarships for other desperate arts students),
Pick up every scrap of loose change I see on the street and hope it adds up,
Sell kidney (I have two),
Write novel (I’m thinking Mills and Boon Seduction in the Stacks… or maybe commercial chick lit.).


(Photograph taken from Think I'll have a whirl at making them anyway!)

Pessimist, Optimist

As this section is about the pros and cons, including all the dirty work, I may as well put this out in the open: I have OCD, specifically hand-washing. In all honesty, I’d probably advise similar sufferers not to take public-facing librarian roles on as a career; if you forget about the dustiness of books, decaying paper and leather which stick to your fingers and clothes, it’s still not a clean job. People often hand you their tickets after they’ve been holding them in their mouths (probably “normal” people dislike this too, but I really have to work on my poker face after being handed something with teeth-marks). Books are returned in a whole manner of conditions including- and I’m exceptionally glad that I didn’t open this one- deposited in a bag that had also been used as a pooper-scooper container. Returns bins are often used as rubbish dumps, so books can be covered in the dregs of coffee, chewing gum, lollipop sticks, tissues… the list is endlessly disgusting. It’s not ALL like that, but a good part of teamwork is not vanishing to scrub your hands under the taps for ten minutes at a time, so if you are in a similar position and want to be involved in libraries, think very carefully as to what role you want.
Similarly, if you are misanthropic and introverted, you may wish to reconsider front line work: we deal with people constantly, pleasantly, helpfully. There’s no opportunity to slink off and hide in the corner with just books for your company no matter how much you may want to. There are positions that will allow this: cataloguing, information architecture, conservation and stack management- but this requires specialist knowledge which you will probably only get after your trainee year.

Work is often repetitive and focused- a keen eye for detail is definitely needed! There is probably no way of escaping shelving and revising, a task which quickly becomes the bane of many librarians’ lives,  so be prepared to be staring blindly at rows of books as you’ve suddenly forgotten the correct order of the alphabet. Dewey Decimal is worse because the number sequences can be long and unfamiliar. Thankfully we don’t use that system at The London Library (more on that later).  Quite often you can be checking the sequences (my section at work is Biography A-E), and find something that has been lost for eons because it ought to live in Fiction or Science and Miscellaneous, etc. More often than not, this is due to “helpful” members re-shelving their own books and not paying close enough attention.  

The positives definitely outweigh the negatives, even if this post isn’t exactly portraying that (ah, pessimism!). Days are structured but there’s enough variation so you don’t get bored. There’s often the opportunity to get exceptionally involved in enquiry work to the point you wonder where the day has gone! Whilst in training, you get to experience the different departments (more on that later). There’s the satisfaction of completing something that you’ve been labouring over for some time- that EUREKA! moment; the pleasure of helping people and receiving their smiles. It’s cheesy, but it’s incredibly infectious.

PS, it's a fairly active job, what with all the lifting and shifting and running (sorry, sedately walking) off to find books. So I guess it's cheaper than a gym membership.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Big Bad Begininng

About me
My name is Alice; I’m 25 years old and a Graduate Trainee Librarian at The London Library. Previously, I was a Library Assistant (yes, there is a difference between Librarian and Library Assistant) for Oldham’s library service. I will be (hopefully) starting my MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL this September.

Why blog?
I’ve never really seen the appeal of blogging- personally I don’t think my thoughts are interesting enough to warrant feverishly pressing F5 just in case something new appears- however, if this blog is read, hopefully someone will find something useful amongst the rambles. Good luck!
Anyhow, my recent decision to turn my hand to the world of pixels has been prompted by CILIP’s New Professionals Day 2012, where the importance of creating/ presenting a brand for oneself was repeatedly emphasised. So here it goes…
Oh yes, I also thought it would be a good idea to include posts about my professional development as I go along. Who knows, maybe it will be of use to the befuddled who would quite like to get into librarianship but do not have the foggiest idea how to go about it.

Why Librarianship?
Truthfully, I was drawn to librarianship after graduating and not entirely knowing what to do with myself. When it was suggested as a career, I shrugged my shoulders and considered it, researched it and thought perhaps I’d hate it less than most other jobs so I duly went off to find some work experience. 
I have always been an avid reader, and that two of my favourite literary characters are also librarians possible helped sway my vocation. I feel a kindred spirit with Lirael, daughter of the Clayr (from Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series). In Lirael’s world, librarians face many life-threatening hazards: … In my labyrinth of a library, we share similar pests: silverfish, mice, alas no magical beasts threatening to endanger the world. Yet.
Henry de Tamble, the time traveller from The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger also encouraged me (and many others, so I’ve heard) into the library world. Thankfully, no-one I know has ever ended up naked in the stacks, but there’s a first time for everything.

Whilst I’ve not had many adventures per se, librarianship can hardly be called “dull”. Each day brings new challenges, a little detective work and a menagerie of members (yes, I celeb-spot. It’s still exciting when I spot a famous person).  So let’s just scrap all those stereotypes of boring, frizzy-haired bespectacled fuddy-duddies. Librarianship may not be cool, but if knowledge is power, then we’re about to run the world. Well, assist in it smoothly going about its business in a day-to-day manner. That’s not to say that every library contains megalomaniacs, but we certainly have the capabilities if we were so inclined. We’re detectives, hunting out answers from the vaguest of clues; we’re determined and we persevere; we are mind-readers (who else will find the specific book on trains that you read years ago but can’t remember anything about it except it had a picture of a train on the front cover?); we are invisible, yet the backbone of many industries- architecture, banking, politics, television- we are EVERYWHERE. Oh yeah, we also have the patience of saints (see that train enquiry!).  World domination does sound quite appealing though…