Part 1 is here.
Bumps in the road
Whilst studying the Bachelor of Information Studies at CSU I experienced some interesting and challenging obstacles which shaped my experience of the degree and also my expectations of the library and information profession.
Having zero experience of working in a library was the biggest challenge. Most of the subjects assumed knowledge of library management systems, jargon (argh the acronyms) and library processes. In the first couple of years the degree was solely focused on “library”, any discussion of information professional roles (aka not working in a library roles) didn’t occur until much later on.
Luckily I’m fairly handy at research and had also made uni friends who did work in libraries so many emails were sent asking “what’s this thing?” and “can you tell me how a library does XYZ?”.
Seriously, if you’re studying online, take a chance and strike up a friendship, it is worth it.
About halfway through the degree I’d run out of steam. The more time I spent online talking to library folk, the more despondent I became. I applied for library assistant roles with no success. The more I studied, the less I could see where I would fit. There were a few times when the words “why the fuck did I do this degree?” were thrown around at home and in my head. It really made me look at myself properly and figure out what makes me tick, what I really wanted for this new career and how to find the right fit for me. Not going to lie, some of this was painful and towards the end of four years of study, I had decided to not even attempt to apply for library roles. My direction seemed clear, I would stay in community services. The skills and knowledge gathered during my time at uni were transferable, and useful in lots of situations. Libraries were not for me.
One of my last subjects was Value-Added Information Services. I loved this subject. Finally, a non-traditional information professional subject!
In a nutshell, I spent a semester writing a report on the development of a website and online community for a continence advisory group working with Prostate Cancer patients (unusual topic, however a good friend works in this area and I enjoyed having someone to interview face to face for the purpose of the report). I loved the research, the report writing, developing an idea into something tangible, conveying it in a way that was meaningful to the client. It was great.
Suddenly, my enthusiasm was back and a path began to clear in my mind. If I really felt that I wasn’t the right fit for libraries, then information consultancy or working as an information professional in a non-traditional role was the direction for me to head in.
And then I got a library job
Yes. My university placement was at my local hospital’s library and whilst there, someone resigned. I accepted a short contract and then applied for a library technicians role and was suddenly employed in a library.
What followed was a very steep learning curve. The technician role was so different from what I had studied for and so precise. There were just so many new things to learn and bloody hell did I learn them, from patient colleagues who were generous with their knowledge and time.
During the (almost) two years I spent in the library technician role I learnt everything I could, thought and researched potential ‘next moves’ and really pushed myself to network and make more connections (mostly online). I presented at NLS7 with a university friend, formed the NLS8 committee and became co-convenor and took on a project role with the hospital’s research office organising their inaugural research symposium.
Working with the research office really helped me explore the non-traditional information professional world that I’d encountered in that one subject at uni. There are many people in these sort of roles and I’d love to hear more about them. Actually I would have loved to know about themLet’s be honest, many of us have very broad skillsets which have come from varied roles, multiple degrees and careers, so why not take all those skills and try them somewhere else. Plus you get the added bonus of telling people you’re a librarian and seeing them trying to figure out what the hell you are doing in *insert any non-library job*. I kinda like that.
(I really enjoyed Sally Cumming’s post about trying a different path, take a look).
Definitely not the end of the story
Late last year I made the move from library to medical research to develop an information management and communication role in a rapidly growing research governance department. The role lets me stay connected with the library, develop more networks with other parts of the district and universities and stretch myself a lot more than I could in the library technician role.
I have embraced being a library and information advocate outside of the world of GLAMR. Our profession needs people like me as much as it needs people on the inside. Sometimes I wish there was an I in GLAMR and I’d want more discussion and engagement with outsiders. (We probably need a better name than outsider or non-traditional – any suggestions?).
I’m still on my library adventure, and don’t know if a return to libraries is in future chapters. What I do know is that staying open to working outside has meant opportunities to grow, advocate, disrupt and be challenged. Maybe that’s what my true adventure is.