Sunday, 22 July 2012

Qualifications and mentors (Things 10 and 11)

I suppose when it comes to my library career (all 2 ½ years of it!), it has been pretty average in terms of the path I took. Maybe it’s time for a little bit of my education history. I have a BA in Comparative Literary Studies and English and American Literature. I then went on to undertake an MA in Librarianship and 6 months later landed my job in Wiltshire. My first ever job was in the children’s department of Ottakar’s book store in Bromley; it’s where I did my work experience and I didn’t look back. I think this job cemented the idea that I wanted to work with books and working in a book shop isn’t a million miles away from working in a public library. This is where I’m going to admit I went into Librarianship thinking it would all be about books... yes I was one of those naive and silly people but I’m glad to say my eyes have been opened and although I still firmly believe book stock is our bread and butter I also enjoy the chances I have to promote information literacy, reader development and community involvement.

I realised I wanted to go to Library School quite late in the academic year and tried first to apply for a traineeship with very little luck. When I turned up in Sheffield for my MA studies I did worry that I would be out of my depth and do still feel that a traineeship would have given me invaluable work experience but I learn quick thankfully and made up for it with some work experience both during my studies and whilst I was looking for employment after. Whilst studying I worked a day a week at Hull Local Studies Library and after Sheffield spent time working in Catford Public Library. This helped me to put my theory into practice and learn a few things you don’t get taught at library school.

I loved my year at Sheffield, it gave me the chance to find out what I wanted both personally and professionally, I built up a great network of social and professional contacts and I came out with a pretty awesome qualification. Whilst saying this it was also probably the hardest, most intense year of my life to date and is not a qualification people should enter into lightly. You need to do your research (like any good librarian!) to understand what you want from the profession and make sure you choose the degree that gives you what you want. There are those programmes which are more traditional than others, for instance I know very little about cat and class and there were no modules on it in the Sheffield MA. But you also need to look at the difference between straight librarianship degrees and information management.

I understand the importance of CPD, especially in a profession which is so dynamic and ever evolving but I am not an eat, drink, sleep librarian. Don’t get me wrong I love my job and wouldn’t change it for the world (despite the odd moan) and I know it’s not excuse but life just seems to get in the way! I have begun work for my chartership portfolio... but like most people (I hope!) after a full week at work, or even busy day sometimes, I lack the determination and energy to sit in front of a lap top all night reflecting on my progress... notice how most of my blog post are Sundays!!! The argument here is if it’s important enough (which chartership surely is) it will get done!

As I mentioned, being quite new to this profession I have had ample opportunities to learn new skills and every day brings new lessons. In this way I feel that I daily add to my CPD and this is when mentors come in! I have my chartership mentor obviously and he is an amazing support for me, sounding board and font of knowledge. I also feel that I have many unofficial mentors in my colleagues. People who have been in the profession for 5-10 years more than me, who have already gone through a mountain of change and development and are a great source of not only organisational knowledge but also confidantes and supporters of my career as a whole. In particular my line manager who gives me the chance to explore new opportunities and is always there to help when I get stuck!

I understand the need for CPD and further qualifications but I do sometimes find myself asking when is enough enough. I already sit on quite a mound of student loan debt and I went to university at the time when a degree, if it was good enough, would get you a decent job. Now it would seem you need an undergrad and postgrad degree... what will it be like in fifty years time and do people understand the importance of the librarian profession to fight through and become qualified when they realise the work involved.
This has been quite a babbly post but as you can see I can’t quite make my mind up about qualifications.. yes CPD is essential but when is enough?

The more astute of you will realise that I have missed out 9 and 10 – it’s not that I haven’t looked at them it’s just that I’m not sure how they can be applied to where I am at the moment but it is good to know these items exist and may be used in the future.