Library Routes - Jo Alcock Consulting
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Library Routes

Library Routes

In my last post, I mentioned that I would be writing a post about how I got into librarianship, following a meme going round. Ned Potter has now set up a Library Routes wiki to record all these posts, in a similar way to the Day in the Life wiki. It’s really interesting reading everyone’s posts and I also think it could be very useful for anyone considering entering the profession to see how others got there. Here’s my story anyway…

I always wanted to be a primary school teacher – from as far back as I can remember that’s what I wanted to do. Throughout my time at school, the curriculum changed with more and more emphasis on performance in tests/exams and less importance on the child’s learning experience as a whole. The amount of planning and standards to adhere to also seem to restrict creativity in teaching and I just didn’t think it was for me.

I’m a qualified gymnastics coach (I used to compete in Sports Acrobatics until I left University) and had been coaching through my teenage years; I loved coaching but found it difficult to turn off afterwards, particularly when there were kids I was coaching who had problems at home. This confirmed teaching wasn’t right for me – I admire those who teach but for me I don’t think I’m mentally strong enough.

I finished my A-levels and because I wasn’t 100% sure about teaching I decided to do a regular degree and then I could always do a PGCE if teaching was the route I wanted to take. I really enjoyed the theory side of my PE A-level, so decided to apply for courses in Sports Science. I was also contemplating doing Maths (yes, I’m one of those weirdos who loves Maths), and I did consider a joint degree but in the end settled on doing Sports Science at University of Wales, Bangor. I loved my degree, and focused on Sports Psychology which fascinates me (I also did Psychology at A level and am really interested in studying people). I got a first in my degree (yay me!), then wondered what on earth to do next. I’d definitely ruled out teaching for the time being, and I didn’t fancy being a sports psychologist (although was tempted by an MSc/PhD route to lecturing).

However, we then moved to Wolverhampton (due to job prospects for my boyfriend), so I started looking for a job. I’d begun to try to look into librarianship (not really sure why, think it was suggested to me on an online test, and the idea of staying within education in some way appealed to me). I struggled to find any information in my careers library at Bangor or on the net (plenty of American information, not much in the UK), so I went to a jobcentre in Wolverhampton where I was told that they wouldn’t help me find a job because I lived with my boyfriend rather than my parents.

Feeling a bit deflated, I decided to get some voluntary library experience and a local friend came with me to the libraries she knew. I asked at the University and was told they don’t take people for voluntary experience, then tried the public library where I spent a day being told about the dodgy visitors to the library, scary experiences in the evening, and that there weren’t any jobs and I’d just have to wait until someone retired. It was all looking a bit bleak but a library assistant job came up in two of my local libraries, and my friend managed to get some work experience for me in the local high school too. I absolutely loved working in the school library, and the librarian there is fabulous – I still keep in touch when I can.

I was successful in one of the library assistant jobs, and was waiting for a CRB check to start working every Sunday for 3 hours – a whole Ā£50/month! I spent a few weeks at the school in the meantime and then0 a graduate traineeship came up at the University library. The school librarian I was with used to work at the University too so she gave me an inytroduction to what it was like and I decided to go for it. I waited ages after I’d sent in my application and thought I hadn’t got an interview – but then on the last day I got a letter inviting me to interview. The interview was pretty intense – I had to do a presentation followed by a panel interview, and I have to admit I didn’t have a clue about some of it – I was asked about journal database providers and the librarian situation in Bangor (as an undergrad I don’t even know if we had a librarian and I did use Sports Discus but had no idea what platform it was on!). I didn’t think I stood much of a chance but got a call that evening to say that they hadn’t made a decision yet but that I was in the shortlist. The following morning I got the call to say I’d got the job and could I start the following week!

The job was a one year contract, and since then I’ve shifted campuses and worked different contracts, usually for a year each time, whilst I studied for my Information and Library Studies course via distance learning (Aberystwyth). I worked at the public library on Sundays for just over a year, but gave that up when I started my course. Last year I finished the Diploma section of my course, and shortly after I applied for a Resources Librarian post at yet another campus. I got the job, and am now almost a year into my first professional librarian post. I still need to complete my dissertation to get the MSc, but I am really loving librarianship – it’s the perfect career for someone like me who enjoys a variety (with the exception of Art and History I loved all school subjects), likes flexibility and different job tasks, and wants to help people. It really is the best combination for me – I still get to teach but I get to do so much more too! šŸ™‚

If you’re working in the information profession, it would be great to hear your story – you can write a blog post if you have a blog and link to it from the Library Routes wiki, or if you don’t have a blog you can write a page on the wiki (there are instructions on the home page). Looking forward to hearing other’s stories! šŸ™‚

  • Katharine
    Posted at 20:59h, 04 October Reply

    Thanks for posting this Jo, it’s really interesting, I never knew you had a background in gymnastics! The things you learn when you read blogs!

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 10:17h, 06 October Reply

      I did indeed, I did Sports Acrobatics (Women’s Pairs and Women’s Trio) right up until I left University. Used to train 4 times a week throughout high school, absolutely loved it. It’s one thing I really miss now, but it’s not really a sport you can continue into adulthood!

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