How I came to be a Librarian

I love books.  I love the feel of them, their smell, fusty or new; the printed word, the language of words, the shape of words, the stories, excitement, thrills and the very bookiness of books.   My Mum taught me to read long before I went to school.  I remember coming home from school telling her that the teachers were annoyed with me because I’d read through all the Janet and John books on the shelf in the classroom and they’d got nothing else for me to read!

After a spell in South Wales with my Aunt (another story) we moved to Yoxall and every week we would visit the mobile library.  What a huge van, I was so impressed  by the fact you could drive around the country in a big bus with lots of books to read that I decided there and then, this was the life for me.  I was 6 years old.  As a child I used to put all my books in alphabetical order and loan them out to my sister and in time to my brother!

By the time I went to secondary school I was still working towards being a librarian and a huge influence on my life was my English teacher Miss Caines, who also ran the school library.  I worked there as a pupil helper through all my time there.  Miss Caines also knew my Mum, they did time together at Teacher Training College in Leicester.  Also during childhood Mum bought us a book a week using the family allowance.  I still have most of the books.

One fateful day I was interviewed by the Careers Advisor (the only time she ever came to the school!)  I told her what I wanted to be which was a Librarian looking after a school library.  I was told…you don’t want to do that, you want to be a teacher!  This was 1968.  I so did not want to be a teacher coming from a long line of teachers.  As I refused to be pushed in this direction I was told the Careers advisor had no information on this career path and was advised to think again.  I did my own research and found a B.Lib degree course at Loughborough University.  I applied and got a conditional place.

Sadly, that year (1976) was a year they upped the pass marks for A’Levels cos too  many people  passed, so I didn’t get the grades Loughborough wanted.  Went through clearing and got nowhere as I refused to go to Teacher Training College.

So, what to do!  After 6 months of collecting my dole money and not getting a library assistant post at the local library due to lack of experience! I got into the Civil Service.  The Valuation Office which dealt with Domestic and Business Rateable Values of property.  Fun times.  I went to night school and learnt how to touch type.  I got promoted  and eventually got a big promotion to London (Stanmore actually) into the Training Department.

A new venture into creating and producing Distance Learning Material for local offices.  So I learnt how to operate video cameras, editing suites, computer graphics.  Setting up shooting schedules, location venues, booking hotels, and at this time met my husband to be.  The whole video unit was eventually relocated to Worthing in West Sussex and I became a bit unhappy about certain aspects of the job and was offered a job in Oxted Surrey which meant I was travelling all over the country visiting clients property doing commercial and industrial property surveys and valuations.

A long way from being a Librarian.  Due to a takeover the company was relocated to London central and I was made redundant.  A job offer came from the Valuation Office in Brighton and I accepted.  I quickly established myself as a computer expert in picking up new software easily and creating training manuals to help other staff.  Sadly that contract ended.

All the time I have been working I also looked for jobs in Libraries, but no joy.  Money was a huge driving factor in not giving everything up and going to university because we’d taken on a huge mortgage and got caught up in the massive interest increases in the 1980s.  15% at one point!  So although the longing (hiraeth) was there, unless I could get a job in a local library and train on the job….

After leaving Brighton Valuation Office I joined the Registration service as an office assistant in Worthing.  I did the post, writing out lots and lots of birth, marriage and death certificates.  I loved it.  Mainly because I was with the old registers which dated back to 1837.  Fascinating reading.  Again I was promoted and started to register births, deaths and marriages and by the time I left I was a Superintendent Registrar at Haywards Heath looking after a Registration District and my own set of Register Archives.

Why did I leave, well again a very long story and I’m mindful of the fact that this is a very long post, but my father in law died and we were left with a choice.  Move to a slightly bigger house, even bigger mortgage and spend the rest of our lives commuting up and down the A23 and A24.  Or jack it all in and move somewhere nice and quiet and set up our own video production business.  We chose the latter option.  We moved to North Wales, took a year out of paid employment to set up Rowland’s video production business and restore one shabby old vicarage.  I also spent time as a volunteer in a national trust castle in the education department, dressing up as a Tudor or Stuart wench and escorting lots of excited children around the dungeons and teaching them lots of exciting things like how to use a pike!

And just when the money ran out and I needed to get a job, one fell into my lap.  School Librarian (sorry Assistant) in a local secondary school.  I applied thinking what the hell, got an interview and amazingly got the job.  I received some training on Eclipse from the outgoing library assistant, a quick tour of the library and school and then chucked in at the deep end.  OMG! culture shock.  A steep learning curve and many thanks to Schools Library Service and fellow School Librarians for all the advice, support and help.  I loved that job, but despite many requests for training, courses etc I felt let down.  I knew there were courses out there but unless they were done through the local SLS, I wasn’t allowed on them due to financial constraints.  I also realised that if I wanted to get qualified I needed a degree.  I started an open university degree years ago but never completed it.

So out came all the study books and I managed to get my degree finished last December.  I just managed to tell my Mum about it a few days before she died.

The school situation all came to a head and I was lucky enough to land my current job in a FE college library.  What a difference in attitudes.  I am now nearing completion of an NVQ3 in Information and Library Studies and am encouraged to do a Masters in the same.   This is all while I am late in years having now passed the 50 mark.  The passion is still there, I am so passionate about books and reading and that everyone should have at least one book where they lose themselves so completely in it that they don’t want to return to the real world.  What a joy to be involved in new library and information technologies enabling me to talk (sorry twitter) to like minded people across the other side of the planet.

I have done so much in my life but there is so much more I want to do I feel there is not enough time to cram it all in.  I’m so glad my Mum knew I got into the Library service but so sad that she will not be there to see how it all ends.


6 thoughts on “How I came to be a Librarian

  1. Pingback: Thing 20: Routes and Roots | The Padded Envelope!

  2. Pingback: Thing 10: Grown up stuff! | The Padded Envelope!

  3. This is another lovely story.

    (But I am shocked – SHOCKED – that you used to loan books out to your siblings as a child! Talk about born to do it…)

    1. sarahgb

      Hah! also used to spend hours in public library card drawers fascinated by dewey numbers on Saturday mornings. Everyone else at Saturday Cinema, me memorising dewey numbers!!!! very sad 🙂

  4. Polyxena

    What a great story! Mine would take long to tell too but I also used to lend my books out at home! I took less time to get into libraries (though it wasn’t my first port of call). Now I feel I have the absolutely best job in the world – well it is for me! I love books, I love libraries, I love technology, I love our community. that says it all.

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