How I Drifted Into the Library Profession

Upon reflection, I realise I never really decided on a career as a librarian.  Yes, I am qualified, and I do work in a library.  So, how did this come about?

The year was 2009… yes, that year.  The one in which the recession was in full swing.  I am a bit of a drifter, but I had decided that I would love to work in a library and be surrounded by books.  I had several interviews for positions and, although no job came of it, the staff who interviewed me at the Christchurch City Library were actually very encouraging and kind.

Although they indicated that I would not necessarily need a qualification to find a job in libraries, I decided that in these competitive times, it could not hurt for me to at least get a diploma in an area that I had more than a passing interest in.  (I love researching things.  I love books.  I know books.  I was in my element when volunteering in a secondhand bookshop.)

A former workplace gave me part time work, and I discovered how convenient it was for me to study through the Open Polytechnic.  I could study in my own time and fit this around my work hours.  And getting my qualification paid off, because I did find work in a library.  I was so excited.  And I was so happy working there.

I was not a perfect student during my years of study.  There were times when I couldn’t understand why I had got such a high mark for an assignment I had not been much interested in – or why my mark was lower for one that I had felt I understood more clearly.  Anyone who has studied will have experienced this.

Having studied previously at a polytechnic where I physically attended classes, I can say it is more difficult to get an idea of what your tutor is wanting from you as a distance student.  A great part of constructing an assignment is in knowing your marker and what they use as indicators for your level of knowledge and comprehension.  This is more difficult to garner when you don’t have that personal understanding of someone.  The marking guides did act as a good reference in this instance.

As a lot of processes are learnt on the job – and those not used everyday retreat further into the dark of one’s mind – I was never too concerned about memorising exactly how to read MARC records, or being able to clearly define RFID tags.  Aspects of the technological components of libraries bored me; regardless of whether I received a high mark or not, I never felt this was my forte.

And yet… I have an attention to detail.  I like seeing the clockwork behind things and envisaging the patterns in my mind’s eye.  Similar to mathematics, systems and databases are much more interesting when you comprehend the rationale behind how they work.  It is like a complex puzzle that your mind can fall into and explore – searching for the links between information and the places where a cog has fallen out…

Sometimes you are sure of the things that attract you to the library profession – but often, I think, people discover an interest and ability in something once dismissed.

Incidentally, this is a useful mailing list for anyone interested in New Zealand library jobs to sign up to:

Universities and councils will usually have their own “job vacancies” webpage, which will include any jobs going at their libraries also.

Will I continue to keep working in a library?  Perhaps… I have discovered there is more to the job than I first appreciated.

But then, I am still a bit of a drifter too.


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