How I chose librarianship

What do you want to be when you grow up? One of the top five worst questions you can ask a child and/or teen (and, let’s be real, twenty-somethings don’t need reminding of their failures).

When I grow up

When I was at school and faced with this question, I would spout off my latest fantasy, and these never included real professions (like nurse, doctor, teacher, accountant). I think I was 15 when I stopped adhering to this particular social norm.

IDK

I really, really didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I was pretty good at a lot of things. But as I grew older my pessimism started to outweigh my competitive spirit.

Fast forward, if I may…

I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, no experience, and an intimidating student loan. Thus, I couldn’t get a job (I wish someone had told me that anything less than a Masters is basically bum fodder). After a year stuck as a middle-manager in hospo, surrounded by poor upper-managerial decisions and drunken workmates, I decided I needed to explore my post-graduate options.

Honours was immediately out. I’d love to spend a year immersed in my major (yes, I found something I liked enough to want to read and write about for an extended period of time), but alas, it is much too fun to result in job opportunities. But this was also a problem. I found for a lot of post-grad courses, that extra level of education was a prerequisite, especially if you didn’t have work experience within that particular field.

In the end I had narrowed my, well, narrow options, down to two: Museum and Heritage Studies, or Information (Library, Archives and Records) Studies. I chose the latter, feeling there may be more job opportunities at the end (the ability to study by distance was also appealing).

I wasn’t particularly passionate about a subset of society, I didn’t harbour radical beliefs about the freedom of information. I just wanted a good job, with the potential for advancement, where I could put my intelligence to use.

The fact that I was on this academic journey is (I believe) 99% of the reason I got my first job in libraries, only one trimester into study. For this reason alone, choosing Information Studies was a good move. I would not have gotten a similar role without it. I’d never been in an environment where so many people shared my tastes and opinions, and these folks will be my friends for a long time to come.

I would also add that, not really knowing what my professional options might be, other than working in a public, academic, or school library (I don’t think the existence of corporate libraries had even occurred to me), in that first trimester I was blown away by all the career possibilities.

The Master of Information Studies genuinely is as broad as it sounds. Having been studying for a while, taking a variety of papers, my career options continue to expand.

I still don’t know what I want to be. I don’t want to be limited by one thing. I’ve got my foot in the door, and I just need to find some patience while I consider my next move, and then see where it takes me.

We would love to hear about your experiences so please email us at theissuesdesk@yahoo.co.nz

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My first blog post

How do I begin to explain to people what my job is like?

I’m whimsical at times and tend to have my head in the clouds (but not the same goddamn cloud that our goddamn email server is now in).

I’d like to work in an old, dusty library with high shelves and weathered books; a place full of shadows.

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Ummmm.  Well, yes.  Like in Doctor Who.  But without the deadly shadows.

Not all libraries are how one imagines them to be.  They are much more diverse, much more ridiculous, and much less efficient or quiet than I’d supposed.

I often wish some TV crew would come here and make a fly-on-the-wall doco.  It would be ratings gold, I promise.

Just the other day I had a “do you remember when I first started work here and it was stupid?” moment with a colleague.  Haha, oh yes, he remembered.  And did he remember how they forgot to train me?  Or give me access to any of the things I needed access to?

This colleague had to print off overdue reminder notices for me to put in envelopes so I’d have something to do.  On a good day, I managed to stretch that task out for half an hour.

“Do you have access to the shared inbox’s?  The library-issues inbox?”  He asked me.

“Library-issues inbox?” I rolled the words off my tongue like it was a wondrous foreign expression.

That’s how we know people haven’t been trained.  You glance across the room and see them looking confused, otherwise blank-faced, and not doing anything but repeating wtf wtf wtf over and over in their minds.

I spent weeks staring at my computer.  I was bemused.  I’d moved to a city where I knew no-one.  My workplace more or less ignored me.  I didn’t exist anymore.  I had become a part of the ennui that I can only assume office work is made of.

I explored the website.  I read all of the (out of date) manuals.  I got given one desk shift each day, and wished for more.  I seldom saw my managers.  They were in perpetual meetings or on courses.

Perhaps I was trapped in a dream.  The sort of dream that refuses to make up facts or gaps in your knowledge, blocking you from entering certain places or doing things.

I don’t do anything all day, I wrote to my parents, but I’m not afraid of being fired because I don’t think they know I exist.

At least they’d put me on the payroll.  If this was going to be a dreamworld with logical rules, then I’d still need money to get by.

And why didn’t I be more proactive and ask what my role was?  If this ever happened to  me again, I would.  But I was more shy back then, very much thrown by the place, and I seldom saw the people who managed me.

It was dull and strange, but it didn’t matter.  I began to feel less and less real.  Sunday shifts were beautiful and purposefully empty.  I didn’t have to do anything but exist.  I didn’t know it then, but I was supposed to be paid time and a half.  When my colleagues and I did accidentally uncover this and took it to the Human Resources department, it was over a grand worth of back pay.

So I experienced a personal tragedy five months later.  The pain of this flung me out of the sepia world and I was suddenly visible to everyone in violent, garish Technicolor.  Something in me snapped and I didn’t even hear it snap.

I’m not ‘good’ anymore.  I narrate sardonically from the wings as a farcical play carries on around me.

My blog posts will mostly be vistas of library life.  Little snapshots and anecdotes that I hope will help bring to life this place for you – as though you worked here yourself.

So, without further ado…

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