These two things are about reflecting on my route into and career in librarianship to date, and about my experiences and thoughts on mentoring.
I have to say that an honest reflection on my personal career path isn’t something I’m prepared to commit to the World Wide Web! If I’m going to be truly honest then, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t think that this blog is the place for it.
So I’ll just give a brief resume of how I got into librarianship and my route to my current post as a library manager in the NHS. I followed a very conventional path into librarianship, via a first degree in another subject, a year as a library assistant in a big university library (not an official graduate trainee post), then an MSc done mostly full time but finished off part-time whilst I started my first professional post. This was in a different but even larger university library and gave me a good idea of a range of aspects of academic library work, and a realisation that I enjoyed working with IT and new technology (when it behaves itself …), as well as a willingness to try things out. This was followed by posts in other areas of library work – FE and special libraries. These gave me a lot of experience of setting up new services and working in an environment where having a library wasn’t a given – its existence needed to be justified. It also gave me experience of linking with other areas within an organisation and carrying out a huge range of different duties, including less library-oriented areas such as websites, records management and procedures management. I also discovered that I enjoyed working in an environment where I had a smaller number of customers that I could get to know as individuals. All this provided good prior experience for my subsequent posts in NHS libraries.
As for why librarianship, that was because I read about it one afternoon at the university careers service and decided that the idea of organising and tracking down information sounded much more interesting than a lot of the other careers on offer to someone with an arts degree. The customer service side appealed to me. I ignored the warnings of poor salary prospects – as an undergraduate the prospect of earning a salary that was four times greater than my annual grant sounded fine. It was only later that it dawned on me that at some stage in my life I might want to progress beyond renting a room in a shared house and that, when that happened, the warnings would seem more valid … but it was too late by then.
In terms of mentorship, I have never had a formal mentor, as this was not a requirement of the chartership process when I did mine (via a professional development report rather than a portfolio). I’ve never had a single person I’ve viewed as an informal mentor either, but I’ve always found it useful to have a range of people to consult for their views on particular aspects of work – this goes back to the networking topics discussed in previous Things.