Wednesday, 30 March 2011

How I became a librarian...

I have had a few people email and tweet me lately about how I became a librarian and any advice for someone looking to get into the profession so I thought that I would do a little blog post to sum it up instead of regurgitating information all the time. (This post is going to be quite different to the usual posts around here)

257/365 messy librarian

Firstly, I will start by explaining that you need a degree to be a librarian. This can either be a bachelor degree or a postgraduate degree. I went down the postgraduate degree route because when I went to uni to study English I had no idea what I wanted to be. I knew that I liked literature but I didn't want to remain in academia. I had experience of working within the community, doing out reach reading groups with The Reader Organisation, so I knew the power of outreach work. I knew that I wanted to do a job that would help people and I loved the ideology of public libraries - free access to information for all. I researched into teaching at first, did some work experience in a school and found out that I hated it. So I registered for my MA course and started it in September 2009. During my course I had to undertake a 3 week work placement and this is how I got offered my first job - through working hard & impressing the managers in those 3 weeks with my enthusiasm, they asked me to come back to cover sickness and holidays and then the vacancy for my job came up, so I applied and luckily got it. I have been very lucky - I know many of my course mates haven't been as fortunate and it seems that librarianship is increasingly becoming a profession that is hard to get into (especially in the face of budget cuts after the recession). 

This presentation below by the wonderful Ned Potter aka The Wikiman sums up the library and information profession more succinctly than I can :

View more presentations from Ned Potter

Here are a few of my tips though for someone wanting to get into the library and information sector:

  • Get work experience. You can get experience through volunteering or by arranging a work placement through Uni if you're still studying. You can get a job shelving books in your Uni library or apply for a graduate trainee librarian position - they are a very good way of getting experience after getting an undergraduate degree. 
  • Network. If you are 100% committed to the library profession, it may be a good idea to join your national association (in the UK, it's CILIP). They usually do discounted rates for students or the unemployed. When applying for jobs, this shows that you are seriously dedicated to the profession. They will also keep you informed of the latest news in the sector and help you network. I am on the CILIP north-west regional branch committee and that has been a really great experience to meet other professionals all at different stages of their careers and in different library sectors. Also, twitter is a hotbed of networking librarians. I use twitter to keep me informed & up to date with library news but also to learn about what colleagues in other libraries are doing. Also join LISNPN (a network for new professionals) where you can get great advice on how to start your library career. 
Gorgeous Librarians
(photo by Thomas Hawk - this is actually a 'gentleman's bar' called The Library, but it's still true! We are gorgeous)
  • Research. Get to really understand what the profession is about, what it's doing at the moment and what the future of it is. It isn't all about books. In fact, there are some librarians out there who don't touch a book at all during their work day. The future of libraries is most certainly in IT. If you have a quaint image of a librarian reading books all day, this is not a job for you. Read librarians blogs because they will give you a real insight into the working life of a librarian. Read this blog post too, because Ned says everything pretty much that I wanted to say and more. 

29 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post! I'm in my final year of an english degree and not entirely sure of what to do after my masters next year xXx

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  2. AW nice post! My boyfriend is just finishing his English BA. He loves creative writing, and the idea of being a librarian but he just doesnt have the funds to do further education to get him into the jobs he would like. It's such a shame. Stupid cuts etc. :-( xxxx

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  3. I'd like to become a librarian as well.. thanks, really nice post! :)
    even if I live in italy I could move to england and this information would be useful for me :)

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  4. What an interesting post! I used to work in a library but only as a library assistant :( what's your job title? Do you get to look after any particular areas? I would love to be an art librarian! xx

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  5. I'm so glad I came across your blog, I've applied to do English at Liverpool and I'm really unsure of what to expect, so I may be asking some questions if that's ok! This is a really useful post, also! xx

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  6. Good post, I didn't know I wanted to be a librarian until I took an admin job at a charity after graduating which involved looking after a small library. I did my PgDip via online distance learning (had to take out a loan to self-fund though). I love reading how other people became librarians.

    I used to work for Leeds Libraries and you didn't need to be qualified to be a librarian there. However I suspect I would have found it difficult to find another job if I hadn't been qualified.

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  7. I worked as a library assistant on my gap year between school and uni. I loved having so many books around me, but found it hard having to work split shifts and weekends. My favourite part was working in the children's library, which partly led to my going into teaching.

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  8. Very interesting. Who knew there would be so much dedication involved! Well deserved.

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  9. This was so interesting to read, I never knew any of this!
    Sophie
    x

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  10. This is a great post with lots of interesting information, even for those of us who don't want to be librarians. That sign in the last photo made me laugh out loud:)
    But I do have one question...Ned Potter wrote that a librarian's work can be focused in many different areas (marketing, archives, writing, children's, IT and systems, etc), so what do you spend most of your time on as a librarian?

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  11. Don't forget CILIP Pathway 2 to Chartership either...

    I graduated in Information Systems and worked as an IT technician and IT Trainer for a few years before transferring those skills to a library environment. After nearly seven years in the sector I now manage a public library service and have my chartership application in as we speak, using Pathway 2 to recognise my breadth of professional knowledge and experience, *without* the degree in librarianship/information studies.

    Worth bearing in mind!

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  12. That's exactly what I'm doing :) Hoping to start my MA in September although I would rather be a library mamanger than something like a subject librarian. I want to foucus on customer service and managing a team. I'm not a member of CILIP thought but I am considering it now.
    The CILIP Pathway 2 to Chartership sounds interesting because I already have 3 years library experience... hmm lots ot think about xx

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  13. This was such a great post. I'm more wanting to go into the academic side, but I did always wonder how one would get into library work. I work with the study advice dept. as part of the library at my university and pretty much all of the study lecturers there were once librarians.

    And yes... anyone who reads books is gorgeous. Brains are hot ;)
    x

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  14. Some very good advice :) What you've outlined is pretty much the same route you need to take in order to become a librarian here in AUS. All throughout my college years my parents kept telling me I should become a librarian, but I wanted to study journalism instead. Well, that didn't work out, so a couple of years ago I decided to study a 3-year Bachelor of Arts degree at Uni, and then take up another year of study to become a librarian. There aren't many qualified librarians where I live, so I'm hoping that my degree will work to my advantage- however, I'm also scared that I won't find any positions available!

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  15. Theres been some interesting discussions on libraries and what librarians roles should be in light of the cuts on Open Book on Radio4.
    I personally love my local library, I may live in a backwater town but at least the Central library is fab and feeds my reading addiction!

    I must admit my ignorance, I had no idea you had to have a degree to be a librarian!

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  16. wow, really interesting post! you're very fortunate to have such an interesting job :)

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  17. I loved this post Helen! You motivate me to do one of my own except I don't think that there's an accurate presentation format for pulling-hair-out-24hrs-isolation! ;)

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  18. Really interesting post i love reading about peoples jobs and how they decided about what they wanted to be!

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  19. Thanks for writing this post, it was so interesting to read. I'm just finishing my second year of a french and history degree but often wish I had picked french and english instead! Think I will definitely look into volunteering/shelving books at my uni library! xx

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  20. This is really interesting. I'm going to be studying english for my undergrad but I'm hoping to head towards more of a publishing direction.

    This is a cool peek into what it takes to be a Librarian though. I have a friend who is a Librarian and she had to relocate across Canada for a job offer because they are so scarce.

    cool post!
    Christy of Dress Rehearsal

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  21. You have a great job. You are so lucky for that. And im happy for you. Being a librarian is great.

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  22. I think many people don't realise that you really do need the qualifications to become a librarian. Definitely well done with all the studies and it's definitely been worthwhile! Really informative post!

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  23. This is such an interesting post.
    Tbh i've never thought of being a librarian as a 'proper' job. Thanks for sharing xx

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  24. love posts like this - very interesting xxxxxxx

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  25. Awwww yay librarians! <3 What a great post.

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  26. What an interesting post. Being a librarian sounds ace!

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  27. This post is really interesting, thanks for this :)

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