Thursday, 4 August 2011

My life as a librarian

Although a keen library user I didn't work in a library until the year I left school, and quite by chance picked up a summer holiday job in the Queenstown Public Library.  It obviously paid off that I had developed a relationship with the librarian, albeit a casual one, because when the need for extra staff came up, she thought of me.  That was a great job, and while I knew that I already loved books, I also found I enjoyed working with people. After that summer job, librarianship became my goal, and now, 30+ years later, I am still passionate about books and people.  Public Library work suits me very well.
After that summer I went on to complete a BA (English) at Otago University, then entered the job market.  This was in the early 80s, and entry positions in libraries of any type were hard to come by, so I experienced quite a number of knock-backs, before another Public Library librarian (who knew me as a borrower) came to my rescue.  At the time the NZ Government had a scheme (PEP) where they would pay the wages of an employee taken on by an employer for specific projects.  Miss Dolamore came up with a project, and thus found me employment for 6 months at the Gore Public Library.  At the end of that time she was able to convince the Gore council that an extra position needed to be created at the library, and that I should fill it.
Once there, in a permanent position, I was able to develop my career as a librarian.  The first step was to complete the NZ Certificate of Library Studies (as it was known then).  This involved being employed in a library to gain practical experience, doing assignments through correspondence, and attending 3 6-week block courses at Library School in Wellington.  It took 3 years to complete.
[There was an option of doing a post graduate qualification, but it was not offered remotely, and I didn't want to do another year of study at that stage.  I wanted to be out working, earning some money, having a life as someone other than a student!]
Gaining a library qualification in NZ is quite different today, and information can be found at the following sites if readers are interested: Open Polytechnic and Victoria University of Wellington
Gore Public Library, being a small library, offered me experiences across the spectrum, except for advancement.  After a few years, recognizing that I needed to move on to move up, I found myself a job at Dunedin Public Library (using the usual employment channels this time).  It was an unqualified position in the Youth section, but I had my foot in the door, and indeed Dunedin Public has provided an upwards career path, so I haven't had to consider finding another employer to give me those opportunities.
From that unqualified position in Youth, I went to a qualified position, then moved to Hospital, Housebound and Homes as a team leader, then became Mosgiel Community Librarian, before becoming Information Services Librarian.  Each position has provided me with new challenges, to keep me fresh and interested.
I have also undertaken further formal study over the years to complement those roles.  These have not necessarily been library studies, but have still been relevant.  Qualifications like the NZ Institute of Management's Certificate in Supervisory Management, and a Certificate in Adult Teaching from Otago Polytechnic have proved invaluable. 
Taking advantage of training and professional development opportunities (like cpd 23 Things) has also helped me advance, as has being a member of organisations like Toastmasters.
NZ introduced professional registration for librarians approx 4 years ago, which sounds very similar to Chartership.  Working towards revalidation every 3 years certainly keeps PD to the forefront of the mind, and makes you look for opportunities to develop your skill set and, if you're so inclined, prepare you for advancement. 
I am currently working as Westland District Librarian.  This is a temporary role while the usual encumbent is on an extended OE, and when my term is up will return to my position as Information Services Librarian at Dunedin Public.  I am very pleased to have the opportunity to gain experience in this type of management role, and extremely grateful to my employers in Dunedin in making it possible for me to do so.  There is a lot of goodwill out there, to share experiences and expertise (more of that in the next Thing on mentoring I suspect) if one can position oneself to take advantage of the opportunities that come along.
What am I planning on doing next?  Revalidation is due mid-2012, so I really need to concentrate on ensuring that I have covered all the requirements for that, so that will influence my career activities in the near future.
Longer term, I would like to be more involved at a strategic level, so will be focusing my efforts on achieving that.  No details as yet, but knowing where I want to go is a start.

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