Instant Ideas and Collaboration
For this month’s topic, Across Library Sectors, we are bringing you a week of blog posts in which people share their experiences of working in different library sectors. Our second post of the week is from Jayne, on her journey across three quite different sectors.
Thanks to Jayne for writing for us. Join us on Tuesday 9 July between 6.30 & 8.30pm UK time for the #uklibchat. (you can add your questions to the agenda here).
I used to live in fear about being a “jack of all trades”, but now I’m glad I’m the kind of person with the resilience, flexibility, and creativity that has enabled me to work across three sectors of the library and information profession- Public, Legal and Art.
Couldn’t be more worlds apart? Well, I see them as two (er… three) ends of the rainbow. I worked a healthy average of seven years in each sector, with no gap other than a weekend between leaving one and starting the next. Let me explain a little of the journey.
My starting point … an Art degree, a diploma in Secretarial Studies course and a liking for making lists.
Several decades ago, I began work in Local Authority public libraries, as a Library Assistant. Front line, customer focused, working in a team. I learned how to put books in order, jacketing, the dexterity of the “Brown Issue” system , and then the LMS network. Flexibility an absolute must. I braved the under 5s story times, settled community squabbles over notice-board space and became practised with those reference books essential for the successful completion of crosswords. I remember sawing sheets of cardboard into sword and hat shapes at rapid speed to supply the unexpected enthusiastic response to a Children’s half term “Pirates” adventure. It taught me stamina, never to forget what my face was doing, and how to duck behind a desk whilst regaining composure. I was curious about the work of the librarians, but in the 90s, there was a divide, Librarians doing the “brainy” stuff, Library assistants on the swash- buckling battle front. (I had a secret ambition to be in a position to have a say in the strategic planning of a library service). I needed a librarian qualification, so I began the Msc Information Studies, part-time.
At the PG diploma stage, an opportunity arose in a Legal and Democratic Services Library, as an Administrative Assistant. It was the combination of the Secretarial studies and the Library Assistant which made me right for this job. A departmental library, no public and no team mates – I felt a bit homesick. Why did I do this? Well, yes, it was intentional – to get more experience in library administrative skills. Two years later, I was promoted to Senior legal library officer. A sole librarian, managing subscriptions and supporting lawyers in case research. Training skills, recruitment, archiving, knowledge management, IT skills, negotiation skills, web based resources. I learned of procedures and policies, and wrote some. I wrote and delivered inductions for lawyers. I created a library catalogue, implemented a loans system, and formed a network with sole librarians across 5 Local Authorities of West Yorkshire. Sounds wonderful? It was! Here was the basis for my Msc research (Knowledge Management) completed in 2003.
In 2007, I moved to the Art Sector, to an independent educational institution offering courses for FE and HE. (I’d done a Foundation in Art and Design here in the 80s). I also had my BA (hons) Art, so all good? Wow! Different culture most certainly – resistance to change very evident. Oh no, what was I doing! ? The computer system was heartbreaking. I no longer worked flexitime. There were no visible procedures or policies, and I missed them. I’d got so used to the legal sector dress code, I carried on wearing a suit for years. Gradually, I’ve managed to relax it … just enough to wear a t-shirt with the suit. I arrived with stamina, enthusiasm for art and learning, plus highly developed IT skills, which have made me relatively ahead of the game and indispensable (I hope). Past experience of working as a Library Assistant helped me in the management of Library Assistants, and ensure good staff development. Effective working relationships across Business Support Departments are invaluable. Because of working in a legal department, I had an appreciation in the importance of business operations and procedures. Be yourself, be interested, and make yourself indispensable and visible. Were going through a restructure now and I recognise the process, having been through one before – I’m prepared. I know the management Structure, the mission statement, the strategy. Get a thick skin. I’d recommend reading up on change management, and realise that you are part of the change.