Thing 20: My Library Route

YiWen and Anura c1999My first experience behind the desk in a library was when I was appointed a school librarian, aged 9, at my Malaysian primary school. I still have the green tie and gold badge I’m wearing in this picture with my friend, Anura (she’s in blue because she was a prefect). My duties involved stamping out books for other students during recess, and issuing little borrowers’ cards.

I then moved to England to study at Wells Cathedral School at the age of 13. It was a bit of a culture shock, and I sometimes found it difficult to fit in; I used to hide in the school library during lunchtimes, curled up by the radiator with a book to escape the rain and cold. The school librarian, Mrs Evans, was absolutely lovely and was always ready to recommend me books and talk about the ones I’d read, even after I’d found my feet and was less frequently found in the library. I was appointed the Student Library Manager when I got to sixth form, and spent some lunchtime and after school hours looking after the library whilst Mrs Evans was out for lunch. I enjoyed talking to the littler students who came in then, remembering how reassuring it felt when Mrs Evans was kind to me.

Whilst studying at UCL, I was a member of the University of London Symphony Orchestra, and really enjoyed it there. When I got to 2nd year, I decided it would be a good idea to join the committee, and picked the Librarian post because I thought it would be something I was comfortable with. Well, I quickly discovered that orchestral librarianship is not very much at all like normal librarianship, and that musicians can be a difficult bunch to handle! I did get the chance to catalogue and organise some things though, which I enjoyed.

After UCL, I went to St Andrews, where I did Romantic and Victorian Studies. I have to say that the user education provided by the library there was fantastic. I had a Research Skills and Resources module, in which library professionals talked us through the various databases and research methods available to us. We also had a manuscripts class, and a rare books class. These classes were so interesting, they convinced me to volunteer with the university’s Special Collections, helping to log, prepare, box and transport materials for relocation. It was one of the librarians there who told me about library traineeships, and it was then that I started applying for various positions.

I didn’t manage to land anything by the time I finished my degree at St Andrews, so I moved to Glasgow where my boyfriend was based, and started job hunting in earnest whilst also volunteering at the Glasgow Women’s Library, and briefly at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Whittaker Library. I was appointed part-time Information Assistant at the Glasgow Caledonian University in December 2011, and Evening/Weekend Services Assistant at the University of Glasgow in February 2012. By February, I’d had 7 unsuccessful interviews for various traineeships, and I had come close to resigning myself to having to rely on my Information Assistant positions for the year of requisite work experience before applying for library school. There was one traineeship offer in September 2011 by a construction consultancy based in London, but they had just been restructured and were unable to secure the funding for my position.

I was lucky to get the job at St John’s, and I feel incredibly grateful to be where I am today, training at a fantastic library with so many wonderful resources at my disposal. I know I’ve still got a long way to go in terms of my library career, but I do feel that I’ve always been a librarian at heart. I feel that I can really make a positive impact (however small!) on other people’s lives and work by being a librarian, and that’s what I love best about my job. I can’t wait to see what the future brings, and which libraries I’ll end up in!

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