Contributing to this project collecting stories about how people became librarians, feels like a very appropriate first post.
It may not be too much of an exaggeration to say that I fell accidentally into librarianship. There is history in the family; my aunt and my mother both worked as library assistants – at Brightlingsea library and the University of Hertfordshire, in its Hatfield polytechnic days – but librarianship as a career was never really a hot topic of discussion.
A Potted pre-MSc work history
My first degree was in Psychology, from the University of Nottingham. After graduating in 1995, I worked in the University’s Accident Research Unit, on a project with novice drivers. Then I moved into administration as the Undergraduate Recruitment Officer, travelling the UK (and a bit of the world) telling potential students about the benefits of higher education and offering advice on how to apply. Moving to London, I worked for a year with student physiotherapists at the CSP before taking on the role of organising the CSP’s conferences. In 2003, rather in need of some cold hard cash after getting divorced, I took a second job working part-time at the library at the Inns of Court School of Law. I enjoyed this work, even though much was fairly basic like processing and shelving books, and looseleafing. Lots and lots of looseleafing (although I do secretly still quite like doing it every now and again).
I was also beginning to think about a career change. I wanted to undertake a Master’s degree, and I wanted a qualification that would be portable and recognised. I was beginning to get a feel for the wider world of legal information; finding out about new areas of work in corporate and special libraries. It therefore felt like a Good Idea to apply for an Information Science MSc. It took a year to save up cash for the fees, and I started at City in September 2005. I also began a Saturday job in the library at University of Westminster. Originally, I had intended to study part-time but then switched to full-time. The following March I left the CSP and a week later started temping at Kirkland & Ellis. That was a major culture shock, going from knowing everyone and everything at the CSP to a state of conscious incompetence.
In August 2006, just as I finished my dissertation, I started my first full-time professional post at Addleshaw Goddard’s London office. This was a varied role, including dealing with post, book acquisitions, current awareness, general legal and business research. I enjoyed this post (apart from the acquisitions!) but I had set myself a goal that I would not stay in my first job longer than 18 months. Long enough to consolidate what I knew from K&E, ICSL, Westminster and the theory from my MSc, but not so long that I felt over-familiar and perhaps a bit trapped by fear of more change.
In January 2008 I joined the research team at Reed Smith LLP. Here, my role involves co-ordinating training for the trainee solicitors, as well as current awareness and of course lots and lots of research.
Along the way I have acquired a number of committee posts, attended conferences in Brighton, Dublin and Washington DC, met a range of interesting people and hopefully encouraged others. I’m also studying part-time for a PhD.
I think that there are themes that can be read in all my jobs to date, around research (ARU), organising information (conference proceedings), training (CSP) and facilitating people’s education and development (CSP, University). These are also core themes of the job I do now. Looking back, the path I have taken seems like a natural progression – it just took me a decade to realise that the role that combined the things I value was that of librarian.