Saturday, 2 July 2011

Why I am doing this

I have loved reading ever since I discovered that words in picture books could make sense and there was more to Janet and John than a series of nice pictures I could colour in or scribble on. I was pre-school and my Mum was bored and her sister in law was a primary teacher and sent her some school materials, so she decided to teach me to read. It was like giving a kid a box of matches, once I had lit one and been dazzled by the magical brightness, I had to light another and another, even if I occasionally burnt my fingers. One of the local libraries she took me to was based in an old hall of medieval origin full of dark wood and odd little corners, I wouldn’t have been surprised it there had been secret passages. It had a magical atmosphere; I remember a set of beautifully illustrated fairy books. They seemed to fit in to that library as if they had always been there.
 By the time I went to school I was annoyingly literate to the extent that I kept getting undeserved gold stars for reading the same books my Mum had introduced me to the year before. I do remember my Mum was horrified by the fact that my school had elected to use ITA and I was being taught how not to spell. She trotted up to school and complained resulting in me being taken out of that class. I had no idea what was going on, I thought the weird words were rather interesting. Anyway I have strong memories of being an early book addict, sneaking books and reading them under the desk during maths and French lessons, an eclectic mix of fantasy and animal books, a guilty pleasure.
 One of the first books I got out of a public library myself was Born Free by Joy Adamson. I think I was attracted by the photographic plates (black and white unfortunately) I loved the lions and my earliest ambition was to be a wildlife ranger in Kenya. I read it and the sequels even though I probably didn't understand a lot of it. I got the excitement of living in a camp in the African bush and the character of Elsa and the passion for wildlife of the Adamson’s. I was fortunate in being able to roam freely and not be restricted to the children’s section. And I do remember finding a rather gruesome book on pet first aid with rather graphic  advice. I also remember Orlando the Marmalade Cat from that period and I read the Narnia books, although the spiritual significance of them was lost on me at the time. I think I was about 8, and the library was a place of many treasures.
I never thought I would work in a library, I was going to save lions and tigers and camp in dangerous places. I was fascinated by the world, how it worked, the physical framework of the planet, I remember being introduced to the theory of plate tectonics, then quite a new and novel idea in schools. So I became a geographer and  went on to take a degree in geography at the only place I could find that would accept my rather arty A Levels on a course which would allow me to study physical geography as well as the rather tedious sociologically based human geography. I thoroughly enjoyed the course although I had no real idea of what I would do with it. My dream was to become a writer and create the magical worlds I had enjoyed in books, but I was and am a realist and knew the chances of that dream being fulfilled are remote. However, although I found  human geography tedious, I was interested in the nature of human communities, especially urban communities and somehow wound up doing a master’s degree in town planning at Oxford Polytechnic. I completed it and worked in housing for the next four years in an old coal mining community in Northumberland.
Then we moved south and while going through the roller coaster of infertility treatment, I took a step back to my degree subject and became an environmental science lecturer at the local FE college. I did this for 6 enjoyable years part time while adjusting to the consequences of successful IVF. I trained as teacher at this time and took my PGCE.
 Yes, I am an eternal student, I love to study and absorb information. When, after a career break,  I took a job in a library I felt as if I had come home. I have worked as a library assistant in a sixth form college library for the last five years. As I consider this to be where I belong I started looking into my status as a library professional. No one I worked with had any librarianship qualifications and although we were encouraged to look out for professional development (cost permitting) I had very little guidance as to what I should be doing to further my career.  After talking to the Cilip I was informed that because of my experience and past qualifications, I should be able to register for chartership .  I got myself a mentor in a local FE college and we have met twice. I also attended a portfolio building workshop in Cambridge last May and was fortunate enough to attend Umbrella 2011 courtesy of a sponsored place from the affiliates group. All in all I have had a busy year and if anyone out there is thinking about building up their career, being acknowledged and respected for what you already do and expanding your skills, meeting like minded people, don't hesitate. All being well I should submit my portfolio next September.

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