A network for new and aspiring library professionals
I’ve just started my First Professional Post (FPP) as a school librarian (I’m not going to name my employer on here). I hadn’t considered school librarianship as a career path, but the job came up in Nottingham at the right time and I got it! I didn’t expect for my first job after the MA to be my FPP; I wanted to return to academic libraries so I was looking at library assistant roles. It is gratifying to be classed as a ‘librarian’ – I like the officialness of the job title! Having said that, I don’t think the school I’m at knows the value of having a librarian (more on that later).
I think many school librarians work alone, and I am no exception. My job is a maternity cover, and once the handover period is over I will be running the library by myself (eek!), with a few student librarians to do some shelving. So, I’ll have responsibility for collection management, marketing, budgeting, cataloguing, acquisitions, recruitment (of Student Librarians and Reading Leaders), timetabling of library lessons and organising author visits (I’m sure there’s a couple of things missing from that list but can’t think right now). Which sounds amazing, and I’m really excited about it all. But there is a downside to this role: lack of support and engagement from the school.
The current “librarian” (I feel a bit like Mrs de Winter, because I am also the current librarian but I don’t want to say her real name or call her the pregnant librarian so I’m sticking with calling her that) is not actually a qualified librarian, she does a good job but what she does is limited. She has a lack of professional awareness, and hasn’t pushed the library into subjects other than English. It’s not just her fault, when she has tried to introduce library initiatives the staff haven’t been receptive so she’s given up.
What I plan to do to improve the situation is:
The good news is that I think most of these things are achievable because I feel positively about it and I can probably ‘guilt’ the school into supporting some of the more ‘e’ initiatives. The current librarian is not precious about “her job” so once she has gone on maternity leave I’m going to get on with most of those things. I have suggested most of them to her and she’s been encouraging but a little bit pessimistic about the potential successes. She is also supportive about asking for money to launch new ideas that need extra finance. I’m willing to give all the ideas a good go, and if they fail then at least I gave them a try, but I think a few could really take off.
I’m feeling really positive about my FPP, partly because I think it’s going to look great on my CV. I feel lucky that I’ve got a blank canvas; I’m not following a star librarian and trying to fill big shoes so anything I do should, and hopefully will, be appreciated by the school.
Having said that, I’m not sure of where I’ll try to go next. Academic librarians may feel undervalued, but I think school librarians get a worse deal (I’ve only just about picked myself up off the floor since seeing the £10k school librarian job advertised in Cambridge. £10,000!!! IN CAMBRIDGE!!! Not in 1950s Cambridge, Cambridge in 2012!!! Where you have to pay rent and buy food and clothe yourself and get to work and buy beer occasionally! £10,000?! Horrendous). And in this role, if the current librarian doesn’t come back then I could stay but there is absolutely no room for progression. So, we’ll see.. but for now I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and improving the library!
Sorry this post is really wordy!