Librarian roots/routes

Having read my friend Jennie’s blog on this subject, and her friend’s post that started her off, I have been told its “my turn” so here goes!

When I was at school I had no idea what I wanted to be, I remember alternating from racing driver to vet to farmer’s wife.  But realising: I was female so not a good driver, I didn’t like seeing animals in pain, I can’t cook so couldn’t use up all the eggs….!  As my parents are self employed and run a restaurant with rooms the one thing I was sure of was that I didn’t want to work as long hours as they did/do.

One day I was on study leave for my Standard Grades and was lying on the floor outside a bathroom whilst Mum cleaned it (I remember this all quite vividly!) when she made the suggestion “what about a librarian?”.  Suddenly there was a large click and I saw my destiny, or something!!  I love working with and helping people, using computers and reading so it seemed to mix them all together into a perfect pot.

I was already friendly with the Librarian at my high school as I spent a fair amount of time in her presence, so I asked her about routes to take.  One of our family friends also advised me as she was a librarian too. 

The university entry system at the time I used it meant that you picked 5 courses to apply for.  They then gave you conditional or unconditional offers and you could pick one, or two, offers to have until your results came in.  There was a degree in Librarianship on offer at Strathclyde or Robert Gordon in Aberdeen.  I thought this might be a way to go but did not want to be in Glasgow so applied for RGU.  The other option I liked was to do a degree in English first so my other choices were various English degrees around Scotland.  I got offered a few spaces and I chose a conditional offer at Edinburgh to do English as my first choice and an unconditional offer at RGU doing Librarianship as my second choice.

Then came the long summer of waiting for results and wondering where I would end up and doing what.  Part way through I realised I really didn’t want to do an English degree and then a Librarianship postgrad, I wanted to get straight into my chosen vocation.  There wasn’t anything I could do other than pray I didn’t do well enough in one of my subjects to meet the conditions for Edinburgh. 

I think this was maybe the first time I encountered the thing I now believe quite strongly in.  If you want something hard enough it will be yours.  As long as its not an impossible want, like my lottery win dream of having a house with a pool in the basement!!  If there’s something more achievable and you really, really want it and believe in it, it can be yours.  Nicole calls me “jammy” but I just think I’m stubborn and determined!  Prime example was when the MTV European Music Awards came to Edinburgh in 2003 and I really, really wanted to be there.

EMA Edinburgh

When I failed to get tickets to begin with I started trying anything else.  I entered competitions, emailed MTV and asked to clean toilets, bid silly amounts for tickets on ebay, told everyone how much I wanted to go in the hope someone would know a way, wondered about just hanging around outside and hoping for ticket touts, etc.  I think I did get offered a ticket if I slept with a man, but I drew the line there!  Eventually though it happened, someone came back to me with a “way in” and I ended up landing the dream job of seat filler.  Not only was I there, and in the VIP seats with an awesome view, but I got a free t-shirt and a brown bag dinner in the deal!!  A seat fillers’ job is just as it sounds, when the famous people go to the bar or the loo you sit in their seat so that when the camera scans round there aren’t loads of empty seats.  I spent the first part of the night in the Black Eyed Peas seat and then moved to Jackass boys’ seats.  I was really close to people like Mark Owen, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce and most excitingly for me - Shirley Manson!!  (She’s the lead singer of Garbage and did the song Stupid Girl).  In fact I even managed to “acquire” her seat marker at the end of the night which has been one of my most prized possessions ever since! 

Anyway that was just an example of how I wanted something lots and got it eventually wasn’t it?!  Sorry for going off on a tangent!  So I was hoping not to get the grades I needed for the conditional offer for English degree at Edinburgh (to go back to Librarian roots/routes story!).  I decided that Chemistry was my worst subject and that I might only have got a C and then I wouldn’t have met the conditions.  I was so happy when my results came and it was just as I wanted!  So Edinburgh rejected me and off I went to RGU to do BA (Hons) in Library and Information Studies.

Four years later I thrilled myself by achieving a 2:1 and the Honours and then it was time to get a job.  My first “conquest” was as Children’s Librarian for Clackmannanshire, based at Alloa Library.  It was a fab job that included arranging puppet shows, being Santa’s elf, reading Teletubbies to nursery kids, arranging project support materials for schools and general management position duties.  Unfortunately it was a maternity cover contract and the lady whose job it was wanted it back 10 months later.

Next followed a short intermission, luckily I was able to fill this with hotel work for my parents, same as I filled all my school and uni holidays!  Then I got offered 2 jobs in the same week! 

Option 1 – Teenage fiction Librarian at George Watson’s (private school).
Option 2 – Reader Services Library Assistant at Advocates Library (private law library).

Option 1 had a much bigger salary and looked like I would get to read my beloved Terry Pratchett all day but option 2 won through as I could see the chances for progression further down the line – and the thought of working for grown ups was quite appealing.

And so I got into Law Librarianship, and have been there ever since in one way or another!  I left the Advocates Library to work for McGrigor Donald Solicitors in their shiny new offices at Tollcross but then went back to be in charge of Reader Services at Faculty. 

Reader Services Librarian was my dream job, although stressful and demanding!  It was varied and interesting with no two days the same.  It also had an unusual benefit in the world of librarians – a really nice salary!  Money has never been as important to me as being happy though, although when its on offer you certainly don’t knock it!  I worked with and for some fabulous people and in a gorgeous environment.  (I took most of the photos on the library’s pages of the website, especially love the ladder one on this page.)  Anyway must not get gushy and emotional!

Hubby and I decided that we wanted to move to Aberdeen in 2006 and within 6 months we both had new jobs there and had bought a nice house and got moved in.  So now I’m Executive Secretary and Librarian for the Society of Advocates.  Although I don’t fully utilise my degree in this job we do have a lovely law library.  I get to use a variety of other skills as well, including event organisation which is always something I’ve enjoyed and my hotel background helps with dealing with caterers.

I can’t say that Librarianship was in my blood but I have no doubt it is the place for me.  I do take my alphabet skills home with my DVD collection being indexed and marked down whenever someone borrows anything!  My CD collection used to be in alphabetical order before I lived with Bryan and I have started putting it into categories and some semblance of order since starting maternity leave. 

Librarianship may not be a trendy or well recognised profession, and there are various moves to do away with the “old fashioned” title and turn us into Information Architects or whatever, but I love it.  I don’t fit into the stereotype of twinset and pearls and I rarely Shhh anyone (most memorable shhh from me was when given a karaoke microphone one evening - that’s a whole different story) but I think its something I’m rather suited to none the less.

12 Responses to “Librarian roots/routes”

  1. JamesM says:

    Maria – great post. I love the fact that you were a “seat filler” – more exciting then being a librarian? I promise to write something similar on my own blog…eventually!

  2. Dear JamesM – Librarian can be exciting too, like when they found the 14th century illuminated manuscript at Abbotsford and we had people coming from all over the world to see it. I was asked to photograph it and was able to finger the sacred pages! (Pics on this page – http://www.advocates.org.uk/library/specialcollections.html#)
    There was also the day Sean Connery had lunch in the library parallel and then came out our front door, just as I was going back in from lunch – he was lovely!! Hee hee!

  3. WoosieGirl says:

    Mmmm, illuminated manuscripts…. *drool*

    Great post, really interesting to hear these stories. I’ve only met one person who’s doing an undergrad in librarianship, so it’s fascinating to hear that perspective. I really wish I’d figured out what I wanted to do with my life that early!

    Oh also, being a seat-filler sounds awesome. V jealous!

  4. Dear WoodsieGirl
    Please don’t drool on the books – bad librarian!!
    Yeah my uni stopped teaching the undergrad a year or 2 after I did it so I don’t think there’s many of them out there anymore, sad but true.
    Seat filler was cool, I love music so being in the presence of that many major players was fab!

  5. WoosieGirl says:

    Hi Maria,

    Don’t know if you’ve already heard but Ned, Jennie and I have just set up a wiki to collate people’s library roots/routes stories. Fancy adding this post to the wiki?

  6. WoosieGirl says:

    Just realised it would probably help if I told you where the wiki is! Is here: http://libraryroutesproject.wikkii.com/wiki/Main_Page

    :)

  7. stupidgirl says:

    Have added myself to the Library Routes Project and emailed any librarian types I know to encourage them to do the same thing. Just occured to me that it might be useful to add a link to my LinkedIn profile as well as that is almost my potted CV and shows the exact route I took in more detail. So if anyone is interested – http://www.linkedin.com/in/mariarobertson

  8. SimonXIX says:

    “working with and helping people, using computers and reading… it seemed to mix them all together into a perfect pot”
    What a great summary of library work. Thanks!

  9. stupidgirl says:

    Glad you like it Simon – and good luck with your career!

  10. thewikiman says:

    Sean Connery?! We only ever get Jimmy Saville (OBE) at ours.

    :(

  11. stupidgirl says:

    Dear thewikiman – maybe you could ask Jim to Fix It for you to be visited by Sean?!

    I did my 6 week work placement at the House of Commons Library. They arranged for me to attend Prime Minister’s Question Time and I served Tony Benn in the library. He had lovely aftershave and the librarian wanted to tell him I thought so but I hadn’t realised who he was when commenting on it and was far too embarrassed!

  12. Bethan says:

    great post! you sound like you’ve had a really interesting career so far – long may it continue!

    I am very very jealous on many levels, but especially of Tony Benn. I saw the top of his head from the Commons gallery once…

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