Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?!

So it’s my 7 year anniversary at work, the longest I’ve ever stayed in a job by far. I am the Executive Secretary and Librarian for the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen.

maria-2013

When I took the job it was an opportunity to reach my personal goal of moving back to Aberdeen.  I was frustrated to start with, as I wasn’t using my Librarianship degree.  In fact I even applied for some other jobs and had a couple of interviews.  As time has gone on though I’ve developed the role and recently I’ve found myself faltering when I’ve gone to say my usual “I left my dream job in Edinburgh”.  I did absolutely love being Reader Services Librarian at the Advocates Library and it fulfilled the librarian side of me, but now I love my job at the Society and it fulfils me as a person.

SoA Library

I have a lovely law library to cherish, plus I get to organise and run events. I’ve always been the one to arrange nights out, help on social committees etc so this suits me well. Plus growing up in a Restaurant with Accommodation I’m used to laying tables, discussing menus, greeting guests.  Now we are also encouraging external hire of the library and we’ve had our first wedding (ceremony and reception) and concert in the library. I was involved in organising both and was present start to finish and can honestly say both dates are up there in my top 10 amazing days of my life.  Hard work but so enjoyable and satisfying!

I have often joked that I don’t have a pension or health insurance but I get enough free meals and left overs that it equals out.  In truth I doubt there are many jobs that an employee is as well treated as I am, I’m well paid and given frequent thanks and praise for what I do, plus they are flexible when I have requests like attending my son’s nativity.  Owen and Bryan are both accepted as part of the Society’s family and are welcomed at events from time to time. Owen loves coming to the library and sometimes helps me clear up after a Library Lunch, his favourite job is blowing out the candles.. although he’s always keen to clear up left over tablet too…

It’s not all perfect obviously but there’s certainly more days that I think “right, off to work” rather than “urgh can’t I stay under the duvet”.  I’ve always said that I had to do a job that makes me happy, we spend too large a proportion of our lives working not to, so I consider myself very lucky to have this position.  I wouldn’t cope well in a boring repetitive job and thrive on the constant chain of new challenges, it’s rare that you get 2 days the same!

It’s an unusual job in many ways: I work in an office by myself, with occasional visits from the other employee, the caretaker; I attend and participate in most of the events I arrange, getting to play hostess and getting paid to do fun things like go to the theatre or have lunch with our lovely members; I’m paid a full time salary for almost part time hours (library hours 9.30-1, 2-4 but then cover all events too); and, my boss changes every year.  I’m governed by a Management Committee and every November there’s a new Junior Vice President who’s selected, then becomes Senior VP, and then President. At least I know 2 years in advance who my boss will be and can start breaking them i….I mean getting an idea of how to work best with them. One incumbent made me promise to stay for at least 4 years to cover their time before accepting the role, which I still take as a huge compliment – and hopefully they didn’t regret it!

The people are lovely (mostly!).  Obviously the Society’s members are all solicitors, or retired solicitors.  I also try to look after our annuitants – widows of deceased members who joined the annuity fund.  Then there’s the people who hire the library, speakers who agree to come and give seminars, and our permanent tenants – the Scottish Courts.  It’s interesting working with a variety of people, but reassuring to have the known faces of members.  They’ve all accepted me with open arms and they are appreciative of my efforts, which is satisfying. Recently I sent out an email about a new room hire information sheet I’d worked on with a lovely photographer and I got an email back acknowledging my efforts.  Not that “thank you” or “good job” emails are unusual in my inbox but this one really meant a lot as he referred to Dorothea Bruce who used to have my job and left large boots to fill when she retired.  Many people have told me stories about her and she will never be forgotten at the Society so to be told she’d probably approve of developments since I joined seems high praise indeed.

So what have I achieved in 7 years?  That’s a hard question to answer properly as I work with the Management Committee so many of the achievements are team efforts.  However I have spearheaded and been most instrumental in some things, such as the planning, creation and maintenance of a website.  This gives a set place for members to find details of all our events, for prospective members to find out about membership and for members of the public to find out a bit more about us, our members, or our venue for hire.

When I started there was a spreadsheet with some details of the items in our extensive law library.  I’m working through adding locations so you can actually find things if wanted and we now have a searchable online catalogue (of the key texts and one day it will be everything).  I’ve also rearranged the textbooks so they are all together and in proper alphabetical order, and I currently have a work experience library student creating a See Also reference document to accompany the collection.

There is now a job manual with instructions for the key tasks – and one day I will get more regular duties covered!  I’ve developed and trained a team of cover staff so the library is still open in my absence (holidays, professional leave and sickness).

When I started all payments in and out were made by cash or cheque.  We now use BACS, DD and Standing Orders which streamlines procedures and ensures bills are paid promptly, it also saves postage, waiting for a counter signatory to come by, and trips to the bank.  I think this is especially great when it comes to our annuitants as some of them are less mobile so now the money goes straight into their bank account and they don’t need to get someone to pay the cheque in for them.

Similarly most of our communications are done electronically so members are kept up to date by email. We have separate mailing lists for different interests, eg social events, seminars, court practitioners, new professionals.  AGM paperwork used to get posted out at great cost in postage, time and trees, now only 30 of them get posted, the other 300 are sent electronically.  A few clicks rather than hours of photocopying and envelope stuffing!

We have a self serve coffee shop that members can use and this covers the cost, and gets more use out of, the Press and Journal – which I need to check each day for deaths of members or their partners.  Cheery!

One thing I’m very proud of – as it’s been complimented by members and a similar organisation to ours set up a mirror service in their city – is my Will Search service.  Basically if someone dies in Scotland their family needs to know where their will is (drawer in house or solicitor).  If it’s not known they then need to make reasonable efforts to find it before dealing with the estate of their loved one.  I believe in England there’s a central database which makes a lot of sense and I urge Scottish people to ensure their family knows where their will is, just in case.  Anyway after a few enquiries it dawned on me that the Society was a central organisation that could assist with this in Aberdeen.  After discussion with the Management Committee I emailed round our members and asked for a contact from each firm that could check for any wills I was asked for, I then set up a mailing list of these contacts and put a list on our website and any requests get emailed round, saving a lot of time and effort and covering all the main firms in Aberdeen.

I have also presented a seminar on transferable skills (text available here and slides here) to the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians and been part of their Web Committee.  Both scary steps to take but great things to add to a Professional Achievements list.

All that and I now have an awesome 4 year old son and my forever house with sea views. Thanks Aberdeen, so glad we came back!

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