After completing my Information and Library Management MSc in 2013 I don’t think I knew what sector I wanted to end up in. Up to this point I had completed a Graduate traineeship in Nottinghamshire County Council’s public library service, then moved to Bristol and got a job as a Library Assistant at the University of Bristol. By the time I had completed the MSc I assumed I would stay in academic libraries and maybe eventually work in a Subject Librarian-type role.
I realised pretty quickly that these sorts of roles are quite sought after, and decided to start looking to other sectors to gain some wider experience that might set me apart from the crowd further down the line. Initially this involved working for a day a week as an Information Officer at a corporate property firm alongside my Library Assistant role. This was a casual role, but helped me gain valuable experience of working within a specialist library setting with a different type of customer. The role involved carrying out press searches, cataloguing electronic resources, and dealing with enquiries from business partners across the firm. After a year or so in this post I successfully applied to my first professional role as an Information Specialist in the University’s Careers Service – although similarly this role was one day a week on a fixed term contract. The panel cited my experience in the corporate sector as one of my strengths.
By this point I think I realised that taking on temporary/part time roles and fitting this in with other work was paying off in terms of giving me the wider experience that I needed. As Information Specialist I was part of a team that developed and delivered training sessions, managed a collection of print and electronic resources, and developed materials on topics such as digital literacy – very similar to the sorts of duties associated with a more traditional ‘Librarian’ role at the time. As I settled more into this role I was offered more hours and additional responsibilities, and became an established member of the team.
Since then I’ve worked in roles including School Librarian and Digital Engagement Officer in the museums and heritage sector. I have still to decide exactly what role I would like to end up in eventually, but by widening my search for relevant roles I’ve found that the key skills gained from my library background and qualification are easily transferrable, and have given me the opportunity to gain experience in delivering workshops, helping museums increase their digital offering, and setting up a primary school library from scratch. It’s also enabled me to see first hand what working in different sectors is like, and that it’s possible to change sectors by being open-minded and demonstrating that your skills are transferrable. I’ve worked with some great colleagues and have been able to learn from their experiences and expertise, as well as developing professional relationships and making great friends along the way.
I have just recently taken on a maternity cover role back in academic libraries as a Customer Services Manager. My aim is to revalidate this year and think about where I want to be long term. I don’t think I’ve quite figured this out yet, but by reflecting on my experiences I feel much more confident in identifying the types of roles that interest me and not being restricted to looking at only one sector.
Victoria Hipton's article is the fifth in a series of personal career stories. We asked library and information professionals around the country to share their stories of how they've addressed a particular challenge in their professional lives.
You can find Kathryn Aylward's account of how she got started in health libraries after graduation, Natasha Chowdory's account of moving into health libraries; Matt Imrie's account of moving to school libraries and Ivana Crucic's account of a portfolio career.
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