I had always been an avid library user. I would go down to the library, choose 4 books, sit on a bench outside and read them, then go back in and borrow 4 more! By the time I was 11, I had read every book in the children’s library and started on the adult’s section, often with unfortunate results.
I decided I wanted to be a librarian when I was 12 and we had a careers lesson at school. We went round the class saying what we wanted to do, and as my name was in the second half of the alphabet I had time to think - and “librarian” popped into my head, so that is what I said. That moment in class decided my options for O Levels and A levels – I can still remember my head teacher telling me, quite wrongly, that Art would be of no use as a librarian, but Latin would, so I should take Latin.
My parents wanted me to leave school at 16 and get a job in a library, but I knew you needed 2 A levels and a 2 year diploma course, so I persuaded them to let me take A levels. There was no UCAS then, so I wrote to 6 schools of Librarianship and had interviews at two, London and Birmingham. At my interview at Birmingham College of Commerce I was offered a place on the new 4 year sandwich course BA in librarianship.
For my sandwich year, I worked at the London Borough of Sutton who arranged for me to spend a month in each department. This was brilliant experience and by the time I returned to college for my final year I knew I wanted to work as a children’s librarian. I even wrote my thesis on “the role of the public library in introducing children to books.”
Unfortunately there were no children’s jobs available when I graduated, and after nine months of jobhunting, I was only too happy to take up my first post as special services librarian at Tamworth Library, moving on to be Bibliographer at Burton On Trent where I worked until leaving to have my daughter. When I started my first job, I used to sit in the library unable to believe I was actually being paid to do something I enjoyed so much!
Ten years later I was tempted back into the workplace when my sister-in-law rang me to tell me that my dream job was being advertised in Tamworth – Area children’s librarian, temporary to cover a maternity leave. Maggie, one of the other candidates and I were appointed as a job share and it was just as good as I had hoped. Not only did we run the central children’s library, and children’s services to four branches, but I was also allowed out on the school’s mobile. From this, I finally moved into school library work, first covering a maternity leave in a school at Walsall, then to the leafy suburbs of Sutton Coldfield to my present post where I have been for the past 16 years.
The great joy of working in a school library is the autonomy and variety of the work. You are so much your own boss in that you decide what you are going to do and when you will do it. Add to that the fantastic books that are written for children and the pleasure of working with all the different characters that make up a school – well, what could be better?