So close . . . I can almost taste it! – A reflection of where I am at the end of 2013

I’m a year away from finishing my library degree, if I continue to do a paper per trimester as planned. I must confess to being very impatient to complete this.

I have seen lots of things that I’ve wanted to be involved in. I see so many opportunities around and long to be involved in as many as possible.

Studying as a mature student has had its challenges.

I’ve worked full-time before and studied. When I was 17, I took an apprenticeship in Typography Printing working for the Hawke’s Bay Herald-Tribune. I had to study by “correspondence” for 15 hours per week, plus a “block course” of six weeks full time study each year at ATI (Auckland Technical Institute as it was then). Challenging enough when 17/18/19 and you only want to go out partying and have fun 🙂 At least no real responsibilities then.

My apprenticeship was contracted for 4 years, and was a mix of practical and theory, as you can imagine an apprenticeship would. You received a reduction in hours, everytime you passed a paper or exam. I managed to reduce my apprenticeship to a few weeks more than 3 years as a result and had been promoted before it had even finished.

Since then, I’ve studied on and off over the years. Mostly informally, as a self-motivated learner responding to whatever I felt I needed to learn at the time. Sometimes also in organised learning – business studies, quality certification studies (ISO9001, ISO14001), software and hardware training.

For a couple of years, I had been looking for an alternate career after 26 years working in the same field and couldn’t see one that could happen easily.

Knowing my love for genealogy as a hobby, my husband suggested working professionally as a genealogist. At the time, New Zealand wasn’t quite ready to take a hobby and turn it into a full time career path. So my husband suggested I become a librarian, because librarians help people with “things like their genealogy.” . . . and *shock* he also pointed out that I liked books! He committed to being sole provider for a while to help me though, even though it would cause a huge change in our lifestyle.

So I left my old career after 26 years and planned on studying my library papers full time at home, while being a stay-at-home mother. I thought it would be a great balance. My education provider disagreed and wouldn’t allow me to study full time as I had never “officially” studied at tertiary level before.

So for six month, I studied two papers per semester before I landed my first library job. I worked as a shelver for 12 months before I got my first job as a library assistant and the on-the-job training that came with it.

In my old career the last 10 years I had been at senior management/board room level, and there was something soothing and comforting about not having any responsibilities, other than turning up and doing the task at hand. Much less stressful. After six months though, I was ready for something more and started looking for it, so was really happy to obtain that library assistant role.

After obtaining my library assistant role, I really got into the library world. It became amazing. It also helped my library studies no end. A few hours as a library assistant with one library, developed into a few more hours at another library . . .  and so it spread. The challenge was gauging when to give up one lot of hours, to take up another lot of hours to ensure progression. A real juggling act.

All this time, my studies continued. It wasn’t all plain sailing. A number of blips on the horizon. Being mother to twin daughters – 5 years old when I started studying – was challenge enough. Each year after, it seemed I had health issues where I needed emergency surgery for one thing or another – it slowed me down. Then at then end of 2007 my husband had an accident which left him disabled. Only working part-time at the time as a  library assistant was hard. My colleagues were my saviours, the support and the assistance was unbelievable – I was probably too mired in the minuitae of surviving day to day at the time to really acknowledge this and thank them properly at the time.

In my old career, often part of my role would be to act as a trainer. So it seemed natural to become a circulation trainer in my new library career. Training is a role I’ve always enjoyed if not relished.

I also eventually obtained my HT licence, so I could be a relief mobile librarian when the usual mobile librarian was on leave. This was my first taste of outreach. I enjoyed the role when called upon to relieve – readers advisory always being part of that role – sometimes doing impromptu storytime in the back of the bus when called upon.

I had the opportunity to help out on the New Zealand Collection Reference Desk back at my home library, assisting in a small way, with oral histories.

I also applied for LIANZA registration. Wasn’t sure I would get it, but I did. I know there were a few people who wondered why, as I’d “only been in libraries for five minutes” – but I have been told that they took my experience from my earlier career into account, learning opportunities I’d taken advantage of, along with the progress I’d made since joining libraries, and someone also pointed out that a length of time in a job doesn’t necessarily indicate the level of professionalism obtained.

Four years later when my husband was well enough to start returning to work, we’ve had to start again financially.

. . . and then my dream job became available. I applied only because my husband encouraged me to. I applied because I thought I had nothing to lose and was astonished and delighted when I got the job. I was so naive when I took the job. I didn’t know that there were only two specialist family history librarians in New Zealand – and I was to be one of them.

I also didn’t realise that I would have to speak in public – me, who was too self-conscious to do “Rhyme-Time” or “Wriggle and Rhyme” for kids in my earlier library role. Well, I had a crash course, and now speaking comes nearly second nature to me (with a few exceptions which I may discuss in later). Baptism by fire for sure! Its been an enormous growth area for me. One thing to run training for a small group of peers – different scenario standing up in front of a couple hundred peers or more (whether genealogists or librarians). You really have to know your stuff, so there is a lot of research that goes into it so you can speak confidently.

I had a year off study, while I was getting settled into my new role. There was such a huge learning curve and I wanted to be able to be able to give my new job all of me.

My specialism is a growth area and going from strength to strength! Demand is a good thing . . . I’m often asked to speak out of the Auckland region for community groups and at various conferences. I’m speaking at Hastings District Library in a couple of weeks time, and have been asked to speak at the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) Congress in Canberra in 2015.

I’m active on social media networks, and use it heavily for self-directed learning – and I wouldn’t be doing my job right if I wasn’t promoting my collection and my library!

So its been a long journey and as I look back, I realise I can tick off quite a few achievements. Notably my Dip Information and Library Studies, Dip Records and Information Management, Certificate in Literature and Library Services for Children and Young People – and I am halfway through a Certificate in Writing and Design for the Web. I’ve obtained LIANZA registration, and also re-validation.

Next stop will be my full BA degree in Information and Library Studies. So close I can almost taste it. Someone rightly pointed out recently that the professional development of librarians is very much like an apprenticeship. Theory and practical working in tandem.

The biggest thing I have learned since I started this journey – is to try everything. Whatever your doubts you have in yourself, apply for that job or that opportunity. If you don’t try how will you ever succeed? No such thing as failure, only missed opportunities.

Apart from finishing my degree, my goal for 2014 is to become more involved in LIANZA, somehow. I made the first step recently by attending my first Hikuwai event.

So – watch this space as they say!


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