Welcome to 23 Llyfrgellydd, our first post is from Liz Chester who works at Coleg Sir Gâr a college of further and higher education based in Carmarthenshire.
As a student at Oxford Polytechnic
in the 1980’s, working on my dissertation about a Victorian stained glass
designer, I took root on a random floor of the Bodleian Library. Books moved up
and down in dumb waiter style lifts and were distributed about the building to
waiting readers like me.
This was my first ‘serious’ use of a library other
than visits to the mobile that pulled up outside my rural junior school in the
On graduation I was ‘drawn to’ and
was somewhat keen to get through my interview for the post of Reading Room
Assistant in the Library at the Ashmolean Museum. I wish I still had the job
description - it might make a good reference point for how things have changed
in library work since then. I was lucky enough to get the job –and what a
lovely time I had – a small team, a strong hierarchy and yet great equality -
all shelving together first thing in the morning – and much humour as we
strived to meet the book and photocopying needs of university lecturers and
post grad students.
A move to West Wales in 1988 - found
me facing an interview panel of 7 - in the days when as a woman you could be
asked if and when you planned to have children! Luckily I didn’t growl, got the
job and moved into Further Ed. - my working home since.
My working life is varied, vivid,
busy and an absolute joy. It necessitates (or has it created?) a bit of a
butterfly brain moving from one topic to another; emails, phone calls,
ordering, visiting classes, discussing technical issues with the IT department,
working with learners to encourage appropriate behaviour in a space that offers
a haven to HE learners, learners with mild to moderate learning disabilities,
those studying plumbing, child care, carpentry and more.
My working day depends on the time
of year – FE librarianship has seasonal variation in tasks! Let’s take for example, September 30th
2014: We can start at about 3 am! I
happened to be awake and it came to mind that our Level 1 Childcare group have
been using the library so well since the start of term that it would good to
deliver one of the college ‘Excellence’ cards to them. So, note to self for
first action of the day and back to sleep!
As I arrive at work the following
morning I open the door and a couple of learners follow me in – it’s 8.20 am.
Check the diary for the activities ahead and say good morning to my colleague.
We are still meeting and greeting as it is only a few weeks in from the start
of term. First task is to write and deliver the ‘Excellence’ card, so a quick
visit to the Childcare Department followed by letting the staff member who
updates the library Twitter account know - as it would be nice for the group to
have a mention there too. My next task
is to welcome back Level 3 plumbers, issuing ID cards and introducing them to
an e-book that should help with their studies.
Then, back down the corridor to a class to talk e-resources, upstairs to
work with HE learners to set up their access to online resources and back to
Some day to day activities run
alongside the specific; helping newbies get into the swing of things with the
self-serve and with the photocopier, regular telephone and email conversations
throughout the day with my line manager and other colleagues about staffing,
sickness cover and more (we are a multi campus college with sites throughout
Carmarthenshire), reading mail, preparing reservations for learners to collect,
keeping an eye on tidiness and general house- keeping.
About 2pm I received a request from
a tutor for an e-book - place the order with our supplier – and was delighted
to have the URL before the end of the day - one happy tutor! Also placing
orders during the day to meet the needs of H.E. reading lists.
Getting close to 5pm and I’m
assisting the IT technician to move 12 PCs that are in peril of water damage
due to a leaking roof. Then saying hello
to our evening member of staff and spending some time with her working through
how to add material to our LMS. I will
be staying on after 5 today as an evening induction is planned - it is
important that part-time and evening groups get the same service as those who
are with us for longer or during the day.
At 7pm – a happy group of mature Childcare learners arrive and I talk
them through what we can offer. The last action of the day is to issue 4
children’s books to a computing class learner who has just started learning
Welsh (the first language of a high proportion of our learners in
Carmarthenshire). 7.35 pm is shut down systems, lock up and home!
If you are considering a career in
Libraryland remember that in the F.E .library world it is imperative that you
like people – and not just books! You may be selecting, buying and displaying
your wares in the virtual or actual world - but if you don’t want to spend time
with your service users showing and telling then it’s not the sector for you.
I love both the continuity and the
change and there is plenty of both. The change in service users (you are only
as relevant as you make yourself to your current users) and the change in the
systems, the technology, the product and the educational setting. Getting
between the user and the resource in a digital age is part of what we do. We are
redefining our role and marketing to potential service users, users who are
realising that library services walk alongside them on their learning journey
and the positive impact working with us can make on their achievements.
With a degree in Art History and
Anthropology and learning by doing for most of my working life - I came to a
point a few years ago when I felt I needed to add some background knowledge to
my practice. I opted for distance learning – with Aberystwyth University. What
a joy, excellent packs of things to read and do – and a week of study school
per year. I felt supported, worked
steadily (with some diversion activities and more cleaning than usual) and
obtained an MSc Information and Library Studies - yowser! A nice bit of orange
trim on my gown.