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Friday, 14 November 2014

7 - Bethan Lee, Neath Port Talbot

Our latest post is from Bethan, who works for Neath Port Talbot public libraries as Systems ICT and Development Officer.

I don’t remember ever saying as a child, “I want to be a librarian when I grow up!” I don’t think I had a clear view of what I wanted for my future, even after finishing my degree in History. I came back home to Wales, after spending 3 years living just outside London, and spent the best part of a year, trying to work out what I wanted to do with my future professional life. After spending nine months working behind the bar of my local pub, and having several interviews for pub management companies, a conversation with a family friend led me to start thinking about a completely different career path – librarianship.

My friend had completed her MSc Econ in Information and Library Studies from University of Wales, Aberystwyth and had gotten, what seemed to me, a dream job working in a public school in Barnes, London. She absolutely loved her job and sold to me all the positives about becoming a librarian and the merits of the course in Aberystwyth. In the August of 2000, she asked me to accompany her to visit her old tutors at the campus in Llanbardarn Fawr to have a chat and before I knew it, I had applied and been accepted on to the course for September. From pub management to librarianship in one year!

Throughout the course, I realised my heart seemed to lie in public libraries, particularly working with children, and it was within that field that I decided to apply for jobs when I completed my course – this was at a time when the job adverts in the Library Association Record filled about 20 pages! By this time, I had decided to stay in Wales (mainly because I had met my husband-to-be), so when I saw an advert for a community librarian working in Caerphilly County Borough Council, I knew that I had to apply for it and thankfully, got one of three posts.

I started my first professional post in October 2001 and it was a steep learning curve for me. Although university is great at theory, you don’t learn properly about the profession until you start work. I learnt quickly to listen to my older and wiser colleagues, who taught me everything from stock editing to storytelling. As a community librarian, I was professionally responsible for 4 libraries, and it was my role to select stock (on a rota with 3 others) for 8 libraries, stock edit my libraries, and go out into schools and the community to promote the library service. My time in Caerphilly also saw the roll out of The People’s Network in to libraries, which quickly became an area that I was interested in and led me to my next and current position in Neath Port Talbot Libraries.

I started my current position in NPT Libraries in October 2005 and I have been here for nearly 9 years. When I first started my role, my duties were mainly around being the system administrator for our library management system and PC booking system, liaising between libraries and the IT department as far as the purchase and maintenance of IT equipment in libraries was concerned and  maintaining the libraries’ web presence. Over the years, although I am still responsible for those things, my job has changed and evolved, due to retirements and the deleting of senior posts within our library service. My job title has changed from Cultural Services Officer – Support Services (what did that even mean?) to Systems ICT and Development Officer - the development bit means that I can get involved in nearly everything and anything!

I am currently working on several projects for the library service and during a typical working day, I could be dealing with any one of them. To give a flavour of some of things I am involved in, here is what I have been and will be working on this week.

  • Work with IT department and surveyors to draw up an electrical and data plan for the refurbishment of one of our libraries 
  • Arrange for the installation of RFID into the above library. 
  • Prepare for and lead two Technoclubs in primary schools and libraries. (Technoclubs is a project where library staff lead afterschool clubs teaching children elements of computer science, using programmes like Scratch, Hopscotch and equipment such as Lego Mindstorm robots) 
  • Work with corporate communications team to redesign the layout and content of libraries’ website 
  • Continue with set-up of stock selection management tool for adult fiction selection 
  • Select large print and spoken word stock at showroom event 
  • Run and present statistics for the Ebooks for Wales and E-zines for Wales services, which will be sent to all library authorities in Wales 
  • Set up meeting with regional managers of Job Centre Plus to discuss the on-going projects in Neath and Port Talbot Libraries, with the view to expanding into other libraries 
  • Attend libraries’ senior management meeting 
  • Work out and enter new stock rotation patterns into our library management system for large print stock. 
  • Solve the on-going problem with mobile libraries’ data downloads with Information Security. 
  • Deal with queries from volunteers from our community libraries. 


There are some duties that I try and do every day without fail, such as checking and updating our libraries’ Twitter feed and Facebook pages. I also love to get involved with promoting the library service, whether it is at a job fair or at a fairy tale children’s event (hence the green fairy photo!).

I do enjoy my job on most days (we all have bad days occasionally) - what I do is different every day and for the most part, never boring. Best bit of working for public libraries though – enough books to satisfy even my appetite for reading!

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