Friday, 23 January 2015

14 - Jane Sellwood, Merthyr Tydfil

Our latest post from Jane at Merthyr Tydfil Public Libraries, illustrates what a constantly changing environment libraries can be.
I sort of fell into Librarianship, it certainly wasn’t a career path I had ever considered! I was 18 and had just had dreadful results on my A-Levels, although it wasn’t all bad as the Sixth Form was definitely the best years of my school life. We had a fantastic time, just forgot to do any real work associated with our courses.

I saw a part time and full time post advertised in the local newspaper and while I couldn’t face going back to school to re-sit, thought the local college would be a good option and if I did a bit of work along the way, I would have some money as well. This was a plan.
I turned up at the interview and to tame my then very long very curly hair had decided a bun was the best option, coupled with my glasses I am amazed no-one thought I was taking the mickey!! I had only ever set foot in a library once in my life before this interview although I was an avid reader (note to any people looking for library work – don’t say you love reading and want to write a book, we are all pretty much sick of hearing that! Tell us how you enjoying interacting with people, enjoy helping others gain new skills and more of that ilk).

The same day I had a call which offered me a part time post in Treharris Branch Library, to start as soon as possible. I was delighted, because part time would be so much better for me to keep up with my studies.

Needless to say I started work and never went back to college. I loved the Library which was a small but busy branch with the usual clientele. A table full of newspaper readers and a number of elderly users who babied me as the ‘new little girl’. It was a fantastic working environment, with great staff and lovely customers. It was this that drew me to taking on as much overtime as possible and forgetting all thoughts of going to re-sit my A Levels.
Two years later I got married, and the year after had my first child. An opportunity then came up for a full time position in the Central Library and I was on the move. Another baby came along and so did the opportunity for a promotion to a supervisory level. Staff management was a new concept but one I enjoyed.

Merthyr Central Library
Another two years later saw a fantastic opportunity come my way and I decided I would start to study for my degree via distance learning in Aberystwyth. By now I had two small children, five and almost three, a full time job, a home, husband and all the fun that comes with that! Possibly not the wisest time to start a degree.....

Three years later with the degree over had also seen me move into a trainee role, then once the degree had come through, a permanent position running the Central Library. Certainly a challenge but again another job I loved doing. Organising rotas, work patterns, building management, stock management, organising events, organising activities, Summer Reading Challenge, Story and Rhyme and so much more. Never a dull moment – in fact rarely a moment to catch a breath!
Two years later all change again, with another promotion and a change of role. Although for a while I covered two roles (and I thought I had been busy before...). I became a sort of second in command to the Head of Libraries, although my title was Customer Services Librarian, and then another two years later saw our Head of Libraries retire.
Absolutely the start of one of the most intense periods of my working life, as the offer on the table for retirement packages was very good, a number of staff who had many years of knowledge and expertise decided the time was right to leave. This meant a full re-organisation and for me culminated in my current role of Principal Librarian (no longer called the Head of Libraries role) and writing the first report for the Welsh Public LibraryStandards of my career.
Now my role is very different from the halcyon days in Treharris Library. During my time as Principal Librarian (or general dogsbody as the role is also known) we have had a turbulent time. The first three months saw a refurbishment bid to CyMAL for the Central Library to the tune of £350,000 and a closure of almost four months. On returning to re-inhabit the building the state of some of the collections was discovered with stock not catalogued, photographs in just one large muddle and many other issues. This is now in year three of a five year plan.....

Treharris Library
Next came a bid to refurbish another of the Libraries, one very close to my heart, in Treharris. Reserve list for this so rested back and thought we would have a bit of breathing space but no – suddenly offered the money and on to sorting that out. One evening at home during this time I mentioned to my husband the lack of provision of service in themed area of the valley. He happened at the time to be the manager of the leisure centre in Aberfan and there was born the idea of a new library. As so many things often are in Libraries, this was to be done on a shoestring with little funding available. The room was drab so a couple of coats of paint and some of the old shelving resurrected and myself and another member of staff had created a library – not a bad effort in a week, especially as we did all the painting ourselves!

Time passed in a whirlwind as I got to grips with the role I now do, but then we were knocked sideways by the massive cuts to Local Authority spending and we had nowhere to cut other than our mobile service and staffing. These were the hardest times I have been through as we went through a compulsory redundancy process and lost staff who I had worked with for many years. And now we are likely to move from the Local Authority to a newly formed Leisure and Culture Trust, so all change again.
One thing I can honestly say is that I have never been bored in my career, never had a lack of things to do, always been interested and never regretted a single day of being who I am and doing it the way I have.  So three marketing awards on, three library refurbishments under our belt and very good achievement against the Welsh Public Library Standards later I am looking forward to the next challenge. There definitely will be one, as I don’t think a year has gone by when Libraries and the services we offer haven’t changed in some way.

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