Here’s the truth: I work in a library but I am not a librarian.

You see, not all library staff are librarians.

To be a librarian you need a specific library qualification, usually a postgraduate master’s degree in librarianship, information science or library science. I have none of these things.

I started out as a shelver in a public library in the United States, working 12 hours a week when I was a full-time stay-at-home dad. I moved on to the position of Library Assistant, in the same library, working 16 hours one week, then 24 the next, which at the time, fitted in with my parenting duties while my wife worked full-time.

After a couple of years in that library, we relocated to the UK, and I started working in my current role, as a Library Assistant in an academic library. For a while, I toyed with the idea of perhaps pursuing a master’s degree in library science, but since I already have two degrees (one in Media Art & English, the other in Education & Museum Studies) it seemed unrealistic, not to mention unaffordable, to go down that path.

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navigating library careers

The other consideration is that working as a librarian is not currently the most secure of jobs, in this climate of budget cuts and library closures. In an ideal world I would love to work in a public library, and yes, get qualified as a librarian, but right now that is not going to happen.

There are arguably more opportunities, and greater funds available, in the academic field, but to be honest, working as an academic librarian does not interest me. If I were to become a librarian, it would have to be in a public library, where I would feel most passionate about my job.

For now, working as a part-time, semester-only library assistant fits in well with family life; I am able to spend a lot of valuable time with my primary school age children, and can take care of them during the long summer holidays, but I know that I am treading water, putting my own ambitions aside to focus on my family and their needs, like so many other parents. My wife chose to work full-time and I chose to remain at home, and I have no regrets about that.

The academic library that I work at will be closing in a few years, due to campus relocation, so who knows what I will be doing then. I’d hate to leave libraries behind, but if there are no suitable jobs I’ll have no choice.