My Employment History Part 16 (or how I ended up working in a library)

Part sixteen in a series exploring my work history, revealing how I ended up working in a library. This post: library assistant.

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I worked as a shelver for a few months before getting a job as a Library Assistant, and my hours increased to working four evenings a week and every other Saturday. A shelver shelves books, but what does a Library Assistant do? I was on the front-line, serving library users at the Circulation Desk; checking items in and out, collecting fines, issuing new library cards, handling reserved items, and answering general questions like Where is the restroom? In a nutshell, I was providing customer service.

Simultaneously, I was still studying part-time for a degree, and during the day I was a stay-at-home dad, taking care of my young son while my wife worked full-time. Juggling household chores, childcare, classes,  writing essays, and going to work was challenging but manageable. However, I then had to start work on my senior thesis, and we discovered we were having another baby, due around the same time as my thesis deadline. Every moment of my day was taken up with something; time became a precious commodity.

It all came to a crescendo in Spring 2013; I finished my thesis a month ahead of time to ease the pressure, I became an American citizen, and then our second child was born, arriving on graduation day (needless to say, I was at the hospital with my wife rather than at college collecting my degree). My wife had six weeks’ maternity leave before going back to work; now I no longer had any study deadlines to meet, but instead I had a two year old and a newborn to take care of during the day, followed by my shifts at the library in the evenings. This was a different kind of tired.

However, despite the tiredness, I really enjoyed my job. I was on the committee that organised social events for library staff, I helped devise and implement a campaign to promote the library’s new Blu-ray collection, I contributed to writing circulation procedures, and genuinely enjoyed getting to know the people that used the library. I would have been happy to stay in that job, but my wife and I decided to relocate to the UK.

Part seventeen to follow.

My Employment History Part 15 (or how I ended up working in a library)

Part fifteen in a series exploring my work history, revealing how I ended up working in a library. This post: turning a page.

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During that first year of being a stay-at-home dad, I returned to college part-time to work towards completing my Education and Museum Studies degree. It was a requirement to undertake an internship in a museum-related position, so unlike my classmates who went off to spend the summer working in museums in New York, Chicago and other exciting places, I secured an internship with the local historical society, and spent a couple of hours there once a week. The only way I could do this was to take my young son with me, and although far from ideal, I was able to get work done while he played on the floor with his toys. I was very lucky; he was amazingly well-behaved, and as long as I wasn’t too far away, he kept himself entertained, while I read through dusty old files, trying to create an efficient way to cross reference the information contained within. Around the same time, I also had to do a collaborative project in the community, to fulfill an Education course requirement. I chose to create four museum programs, which involved me taking objects from the college campus museums and presenting them in the public library as educational events. (This later evolved into the subject matter of my senior thesis, but that’s a topic for a different, much longer blog post.)

By the time of my son’s first birthday, I was ready to find a part-time job; I knew that I needed something else to focus on that was neither baby-related nor college-related. I applied for all kinds of things, including working in Target and Walgreens, just to find a job that would somehow fit in with my wife working full-time and me taking care of our son full-time, while also studying for my degree part-time. Even as I write this, it seems like madness, but I was desperate to find something else to do, while earning a few dollars.

A Library Page position was advertised at the public library. I had applied for a couple of jobs at the local public library before, and hadn’t got anywhere, but I thought I’d give it another shot. Firstly, though, I had to figure out what a library page was; surely a page belongs in a book? Thankfully, the job description revealed all; a page is simply the American term for a shelver (someone who re-shelves library books after they have been returned). Now, I thought, even I can do that, so I applied. I knew that I was over-qualified for this position, and doubted that I would get an interview, but I had become known in the library due to my museum project there, and I was very familiar with the library thanks to all the storytime sessions I had been attending with my son. I was very happy to be invited to interview, and even happier to be offered the job. I worked 12 hours a week, shelving books. Yes, it wasn’t the most interesting of jobs, but I loved working in the library. The money I earned went straight into paying for childcare so someone could watch my son while I worked, but for the pure escapism those 12 hours provided, it was worth it. My life had become incredibly busy, juggling full-time parenting, a part-time job, being a part-time student and still doing all the reading and essay  writing, as well as undertaking college projects, but I was happier because I had a job in the library, and who knew where it might lead? What I learned from being a page: shelvers provide the backbone of the library, and without them, nobody would be able to find anything.

Part sixteen to follow.

When a book review advocates for libraries

via The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain review – what the Bake Off winner did next | Books | The Guardian

The link may seem tenuous, but stick with me. This book review, for a novel by Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain,  is actually advocating for public libraries, and how they help shape lives and fullfill dreams. There’s an extract below, please click the link to read the full article.

Somewhere in your town, probably in a chilly corner of your library, if you are still lucky enough to have one, is a child. They are by themselves, bespectacled probably; not wearing the trendiest clothes. And they are reading and reading and filling their head with nothing else but books and words and new worlds. They have a dream; that one day books will be their life. It seems unlikely, but there it is. And it is wonderful.

*The description of the child as “bespectacled probably; not wearing the trendiest clothes” is an unhelpful stereotype at best, and in my opinion, the article would have been better without this sentence.

The Future of Library Cards, via American Libraries Magazine

The Future of Library Cards is an article by Kaitlin Throgmorton,  published in American Libraries Magazine, discussing the introduction of digital library cards, and the potential benefits they offer. An excerpt is given below, but click the link for the full article.

If libraries are the door to knowledge, library cards are the key. Once a mere slip of paper bearing a patron’s name, the library card is evolving into a technologically sophisticated tool that can help patrons access information more quickly and easily than ever before.

At many libraries, digital “cards”—which usually consist simply of numbers that patrons use to access digital items—have become standard. The Harris County (Tex.) Public Library (HCPL) introduced its version, the iKnow Digital Access Card, as a way to “reduce as many barriers as possible,” says Library Director Edward Melton.

IKnow card holders can access the library’s digital collections—including ebooks, streaming video and audio, magazines, and research databases—within minutes. Acquiring an iKnow card is as simple as registering via an online form, which is viewable only within the state of Texas, and which accepts only registrants who have ZIP codes in or adjacent to Harris County. Currently, nearly 50,000 people, or about 4% of HCPL’s total patrons, hold an iKnow card.

a quick plug…

Forgive me, but here’s a quick plug for my other blog Re-memoira place where I share more autobiographical-style pieces of writing. You might recognise a few bits and pieces from here…

My Employment History Part 14 (or How I ended up working in a library)

Part fourteen in a series exploring my work history, revealing how I ended up working in a library. This post: being a stay-at-home-dad and discovering the joys of storytime.

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It’s been a while, so here’s a brief re-cap: I moved to the US after marrying an American, became a full-time student again, and had a part-time job working in an art museum. Then one day, my wife gave birth to our son, and suddenly we were parents…

American maternity leave is not as generous as British maternity leave, so just six weeks after the birth, my wife returned to full-time work, leaving me at home with our new baby. This wasn’t a complete surprise; we had discussed what we’d do if we had children, and mutually agreed that my wife would continue to work full-time, in a job that she loved, while I stayed home. Hence, I had to quit my museum job, and took a semester off from my degree course, with the intention of going back part-time at the start of the next semester.

Becoming a parent is life-changing; suddenly there is this helpless little stranger, who you have instantly fallen in love with,  living in your home and needing all your attention, all the time. It is truly magical. It is truly exhausting. At times, it is truly disgusting. In those first few weeks alone with the baby, I would set up camp on the couch; a stack of snacks on the coffee table, some DVDs, a pillow on my lap for the baby to sleep on, and everything I needed within arm’s reach. The baby would sleep, wake up to be fed and changed, then sleep some more.

What on earth does this have to do with my career path? How is this relevant to how I ended up working in a library? Well, there was a small group of local parents that got together once a week for breakfast, followed by a visit to the library. This, as you will see, is how I found a new appreciation for our local public library. Meeting with this group of parents became my main (sometimes only) social event of the week. I first joined them when our son was six weeks old; we met up at a local diner for breakfast, and then took our gang of young children over to the library for storytime.

I carried my sleeping baby into the children’s area and sat down with a large crowd of other parents and their young children. An enthusiastic, smiling, happy lady greeted us with a song; “Welcome, welcome, it’s time for a story! Welcome, welcome, we’re glad to be here!” I appeared to be the only person in the room who didn’t know this song, so I looked on, bewildered, as everyone else sang along and did all the sign language actions. I felt like I had inadvertently wandered into an episode of Sesame Street, and expected Big Bird to come striding into view at any moment. I felt very British and out-of-place; the sleep deprived part of me was thinking what am I doing here? My baby boy is six weeks old and asleep, I could be asleep too. But the sane part of me, the part of my brain that was desperate for some social interaction, was thrilled that I was there, because this was a new experience, and there were all these other parents to talk to, and how wonderful was it to be a part of something like this instead of being home alone? Like the song said, I really was glad to be here. I had no idea at the time, but a year after going to my first storytime, I would have a job working in that library.

Part fifteen to follow.

My Employment History Part 13 (or how I ended up working in a library)

Part thirteen in a series exploring my work history, revealing how I ended up working in a library. This post: curating art exhibitions.

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Why is this so hard to write? I’ve hit a wall. When I worked at an art museum, it was my job to literally hit walls; well, at least drill holes in them and hammer in nails so I could hang pictures up. I was employed as a student worker, to assist with installing (and then removing) temporary art exhibitions; my title: Student Exhibitions Coordinator. I loved that job; I got to put into practice the theory I had learned from my Museum Studies classes, I had the artistic freedom to install exhibitions and use my own judgement to make best use of the gallery spaces. It was wonderful. My main task was to coordinate an annual exhibition of art by local artists; I had to collect submissions, recruit judges, and curate the exhibition itself. I’ll never forget one of the judges one year asking me who had curated the exhibition; he was amazed that a student had done such a professional job. I enjoyed the whole process of curating a show, and was lucky enough to work there for about 18 months. I had to step down, however, in order to undertake perhaps my most important role yet: stay-at-home dad.

Part fourteen to follow.

Library as Laboratory – How can Libraries exist in the future?

Leon's Library Blog

The following guest post has been received from Bedford Creative Arts. The post highlights how libraries and arts can collaborate successfully and provide a powerful and positive experience for users.

Library as Laboratory – How can Libraries exist in the future?

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Bedford Creative Arts has been exploring new ways that libraries can evolve for the future by bringing together artists and libraries. The result is five pioneering projects created by eight artists, ranging from festivals and performances to slot car championships.

The project is funded by Arts Council England Libraries fund and sits in the context of the government spending review which has brought about cuts to spending on libraries by local councils. Libraries are now looking at what services and community offers they can provide in order to stay open and working with other local organisations like BCA is a way to deliver this.handbag-credit-andy-willsher

Library as Laboratory is a brand new…

View original post 970 more words

My Employment History Part 12 (or how I ended up working in a library)

Part twelve in a series exploring my work history, revealing how I ended up working in a library. This post: back to school.

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So here I was, a full-time student again, in a foreign country, at age 34. I went from having nothing to occupy myself with, to suddenly having a full schedule of classes to attend, lists of books to read and assignment deadlines to meet. How exactly did this happen?

A few months after moving to America, I made the decision that I wanted to be a teacher. This thought had been bubbling under the surface for quite a long time; ever since I had taught English in Japan, I’d been toying with the idea of doing a course to convert my degree to a teaching qualification (in the UK the course is called a PGCE, and takes a year to complete). I even got as far as filling out a course application form, but lingering doubts kept me back from actually submitting it. Now, in America, I suddenly regretted not having that qualification, and tried to find a way to get it. My wife worked at a small liberal arts college, and suggested I meet the Education faculty to see if they could help; free tuition was available to me as the spouse of a college employee.

The college didn’t offer a fast-track education qualification; instead I had to enroll to do a full Education degree, which would take four years to complete. However, I was able to reduce this by transferring in credits from my earlier Media Art and English degree, meaning I could graduate with a new degree in Education & Youth Studies in about two years.

For the most part, the classes were engaging and I appreciated the variety of new experiences; I read stories to young children at an after-school club, supported middle-school students in their study of classic children’s literature, helped disadvantaged teenagers complete their high school diploma, completed an internship with a charity that supported neglected and abused children going through the legal and social services system, taught lessons at elementary and middle schools, and wrote more essays than I care to remember.

Alongside my major in Education, I also declared a minor in Museum Studies, a subject that I had serendipitously discovered a passion for, which in turn, led me to my next job. What I learned from this experience: sometimes it feels like you are in completely the wrong place, but it turns out you are exactly where you need to be.

Part thirteen to follow.

My Employment History Part 11 (or how I ended up working in a library)

Part eleven in a series exploring my work history, revealing how I ended up working in a library. This post: not working in America.

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My visa was finally approved, so I moved from England to America to live with my wife. It was a conditional visa, so I couldn’t work straight away, which meant that I suddenly found myself living in a foreign country with nothing to do except be a husband. To some, this might sound wonderful; imagine being a house-husband with the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want, with the added bonus of exploring a foreign country at the same time. However, I wasn’t living in New York or San Francisco or Seattle or Chicago; I was in a small corner of Wisconsin with no idea what to do to occupy my time. I visited thrift stores. I bought a bicycle. I baked cookies.

I remember walking downtown to the public library, with my official documents to prove that I was eligible to get a library card. The lady behind the desk probably had no idea how much that library card meant to me; here I was, in a new town, in a foreign country, unable to work, with lots of time on my hands. That card gave me access to  free books, free magazines, free music and a place to hang out when I had nothing else to do. More importantly, it made me feel like I was a proper citizen in that community, it gave me a sense of belonging.  I didn’t know it at the time, but within a few years, I would end up working in that library, alongside the same member of staff that issued my library card that day.

Part twelve to follow.