I have previously written a blog post on my main blog about my route into librarianship as part of the Library Roots/Routes project, and will be no doubt writing an update later in the programme (for Thing 20), so for this thing I'm going to discuss specifically my graduate traineeship, my masters degree, and my plans to charter.
My graduate traineeship was at University of Wolverhampton from September 2005 to August 2006. I'd just finished my first degree (BSc Hons Sports Science from Bangor University), had moved to the Wolverhampton area for my partner's job, and was interested in learning more about being a librarian. It was my first full time job and I absolutely loved it. I had a fantastic boss (who I still keep in touch with, she's an amazing mentor - more on that in Thing 11) and was able to try my hand at lots of different things. I was based in a team of science librarians supporting applied sciences, engineering, computing and maths. As my background is in science/maths I was in my element. The traineeship year was more like a paraprofessional job really, though I did get the opportunity to go on training courses and I spent a few hours with different teams within the department.
I loved the flexible nature of the job - no two days were the same. As I began to learn more about what it was I was really interested in, I was able to support the information literacy teaching and was given responsibility for some of the more technology focused initiatives of the team (e.g. developing our VLE presence, using online tools to help with planning). I had regular meetings with my boss and she often gave me new tasks or projects to do but she gave me the freedom to approach them how I wanted to. I learnt so much during this year, and it definitely helped me realise that I wanted to become a qualified librarian.
I started the MScEcon in Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth University in September 2006 via distance learning. At the time I had managed to secure a part-time position at a different campus at University of Wolverhampton so I worked 4 days a week, and studied the rest of the week.
I found the course a little overwhelming to begin with; the study school was really intense (a packed week of lectures all day and social activities every evening), and when I got home I felt a little lost - there's so much to get your head around in terms of how the distance learning works before you even think about the content of the course! I soon got into the swing of it though and really enjoyed most (not all, I confess!) of the taught modules. There was a LOT of reading, both in the module pack and the extra required reading. I recently recycled the printed journal articles that I'd read - one of our kitchen cupboards was full to the brim with them all piled up! I found it weird to not have deadlines - it made it very difficult to stop working on an assignment as I don't think you are ever totally happy with something (or maybe that's just me).
I completed the postgraduate diploma section of the course by October 2008 and started my first professional librarian post the following month (at another different campus at University of Wolverhampton!). The dissertation, however, took a little longer. I wanted to take a short break to settle into my new job, but I started getting involved in other professional activities and I found it very difficult to get the motivation to work on the dissertation. I seemed to work in bursts for the next two years - I'd really focus on it for a few months, then send a chapter to be read by my supervisor, and whilst I was waiting for feedback I'd lose my momentum. I had a final deadline of September 2011 so this year I finally focused on it and I completed it a few weeks ago. I should get my grade in December.
I did find distance learning difficult at times - the flexibility to complete it in your own time is great when you're motivated (some people who started the course at the same time as me wanted to complete the full course in a little over a year whilst still working full time), but when other things happen in your life it can be difficult to spend time studying when you don't have to. I also missed the social side of being a distance learner, although I did meet some people local to me and we met up every few months for a natter which was good. I definitely think having a support group of some sort is useful - sometimes you need people to chat to about an assignment or just about the course in general.
I have always been keen to continue my professional development. I've been working on developing skills such as presenting at conferences and organising events, and I'm committed to supporting our professional organisations such as CILIP and ALA (and of course I'm also doing CPD23!).
I'd now like to prove this commitment and further develop my skills by chartering through CILIP. I'm going to learn from my mistakes though and I'm actually taking a proper break after studying this time, so I won't be starting my chartership straight away. I've been chatting about my plans to charter on Twitter, and fortunately found a willing volunteer to mentor me. She's not yet taken her mentor training but I already know she'll be an awesome mentor. Hopefully she'll be able to do the training next year and I'll be able to begin my chartership journey next spring/summer. In the meantime I'm going to start finding out more about chartership and think about starting to collect some evidence (I'm hoping to develop a wiki for the basis of collecting evidence as part of Thing 13).