What happens when you no longer work in a library

Vimto Bus

Vimto Bus by Smabs Sputzer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

You know that you’re in a bad place when you look at your web history and see it contains literally hundreds of visits to Reddit, a whole afternoon spent looking up recipes for tinned fish, some videos on how to clean a sofa and suggestions for cocktails using Vimto. Without a full time library job to keep me busy and the only the famously fun library course to look forward to, I have been feeling about as low as Rob.* (And by the way, the only recipe I could find was for a Cheeky Vimto which contains NO ACTUAL VIMTO. My own personal recipe is now add gin to Vimto and mix.)

All my chirpy blog ideas/suggestions suddenly seem irrelevant and obscure; I am quite sure the Past Jen who wrote them was unprepared for how awful it feels to not only leave an amazing job and team but to also see a library closed down.

Screw you Past Jen, I would totally kick you in the face if you were here now (and yeah thanks for eating all that cake btw.)

The original plan was to write a deeply meaningful letter to myself before I embark on this new journey but, apart from that being a totally revolting idea**, I think I would rather document this shitty time and either read it back in a year from a super awesome library job or a mental institution.

So here is my list of observations from when you don’t have libraries in your life. (After a few days of pouting, I did go to my local library to pick up a reservation like a pleb and I had to pay my fine of like 15p before they would let me take it. Is this what has happened in the past few weeks, has the whole system collapsed? )

  1. Don’t actually feel bad for me because I do have a new job working for MMU in residential services. Our office is still being built, so for now we are camped out in a large student study area and without any actual residents to assist, I am doing lots of random admin tasks unrelated to the job I will eventually be doing. But! The team is so lovely and I am excited to actually be helping students again. The issue is that I now have to explain working in a library and doing a library course to a group of non-librarians who definitely think I am super weird. I might just get some cards printed…
  1. I’ve gone from full time to part time work and I am definitely struggling to fill my time. I have become, so very shamefully, addicted to a fake bakery themed Candy Crush game. Not even real name brand Candy Crush for me. When I close my eyes I can see little multi-coloured shapes forming neat rows and I am quite sure I have begun repeating the arbitrary messages of encouragement from the game out loud e.g. “Trés bien Jennifer,” whenever I manage to tie my own shoelaces or get on a bus without falling on any pensioners. Why the game is in cod French I don’t know but then again I also don’t know how you could support a bakery business by relying on the alignment of coloured blobs to ensure your cakes fall into their boxes.
  1. I originally thought I could use this time to get a head start on my course but I took one look at the module list and every description sounded exactly the same. I took this as the ginormous omen of doom it so evidently is – and am just pretending I will innately know how to study a social science without any previous experience. I am sure this will work out fine, I’ll keep you posted. Instead I am taking my last chance for a while to read all of the books. I am doing a year-long reading challenge in an attempt to beat last year’s score.*** Yes, this is my idea of sport and I will never rest until it is recognized as an Olympic event.
  2. I have become a lurker extraordinaire. The library world keeps spinning and lots of the tweets and blog posts I would normally love reading and discussing now seem out of reach. So instead I am sitting in my pants with my fist in a family pack of Quavers and weeping as everyone else discusses radical librarians and the like. I am hoping this will change when it’s Library Camp, or at the very least I manage to get dressed.
  1. Finally, I am mainly moping around because I don’t get to work with the amazing Didsbury team anymore. This was my first full time job that didn’t involve dumping sweaty batches of popcorn on small children and so I might be a bit biased but it was definitely the greatest job ever. If you are thinking about being a Graduate Trainee then DO IT.

To my lovely Didsbury peeps all I can say is HOMER SIMPSON.

To Future Jen, I hope you managed to get something more out of the course than just a piece of paper and I am sorry for the large amount of cheese I plan to consume in the next few weeks.

To everyone else, thanks for reading and hopefully my next post will be less depressing and more library focused.


*Why yes I have binged on four seasons of Parks and Recreation

**please never do this unless you are a seven year old with hopes and dreams

*** if you’re interested, it is on Goodreads and you can add me as a friend yay. 


Gone Terminal

I work at Didsbury library, which is a site library at MMU and in a few weeks we will be closing our doors for good, as the entire site is shutting down. We are  moving to the large All Saints library on the main campus and the departments will move to the new Birley site, forming one mega campus. Map here. More info here.

The closing down of the library is earth-shatteringly heart breaking and it’s a wonder we don’t just spend our days sobbing at our desks. I’ve not even been here a year and I feel utterly wretched, like I’m channelling a character from Mallory Towers who’s been whacked with a hockey stick too many times and all my jolliness has leaked out. Indeed, we are eating our unhappiness in the form of cake, biscuits and ouzo flavoured Turkish delight. If there is anything edible within the building we will find it and we will consume it.

For the staff who have worked here for decades across the whole site, I can only imagine how awful this is. Some people have lost their jobs or retired, but all the library staff are secure for now. Except me (someone hire me please.) The library will be bunking up in the same space as the current library so it’s going to be a tight squeeze. I will be a student there in September so I’m looking forward to making lots of snotty remarks about not being able to find a PC, talking loudly in the silent zone and leaving crisps and old socks in books.

Ian Ransley Design + Illustration (Flickr)

Ian Ransley Design + Illustration (Flickr)

At this time of year, the library seems so empty anyway and most students just want to pay off their final balance, return the last straggling books and then leave forever. There is a definite sense of finality and farewells in the air and every other week we are doing some task or routine for the last time.

Under this cloud of doom, it is morbidly interesting to see how a library is moved. As of today there are 30 working days to go and, apart from some empty shelves, the library kind of looks the same. Except all the cake and people rending their clothes in despair…

The move has been planned intricately on the highest of levels and so I don’t get to see just how much work has gone into this or how long it has taken.

We have been withdrawing items from our main collection – my hands have been stained red with the blood of hundreds of dying books* – and as such I think I have a touch of melodramatic hysteria.

Each person has been given a section and a corresponding list of titles that have not been taken out in a certain number of years. If these are not on reading lists or former reference copies, they have been withdrawn and sent off to be sold or given to charity. This is good (not that anything can ever be good ever again) because nothing is thrown away. And we did get to pick any that we wanted, although when you’re withdrawing ancient textbooks the charm of freebies does dim a little. The books we are keeping need to move to the big library. A company has packed up the Dewey numbers that we don’t really use but have left the core text books for all our courses. These will be moved in the next few weeks as all the courses eventually come to an end. This has been a right ole pain in the arse, as sometimes you don’t know what book is where and it can be tempting to just stick it up your jumper and go and cry in the toilets. Eating some cake of course.

Almost all the printers have gone now, we just have a sad old semi-broken B&W one left. So obviously it’s not all been smooth sailing, as we need more than one printer for the next month or so and at least a colour one at that. In other not-so-good news, staff in our wonderful close-knit team will be separated across offices, departments and managers, and will be facing uncertain roles and futures. At our site library people have a lot of responsibility and in all likelihood they will see their areas of expertise cast away from them. I know we are lucky that library staff keep their jobs and that there still is a library here at all, unlike in the public sector – but it is still an entirely wretched business.

We do get to have some ace parties and I think some former staff that people haven’t seen for years are going to come along. I mean, I have no idea who these random people are but I’m sure they will be lovely. Soon we’re having a party on a barge. Yes that’s right, on a mother fugging BARGE. It could easily be made into a one off BBC drama – Librarians on the Lock. Not sure exactly how a lock works, I just remember Pippin the dog doing a special about them – or was that this episode (symbolic of what is happening to our library, eh.)

My old school closed down** a couple of years ago and I went for a tour last summer. It was weirdly cathartic, especially all the smells; I will never catch a whiff of the sweaty old carpet  in the languages corridor or the waxy pea smell of the hall. It was like a ghost ship; old shoes, worksheets, textbooks, hats just abandoned willy nilly. So when I look around the library and wonder what will happen, how can we ever empty the whole place out, I remember that there will probably be odds and sods scattered about the place for a good while yet. So now please excuse me, I am going to the second floor to commit the stench of dissertation desperation to memory.


* i.e. ink from the withdrawals stamp

**the one where I infamously had to wear a bottle green bowtie for five years, case in point:

Me at school

Circa. 2005

Library Fascism

This post was going to begin with a 1984 Dewey gag but it turns out that 198.4 is parked around the classification for the Philosophy of Scandinavia, which doesn’t exactly lend itself well to jokes. So please just laugh amongst yourselves as I elect myself as Library Dictator. Yes, this does involve some sort of (knitted) uniform, possibly a massive crown and definitely a dictatorial pet bird.

As the Library Dictator (in my own fictional world, not actually been promoted in the most epic way imaginable), here is the official list of new library laws that I have rolled out, severe punishments included.

If you think it’s mean just pop me an email to upmybum@stickit.com and remember that once upon a time dear old Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas so it really could be worse.

Lord Vetinari


  1. Thou Shalt Not Use Highlighters

Crime: The use of the most vile and repulsive stationary item, the neon demon stick. This is the ultimate library crime, involving the desecration of lovely books with mindless scribbles. If you want to highlight books don’t be so selfish and buy them yourself or at least photocopy the pages. There is no defence. If only I could literally point at the  highlighter stained fingertips and say ‘AHA it was YOU all along.’ Yes, it would be like I was Poirot thankyouverymuch.

Punishment: If you are caught neon-handed, only the highest punishment will do. From now on, whenever you sit down to a delicious meal you will be served only the Fish Burger (McFishy?) from McDonalds, which is the ultimate worst item of junk food. You will never eat anything unhealthy and tasty again.


  1. Thou Shalt Also Not Use Those Sticky Markers

Crime: The highlighter for hipsters. I just get so angry when I see a book with them poking out like happy little waving fingers waving at me until you shitting well rip them out and the sticky bits stay behind. Just the thought is giving me a coronary.

Punishment: There will be crumbs in your bed forever. And you will not even get to eat the biscuits.

  1. Thou Shalt Not Return Wet Books

Crime: If your book is wet then you’ve done something very wrong. It doesn’t matter if it is wet with liquid gold or your own bodily fluids. All books should be dry. Here’s a tip – is it raining? Are you enjoying a delicious beverage? Are you in the bath or the sea or a canoe? Put the book back.

Punishment: You will always have a dry chip. No vinegar or ketchup for you. (Yes, these are all becoming food related. No I am not hungry, why would you ask that?)

  1. Thou Shalt Not Bring Kiddiewinks Into The Library

Crime: Having children. Just kidding haha.. We do allow children in the library but if they are under 10 they can’t go upstairs. I don’t have a problem with children per se but it’s those sneaky ones that look 5 years old but are 14 or the massive ogre ones that turn out to be 7. I’m just sick of embarrassing myself asking how old children are. Brand them or something please!

Punishment: Oh lawks I can’t punish the ickle children. Well, maybe they can get a satsuma in their Christmas stocking this year. Yeah take that kids, have some vitamin C.

  1. Thou Shalt Not Use The Word ‘Placement’

Crime: Never is an excuse weaker than when a student says they can’t renew their books or pay their fines because they were on placement. Just typing those horrible letters make my inner hideous witchy crone come out to scream at them. Everyone is on placement, renew your bloody books like a grown up.

Punishment: Whenever you choose a chocolate it will always be coconut – and coconut aint bad but you’ll never have a nice strawberry crème or mini galaxy caramel again. Ha, take that with you on placement.

  1. Thine Mother and Father Shalt Not Phone Up For Thou As If Thou Art A Big Baby

Crime: Self-explanatory. If you are old enough to be in university you should never ever get mummy and daddy to phone up for you, especially to ask if we can wave diddums’ fines.

Punishment: If you like your parents so much they can do everything with you, include go with you on dates, sleep in your bed and shower with you. Yes it is creepy, but necessary.

  1. Thou Shalt Not Eat Thy Delicious Food In Front Of The Librarians

Crime: If I’m hungry (i.e. 90% of my waking moments) then I don’t want to see and smell your delicious food. Hot food is banned anyway so that’s a double whammy of a crime.

Punishment: If you want to eat cold food, pay me a tithe of a good nibble on your flapjack. If it’s hot food then you must surrender it immediately and watch as I stuff it into my big gob.


Good job I’m not a Library Dictator eh, or else I’d be obese.


The Librarian


PS. If you know the mammals in the pictures then let’s be friends 🙂


I visited a health library and didn’t die

I recently spent an enlightening two days learning all about health libraries and I am feeling uncharacteristically optimistic about the field, despite the fact that somewhere out there are libraries that co-exist with MORGUES. Oh library/zombie movie, you just write yourself.

Obviously, I’m a GT and have no actual experience as a health librarian so I wanted to do a bit of myth-busting for those of us who are secretly a little bit afraid of health libraries or completely in the dark about what goes in (insert general anaesthetic joke here.)

If you would like to find out more from real grown-ups, check out the Manchester NLPN’s interview with Jo Whitcombe, the CILIP Health Libraries Group and the NHS list of health libraries in the UK.

My experience comes from attending the LIHNN Clinical Librarian’s meeting, the LIHNN Trainers group meeting and job shadowing an Outreach Librarian at Salford Royal hospital (location of the aforementioned morgue.) I had a fantastic time at all three and would like to thank everyone involved for being so lovely and welcoming.  The camaraderie amongst librarians from what are competing hospitals and trusts actually warmed my frosty little heart. If you are super jealous that I got to and you didn’t, I think LIHNN is looking to invite more visitors to future meetings so get in touch!

But back to more important things – me (this blog is fast becoming the psychology of my childhood.)

My dad is/was a doctor and I have grown up with that vague medical background in which I was given doctors and nurses dressing-up clothes and toys, urged into science, watched squelchy medical procedure videos and had my dad dig various splinters/stones/Polly Pockets out of my feet with nothing more than a rusty penknife. All in all, this has not inclined me towards the medical profession in any way. Indeed, please refer to this beautiful Venn diagram of me and my previous hospital experiences (sponsored by clipart.)


Before I went to Salford Royal, I really knew nothing about health libraries at all and I had generally made it my life mission to avoid hospitals and oozing contagious people.

But as it turns out, much of the same things happen behind our academic library doors.

(And really, there is just as big of a risk of catching something horrendous from a drippy student as there is from a hospital, which is probably a cleaner work environment anyway.)

There are numerous similarities – the main three I have outlined below alongside three differences.

I know you are incredibly excited to scroll down and find out what these amazing points are but wait! It must be said that although there are loads of similarities, the differences are different. Like technically a goat is really similar to a cat but the goatiness of the differences are what matter overall.

Ok, go ahead (similarities first then differences, cos I forgot to do headings):


It didn’t even occur to me that there would be students – students are ours and belong in their natural habitat – so it was a bit of a surprise to hear them being discussed at the meetings. Then at my job shadow I learned just how many there are (well, I can’t remember exactly but bloody loads) and that a large part of the role is similar to that of an academic librarian; inductions, information literacy, teaching and all the niggly things like fines, renewals and missing books. As much as I grumble about them and am dreading being one again, students really do make the job worthwhile so it’s good to know the skills you have in HE can be transferred across.



The way I can make health libraries make sense in my head is to think of doctors (in their many roles) as academics rather than scary people who poke you or share half your DNA. In HE the service we provide for an academic and a student can be quite similar but there are more issues of power and responsibility in play. For example, I would feel more overwhelmed and nervous if a doctor/academic asked me for help than a student simply because they know more, are usually older than I am and are higher up the scale. Of course, most academics don’t spend their days elbow deep in someone’s guts (at least not at work) but I still think the comparison stands.



I spent most of the walk between the tram stop and the hospital trying to spot the sick people. It turns out that they aren’t just streaming out of all the buildings and collapsing in the car parks. In fact, I don’t think I even saw a single patient. More than anything, the hospital looks like a university. Just a hodgepodge of anonymous buildings named after old people, with the same sort of meeting rooms, cafes and signage. Might I even say it was a bit boring – which is a good thing of course – but I was expecting a bit more ER type drama.  When will I learn that TV dramas are not accurate depictions of real adult life?  I was also stupidly surprised that the library looked like a library (duh) with a quiet zone, study spaces, an IT room and even an impressive fiction section. There were even students IN THE LIBRARY, which just goes to show how I can’t help but stick even the most obvious and mundane things in this blog.


Literature searches

These seem to be a common theme amongst outreach and clinical librarians and feel almost wrong to me. I’m so used to helping students only up to a certain point, with the idea that I absolutely must not do their work for them no matter how tempting it is to get out my red pen. So when I learnt that doctors, nurses and even students can email or fill in a form requesting a list of articles and other materials on medical topics, I pretty much had a heart attack right then and there (luckily I was in a hospital…). This is one of the biggest differences for me and something that actually sounds quite interesting and satisfying – and having seen one in action, I definitely feel less nervous about being able to do one myself.


Subject matter

Literature searches are one thing, but the language involved is quite daunting. I have two literature based degrees and obviously never thought I would have to use medical knowledge beyond buying paracetamol and feeling my lumpy scalp to convince myself of a fatal  brain tumour (nope, that’s called a skull Jennifer). Doing these literature searches does involve deciphering medical terms and there seems to be a lot of jargon but when I started out here in an education and social care library I didn’t know anything about those subjects either, so I think it’s a case of learning as you go along. You can’t be a health librarian and totally avoid medical language but you aren’t expected to be an expert either. Phew.



In general it seems fair to say that health librarians work in smaller teams and so their responsibilities are more varied. There is no subject librarian equivalent (as I naively thought)and you are expected to dig into all sorts of things that in HE there would probably be a whole team dedicated to. For example, you might have to create your own slides for teaching, help build your website, process ILLS, run inductions, attend meetings and do stock counts. This freedom sounded really exciting but I think you would need to be quite a self-motivated worker (I would probably end up sitting in the office eating jaffa cakes all day and reading Wikipedia entries about lemurs).

After this brief but exciting glimpse into health libraries, I feel reassured that no body parts that belong on the inside are going to touch my outsides and that the roles out there are varied, interesting, inspiring and really very cool. Go health librarians woo!


This is just a quick note to say that an article I wrote about being a Graduate Trainee has been published in the May edition of Update magazine. Current library people, you probably know this already but it is a magazine for CILIP members only and can be accessed here. Just log-in with your email and password (or y’know, read your fancy print copy.)

Non-library people, I am afraid you don’t have access to the magazine and probably also don’t care! If you are dying to read it though (hi mum, is that you?), I can send you the word doc.

As ever guys – live long, prosper and pay your library fines.

Kangaroos and computers

As a child, me and my sister played a wide variety of games such as teddy hospital, hiking up the stairs with dressing-gown-string ropes and generally running around outside falling into ponds and other large bodies of water. When we got a PC in the mid-90s it wasn’t even that interesting. We had Paint (saving all our art onto floppy discs of course) and we also had Encarta ’95. The main game we could find with Encarta was making slideshows, as this was as close to Paint we could get. As you can see, we were utterly thrilling children. Our fave was to repeatedly make slideshows about Australia because we found this video about kangaroos in which a hirsute Australian man told us very sincerely about kangaroo nipples and teats (obviously hilarious). All in all, this was my main period of IT development until I went to high school and discovered Myspace and pictures of boy bands.*

And so despite these humble beginnings, I have managed to become reasonably competent. It’s just as well, as IT skills are omnipresent on job postings and pretty much a vital part of working in a library. It hasn’t been pretty though, and I am still not sure what skills I need and what I have no chance of ever understanding. Having gone from studying Medieval Literature and poncing around with pretentious books in my hand, many an afternoon has since been spent with me dramatically shaking my fist and screaming ‘why’ at my copy of the Riverside Chaucer. (Sorry Geoffrey)

All this blubbering on leads me to my top IT tips (as if you would ever take the advice of someone who would make the above nippular confession on the internet. Bonus tip – do not do this.)

Know Your Basics

In this day and age, it can be reasonably assumed we all know the basics of Word, email etc. It is surprising however, how secretly utterly shit you can be.

During this job, I have learnt so many little tips about using programmes I assumed I was great at. For example, you know that little button that says delete? IT DELETES THINGS! I seriously did not know this. In my defence, I used my amazing intellectual prowess  to deduce that it does delete – but I never knew that it deletes to the right rather than the left. This is a whole other world of deleting that has opened up to me, just think of the possibilities! Even worse, I learned this when I was helping my mother set up her email and she was merrily deleting things left, right and centre.

Google it

If I were ever in a position to actually pass on IT advice (ha), my main point would be that there is a guide or video tutorial on how to do anything. Sure, the people in these videos might be wearing double denim or talking r e a l l y  s l o w l y but it is generally better to ask the internet your questions rather than the people you work with. This isn’t really a skill in itself however, and I think it is really important for people to know when they need to look up how to do things, where to find this information and how to teach themselves. As an amazing example of this, I googled how to make a gif and stick in WordPress – hence the utter beauty below.


Keep abreast

In my ongoing attempt to be one of those awful smug people who sit at the front of lectures with their hand up, I have formulated my ideal IT skillset to aim for. I am working really hard to learn code, in-between all that important sitting down I have clogging up my schedule. Social media is also really great, as just by using Twitter you can probably use a reasonable amount of skills without realizing. I think through Twitter I have learnt a bit about Prezi and other useful websites,  how to shorten URLs and edit images, and how other librarians are using new innovations in their own jobs.

Don’t be a snob

Please, please, please don’t be tech snob – like the mooing hoards of cattle who decry e-books because they take away that “book smell” and they just love real books so much goddammit. Imagine toasting your bread on a bonfire in your living room because you like that smoky taste or bathing in a pond because you can’t beat the feel of real newts in your knickers. Oh please. Technology isn’t the end of life as we know it! Rather it means there are so many new and exciting ways to help people in libraries get the information they want and surely that can only be good. Unless they are twits in Google Glasses…

What I am trying to say is that coming into the library profession can be knee knockingly terrifying. Suddenly people are talking about all sorts of data and hyperlinks and synchronizing and servers – and it just feels like I will never truly gets to grips with any of it, teetering close to my IT Crowd namesake

And yet this terror is annoyingly like a roller-coaster cliché. It’s scary and it’s fun and it takes you through unexpected twists and turns. With a little bit of enthusiasm and a lot of googling, I think we’ll be alright.

*For any potential colleagues out there – as an adult I choose my video clips using more stringent criteria (although I do enjoy the DDS shelfmark of books written by a Michael Poole.) 

Remembering Booky Bear

I was winding my way through some library sites, looking for information on new professionals when I came across The Library Roots Project , which looked like a jolly good idea. I didn’t recognize many of the names on the site which means a double helping of nosiness for me because a) new blogs to gawp at and b) an excuse to get everyone I know to write one. So here is my route into librarianship in all its inspiring and incredible glory:

The Wonder Years

It’s the early 1990s and everyone is marvelling at Dolly the sheep and Windows ’95 in their slouch socks and stirrup leggings. Well, everyone except me; notwithstanding the fact that I was 7, I was also too busy creating the truly original and not at all clichéd character of Booky Bear for a World Book Day competition. Luckily, the judging panel at Tottington Library were less discerning in their character competition verdict and I won a prize, which I remember consisting mainly of a massive hat. So although I have always been a little reading fiend hoarding those old library tickets, it was that hideous white and turquoise headpiece that alerted me to the fact that libraries were not just rooms with lots of free books in.

Fast forward a good ten years (not much to see, only the repulsive and cruel anguish of adolescence) and I got a job as a library assistant at Layton library in Blackpool. Up until this point I had been merrily visiting my local library on almost a weekly basis but if I could possibly time travel back to speak to grubby little me, I would probably be immensely surprised that I was actually working in a library, rather than y’know churning out best-selling novels whilst tending to my personal zoo/veterinary surgery and my sexy French husband.  (Ah, Pierre mon petit chou….)

But I digress. Working as a library assistant at 17 was an amazing experience. The library was in what they called a ‘disadvantaged’ area, which in practice meant that a lot of our customers came in every day to use the computers, to get DVDs and chat, rather than borrow books. It did radically change my view of what a library was and give me a taste of that bittersweet drug, customer service. Whilst working there I sat my A-Levels and then had to say a lot of sad goodbyes before going to study English at the University of Liverpool.


Three years of sex, books and alcohol. Degree achieved!

MA and volunteering

It took me a while to realise that anyone could actually work in a library as a career, which is the self-same attitude that now pisses me off (note to self, be nicer.) After a failed attempt to work in TV, I decided to do an MA in Medieval Literature at the University of York. This was absolutely the best year of my life so far and it has chagrined me ever since that there are not bucketloads of jobs out there requiring an in-depth knowledge of Old French or The Mabinogion. Seriously job market, what the hell?

What this does bring me to is a general feeling of failure – no novel, no TV career, no PhD, no idea. So I applied for and subsequently did not get, several jobs in both the York Central Library and the University of York Library. This obviously did wonders for my feelings of being the human embodiment of utter loserdom, compounded by the fact I was working in a cinema yet again. However, I did get to hear about being a Graduate Trainee (from @Vixie84) and thought that it sounded amazing. I pulled my socks up, put on my jazziest jumper, and began volunteering in two libraries – York Central Library and the York Minster Library.

I think it’s important to note that actually using libraries ignited and aided the lifelong love of books, reading and writing that I think many librarians feel. This love is something that enriches my life and that I can see myself doing until I drop dead from an infected papercut – but it is not why I want to be a librarian. Actually working in a library uses different skills and an interest in books and reading is really beside the point. I want to work in a library because I believe in the all the valuable things we do, the variety of projects and the busy, interesting and vibrant sphere of discussion and change that librarians promote.

Lucky I think this because…


I am a GT!* This is actually an amazing achievement considering that I talked about vigorous toilet cleaning in my interview.

I luckily got a job at one of the dwindling number of northern universities offering this sort of training (cue funeral march). When I started I was convinced that I would not do a MLIS and instead work for as long as possible as a Library Assistant before somehow magically becoming a librarian. Well good old real life has been here to give me a kick up the bum and I soon realised that you really can’t be a librarian without a degree, no matter how bad the course or how much experience you have. It has also taught me such valuable lessons as No You Can’t Work in Special Collections if You Just Want to Touch the Manuscripts; Do Not Lick Date Labels, They Taste Bad; and Students are not Your Friends.

But for the first time in my life I can say with conviction that I know what I want to be when I grow up** and I am actually very excited for the future. As vague as my plans may be, I am hoping to get my qualification, get a job (please lord) and then maybe do some writing and speaking, in a professional capacity rather than just at home in my pants.



*I won’t drivel on about what being a GT entails, you can bloody well read the rest of this blog for that.

** sadly letting go of the notion that I could be a spy and deleting all of my Jennifer Bond fanfic

Six months

This month marks my six month anniversary of being a GT. Someone else may take this opportunity to write a deep and reflective post about how they have changed as a professional and, dammit, as a person as well. Not me, you’ll have to go elsewhere for that kind of touchy-feely stuff. As I am learning, we don’t always get what we want, like a new Harry Potter book detailing just how Harry, Ron and Hermione turned into such creepy looking adults or a decent LIS course (amiright).

Instead of talking about my feelings, I have come up with a list of the things I now know about working in libraries – and the things I am still totally clueless about. If anyone has the answers to these, seriously get in touch. I can pay you in the librarian drug of your choice; coffee, cats, cake, crafts or crack.

So far, I have learnt:

How to do my job

Yeah, it would be a little worrying if I didn’t know what I was doing by now. Not that I don’t spend some days just staring at the book in my hand, wondering what the hell I meant to do with it – but for the most part, everything has clicked into place. I haven’t been fired yet so hopefully things are going well.

How to write emails

Sometimes it still feels like a minefield – I agonize for hours over exclamation marks and whether I should put ‘thanks’ or ‘cheers,’ only to hit send on an email that someone will take ten seconds to skim. It has become more natural though, and it helps to realize that most people probably feel this way sometimes.

Apart from that one student who emailed me with only the four cryptic words, “I have found them.” I don’t think she has ever worried about how to write an email…


On the first day of my Graduate Traineeship they should have told me to kiss my loved ones goodbye, as from that point on I would have only one major relationship in my life – with the fudging photocopier. If half of the queries I deal with are about fines, then the other half are how to copy, how to scan, how to add credit, how not to die when scanning your own face.* Indeed, you’ve really never felt alive if you haven’t stuck your hand blindly into the boiling innards of a photocopier, risking your fingers to pull out the remnants of someone’s Ryanair booking confirmation.

Librarian stereotypes

As in, nobody really conforms to the stereotype but all non-librarians are weirdly obsessed with it and ask you about it whenever you mention where you work. I’m talking about the idea that librarians are quiet, nerdy, cardigan-smothered battle-axes who ssshh people over the tops of their glasses, before going home to their cats and/or knitting. I didn’t really expect to meet anyone like that when I started at MMU but I thought there might be some echoes of truth. Turns out, not one jot. I may wear cardigans and glasses and tell people to shut up but that’s because I am grumpy, stylish and blind, not because I am a librarian.*

Social scene

There is one! Hallelujah!

Special sellotape

We have special posh sellotape, only to be used to affix spine labels to books because it doesn’t turn yellow and costs a fortune. This is some seriously specialized shit.

Dewey Decimal System

It’s taken six months, but I am now prepared for everyone thinking I have memorised the entire DDS and will be able to direct them to books on their particular subject. In these cases I either point them towards the catalogue or point them towards a random shelf and leg it.


After six months of attempting to use up the entire UK supply of post-it notes, I have realised one epic thing. I am so, so glad I didn’t do a PhD. There are lots of little reasons why not, like the fact that I can see the results of my hard word on a daily basis rather than waiting for years, or that I am finally writing a book, or that I probably would have made a sucky academic anyway. Sadly (ha), the world will never get to read the amazing research of Dr Bayjoo on Medieval Welsh literature but hopefully they will get some use out of a library where Ms Bayjoo works. I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about emotions but seriously guys, I am so pleased that I work in a library as a GT, not as a student. Huzzah!

I have six months to learn about:

What is up with staplers

So what I do know, is that staplers break constantly. How can we live in a world whereby I can carry the entire internet in my pocket and videochat with my sister on another continent – but can’t affix pages of paper together in a semi-permanent fashion. If I don’t become rich by being a librarian (likely), then I will just have to invent a stapler alternative and solve this blight upon our society.


What the fuck is metadata?


I feel like I have told everyone one of our thousands and thousands of library users that they cannot reserve books that are on the shelves upstairs. I do it every. single. day. If I am looking at a career spanning several decades of saying this same thing every day, I am going to need to get myself to a zen-like place or pour Baileys onto my cereal. It’s not so much the repetition, it’s the telling someone that the book they need is upstairs, giving them the shelf mark, and then watching them just walk away because they can’t be bothered to actually pick the book up. The stuff of my nightmares, I tell ya.

LIS courses

I have tentatively accepted my place to study for my MLIS in September. I am both pleased and not pleased, manically veering between both emotions on a daily basis. Watch this space to witness my complete mental collapse.


Why do all the students have them? What the hell is in them? Is everyone just going on holiday apart from me?

Why books are so dirty

Seriously, I don’t know what people are doing to these books but after an hour of straightening or being on the counter, I am filthy. I have gone through two bottles of sanitizer in six months and I’m beginning to fear that the book bacteria are becoming resistant.

Lack of scientists

Where are all the scientists? I thought, coming from a literature background, that I would be in a minority. Surely scientists, with their organized brains and love of data and charts and numbers, would make fantastic librarians – and yet everyone I meet has done some sort of humanity degree. It is great though, to work with people who share similar interests in old books and dead people.


Subtitle: why can people be so mean (sob, sob). I bloody love Twitter, and think that is almost an essential tool for anyone, early or late in their career. Just think of the networking possibilities you could have whilst sat  in bed eating jam with a spoon. Nobody would even know, unless you tweet about it! Yet, some people use Twitter to be mean and it can be a harsh reminder of the fact that even though we are grownups, some of us are still children. And I say this as a person who has tweeted about their own bum.

Thanks for reading – here’s to another six months!


**This is definitely going on my CV

Spoilers from 1984

When I started writing this post in the New Year, I wanted to talk about Janus the Roman god (duh). The dude has one face looking back and one face looking forward, as well as a month named after him, which is something we’ve all dreamed about at one point or another. It was going to be all about resolutions, new starts and learning from the past; about what I have learnt from my recent few months as a Graduate Trainee and how I want to move forward; about how I have evolved as a professional and as an adult. Basically fucking transcendent.

But then something happened, something nobody (even with two faces) could have foreseen.

It’s true guys.

I watched Beverly Hills Cop and it changed my life.

ImageIf you have never seen this film then there are several things you must do:

1. Stop reading and bookmark this page.
2. Watch the film.
3. Spend several days feeling a little bit dirty because you found a young Eddie Murphy so magnetically sexy. Hot damn.
4. Come back and find out how I can possibly relate an 80s icon to being a young library professional.

Now that we have all seen the film, let’s talk about confidence.

Axel Foley has so much confidence about so many different things. For starters, he has the confidence to have a truly stupid name, wear snug blue jeans, make wisecracks to his superiors and have a criminal for a best friend. His self confidence in his looks, his personality and his choices is something we could swoon over for hours – but maybe we should save that for later when we have a nice refreshing beverage in hand and it’s 2am.

What he also has – the far off point I am getting at – is workplace confidence.

Axel Foley is not the greatest cop in the world – just think about that terrible bloodbath at the end or when he takes Judge Reinhold to that strip club. Bad choices. But he doesn’t crack, he doesn’t doubt his instincts and his ability to do the job correctly – he solves that murder and he goes back to Detroit a hero. Hell yeah!

Confidence is a tricky, weasely thing. I don’t think I can even begin to talk about self-confidence, about believing in yourself and faking it until you make it. Hopefully Axel can show us how that’s done.

Having the confidence to go to work and get over our fears and crippling anxieties is one thing – but what about those small crises, the little moments of self doubt that get under your skin and lurk at the back if your mind for weeks?

You want me to do this massive project, do a presentation, solve a problem? That’s ok with me. But in those split second moments when someone is looking at me and asking a basic question, I falter. And the horror lies in the fact that I do know the answer or what to do but I just couldn’t.

In theory I know when the library is open, how much it costs to print and where the seminar room is so why do I doubt myself and lose confidence in my own knowledge in practice. I am hoping that it’s not just me, by the way, that possibly someone else out there is kicking themselves after losing their nerve in the middle of a conversation..?

Alas, alack, there are so many examples.  Whenever someone asks me at what time the library closes and I have to go “errrrrrrrrrrrrr,” whilst simultaneously scrabbling for the opening times website, only to find that I have forgotten what day it is as well. When I am halfway through stamping someone’s books and they asked me when they are due back. Instead of telling them, I sit there slack-jawed and goggle-eyed because I lose confidence in the fact that I could give them the answer by looking at the stamp in my hand. It is these such minute moments where you lose even the knowledge of what you are doing and completely fall to pieces, that I turn to my new guru Axel.

Badass Axel would not let one crack get him down or prevent him from doing his job. He would make a wise guy quip and move on like nothing had happened.

If I were forced to have a New Years professional resolution, then I would say I want to work on these minor meltdowns, in the hope that by looking at small improvements in confidence, I can become a more confident person overall.

And if I were forced to have a personal resolution it would be to watch Beverly Hills Cop II (and to stop cutting my own hair.)

Happy New Year!