Reflective Log: The middle of the night in late October. Because I’m a student now.

Hello! Long time no speak! I ended my last post by saying I’d do a reflection of the year, and Master Procrastinator Kates has done an excellent job of putting it to the back of their mind.

So here I am, sitting in my tiny student room at gone midnight, feeling guilty for not having done anything productive this evening, so I’m making a start on this post. Not entirely sure what to put in it, but we’ll see what happens. I’ve got a folky band playing quietly like I used to when I had a really long mundane task to complete, so I’m feeling pretty nostalgic.

The last year. Well. Where do I start? What a great year! I was on a train back from Bradford after my interview when I got the phone call offering me the job, and I was so over the moon that the entire carriage knew about it. I vaguely remember that my Facebook status saying ‘I GOT THE JOB! I GOT THE JOB! I GOT THE F*CKING JOB’ is my most-liked status of all time (which says a lot if you have any idea quite how excessively I post…), and rightly so! The journey started that day – within a week I was back up finding a flat, and the following week I moved up from Essex and began work.

Actually, I know it’s poor form to change writing style mid-whatever, but I’m going to make lists instead. Otherwise this is going to turn into structureless drivel (as opposed to structured drivel…). Here goes.

Things I learnt over the year (not a comprehensive list, we’d be here forever)

  • I WANT TO BE A LIBRARIAN!!! Okay, so I already had a good idea that this career would probably suit me, but was in definite need of experience and confirmation before ‘committing’. The last year taught me that I have definitely found my future – I’ve not narrowed it down to specifics yet as I’ve got lots of different ideas of library directions that I could go, but I am excited to have chosen this path, and I will blog about my masters in due course.
  • Databases. I now know what they are. God knows how I managed to get a first in my undergraduate dissertation, because I sure as hell didn’t do database searches (and have since found the perfect journal article that basically sums up the entire thing. Doh!). I am now clued up on searching techniques, how databases work, health databases!, finding good stuff, and how to teach this to students. Hurrah!
  • Referencing tools. I had no idea about the existence of these, although I’m glad I didn’t use them during my first degree because quite frankly, referencing is FUN. One of my favourite tasks in the year was proof-reading various referencing guides, and I took far too much enjoyment in those… I also think it’s important that students learn how to reference properly for themselves before ‘cheating’ with EndNote, but can see how it makes referencing massive documents a lot quicker and easier.
  • Publishers are evil. There. I said it. I have learnt all about the hideous cycles and catch-22s between publishers, libraries and academics over the course of the year. I was shocked over and over and over about journal prices, that libraries have no choice but to buy for their students, and how this is totally exploited by the publishers. I have continued to learn about how publishers are evil already on my masters course (a topic for another time, perhaps).
  • Misconceptions about what it is to be a librarian. I experienced this throughout the year, experience it even more now as a library student, and will continue to experience it for the rest of my life. The pure shock that you need to be qualified to be a librarian. The lack of awareness of what a librarian actually is. The freaking stereotypes! I will undoubtedly write something on this topic at some point this year, probably when I finally flip at yet another suggestion that I’m getting a masters in wearing cardigans and shushing people.
  • I like tea. Couldn’t resist but to put this after my stereotyping rant, but I discovered I like drinking tea. I had never drunk tea before starting at Bradford, but upon arrival I was offered it so often that I bit the bullet and it wasn’t bad after all.
  • I enjoy doing the hideously mundane and repetitive tasks that many others can’t stand. Yep. As a GT I was given a lot of things to do that consisted of hours of repetition and not a lot of thought. And I was okay with this! Data entry, measuring kilometres of shelves in increments of 10 centimetres, all good fun. Probably won’t shout too loudly about this upon getting my next real job though.
  • Stuff gets thrown away! Something I’d never thought about before last year, but with the arrival of new stock, old stuff has to go. And no, it’s not ‘wrong’. It’s to help create a better library (and to make more space…). I actually think I might be a bit too pro-chucking after this year.
  • Cataloguing and classification. I know about these now (not in great detail, but a darn sight more than I did before). And they’re fun. MARC tags, subject headings, the inner workings of the DDC. I imagine it’s the same part of me that likes referencing that gains enjoyment from these. It’s like detective work, and I’ve also found it’s given me a leg-up in my masters, because no one else in the class has done any of these things before. I hope I get to do some cataloguing in my future career, although more than a couple of hours at any one time is probably too much!
  • Special Collections is interesting but not really for me. I learnt a lot about what Special Collections is and what the librarians do (my previous knowledge was zilch), and I enjoyed having the chance to contribute to a couple of projects and to learn about preservation (again, I had a big leg-up in our preservation and disaster management lecture last week). But in reality, I just don’t have the wider knowledge needed and the enthusiasm to learn about special parts of and people in history. I’d rather be up and about in the rest of the library. Sorry Alison, but thanks for everything you taught me!
  • I have the ability to surprise myself and feel proud of my work. Things like helping students with more advanced queries than I could ever have dealt with at the beginning of the year – and enjoying doing so! Things like giving 40-minute presentations to a room full of people and not dying halfway through.
  • The job is what you make it. There were a lot of people with the same basic job title (i.e. subject librarian) but everyone had different interests and took on different roles within the library – whether it was through participating in a working group, seeing where something was missing or could be improved and creating the service (e.g. library on location), or creating an obscene number of spreadsheets just because you could. Even as a lowly GT, I still had a certain amount of autonomy – I was able to create my LGBT history month display upon requesting to do it, and I chose my own project (no matter how much I despised it by the end of the report…). I hope that I get a certain amount of autonomy in my future career.
  • I like librarians. I had the opportunity to work with some amazing people. It’s a month today since my last day there and I don’t miss it any less. If I dwell on it for more than a few seconds, I get quite upset (definitely not crying as I write this…). I hope I made some lifelong friends, and if I’m honest, I’d love to go back and work there again. I genuinely felt like the people there were a family to me (I had about 15 mothers, a few siblings and a weird uncle or two) and I wouldn’t swap the last year for the world.

What else am I going to take away from the year? I need to continue to work on not letting my anxiety levels get the better of me – I won most of the time, but there were a few occasions when I could have tried harder.  More generally, I need to stop constantly worrying about what other people think about me. This often got in the way – for example I would never contribute to a big group discussion – and I still find myself looking back and imagining I was incredibly immature/annoying at times, and consequently kicking myself for it. Finally (and rather relevantly), I also need to try not to be so harsh on myself all of the time – I’m only human and shouldn’t expect to get everything perfect all the time. If I slip up, there’s no need to dwell on it and bully myself, I just need to learn and move forwards.

There are lots and lots of other things I learnt over the course of my traineeship, but that’s probably enough for now – you don’t need to hear about the time I spent over 5 minutes trying to figure out how to lock my office door.

If anyone from Bradford is reading this (I honestly have no idea who actually reads this blog), thank you for the last year.

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One thought on “Reflective Log: The middle of the night in late October. Because I’m a student now.

  1. We miss you, kiddo xxx

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