First lines are always the hardest lines to write.
Now that’s out-of-the-way, I can begin.
I have been a (public) Library Assistant, on and off, for the best part of 8 years.
I have always had – well, once I’d failed to receive funding for a PhD proposal (which, even now, hardly seems fair; I firmly believe that the single biggest cause of the economic crisis was this rejection of an in-depth study into the socio-historic contexts of 1920s/30s blues & country records) – a vague sense of wanting to “progress” within the Library sector; whether that be to, say, a Librarian role, or some other equivalent role that has not yet been dreamt up because the sector seems to be mutating before our very eyes.
Either way, I’ve never been entirely sure how to go about that “progression”. I’ve lacked a coherent “theory” of libraries, a compelling narrative sense of what libraries are about and what I alone can offer to a sector undergoing such rapid change.
I thought I had the answer 5 or 6 years ago when – pace Al Gore – I invented the Internet.
OK, so that’s not entirely true. Instead, I suggested this to my then-employers (which, back then, was slightly more cutting-edge than it seems now. There was also a MySpace page, but I guess that’s long-gone).
I had a head full of ideas after that, new ways to expand and develop our Library into the exciting new world of Social Networking. This was it; this was the future. And I was going to have, if not a starring role, at least a role.
But, instead, fairly brutally and fairly randomly (and for reasons not worth going into here, though it was connected to the aforementioned non-PhD), I just left the Library. Left and moved, from there to where I work now.
It took me the best part of 2-years to progress from part-time to full-time in this new employment. Which meant “career development” in any real sense was not exactly top of the agenda. I still had ideas about how public library services could develop; still had a desire to affect that development; but I lacked the physical-temporal proximity (i.e. I wasn’t at work enough); the influence; the confidence; and the mindset to insert myself into the relevant power nexus.
But, now I am working full-time in this sector and I am ambitious (within fairly constrained reason) to develop myself. Opportunities – internally, at least – are limited. But it appears there is more one can do.
As well as being an exercise that could be profitably utilised in the context of the ACLIP portfolio – demonstrating an independent commitment to CPD, an engagement with the wider library community – I was also drawn to CPD23 as a way to, let’s be frank, force myself to develop some of those skills (blogging, tweeting, etc) that are essential for the modern Librarian (though it would be disingenuous to say I’m entirely like a virgin with those tools, as we shall see).
Which is where this blog comes in. It will aspire to be CPD23 from an ACLIP perspective – a record of work done, for reflections on that work, and as a way to develop and demonstrate specific skills. So, this is “Thing 1” right here – I’ve created a blog and I’m going to write up on it. I’ve got no expectations that anyone – for now, at least – will either read or respond to what I write here – but I’ll do it anyway and see what may come.
One potential development: the blog will, in time, become a “peg” on which to hang continuing professional development post-ACLIP – by providing me with a forum through which to engage with the wider library community and a place to clarify thoughts on aspects of the service and my role within that service.
The blog title – “Just Another Library Assistant” may seem unnecessarily self-deprecating, but it reflects my increasing feeling that – even after eight years – I still haven’t found my “place” in the library community; that I haven’t yet clarified why I am a Library Assistant, or why I would want to be a Librarian.
What particular set of skills, or approaches, do I have that would set me apart (not necessarily above) other Library workers? What is my unique contribution? My USP? This is something I hope to address soon, in a specific blog post, but also more generally through my ACLIP work – and my continuing professional development beyond that. Libraries – public, at least – are something of an endangered species and it seems to me that each of us need to identify what exactly it is we bring to the table as “professionals” in this sector; what value we can add as individuals in our dealings with our customers. This is something I need to consider more deeply than as yet; or, at the very least, to articulate what I may already know below the surface. But that is for another time. So –