One of my first jobs was as Saturday Assistant in my local library. I loved the whole feel and smell of the place and the regular customers I saw each week. I also worked extra hours over the summer holidays running the children’s activities, which was such fun and really sparked my interest in promoting reading and literacy. Although interested in the library sector, I went to college and studied the BA (HONS) Hospitality Management. With a low threshold for boredom and a love of change, my working career over the last 18 years has been very varied – which has given me a wealth of knowledge and experience in many areas.
After a career in restaurant and training management, then retail management, I worked as a self-employed childminder, whilst my son was young. I missed being part of a team and the challenges management brings, so decided to return to Libraries. I secured a post managing a busy public library, and then progressed to managing two different libraries as part of a council project, to see if dual library management was viable. I was very lucky to have some inspirational women line managers that were very supportive and helped me regain confidence after being self-employed.
About seven years ago, I decided to switch my job again and work in education. I initially started work at City College Norwich as an Employer Partnership Consultant, designing and delivering training for employers. It was great to return to the campus that I lived on when completing my degree – in fact, from my office window, I can see my old bedroom. An opportunity arose to manage the College FE and HE library and I quickly had to get to grips with academic libraries. This role progressed quickly and new departments were added to my remit, such as enrichment and events and a wellbeing zone for students.
I also spent several months covering for the Director of Student Services whilst she was on maternity leave. In 2011 I was awarded “Leader of the Year”, which was a great honour – if not excruciatingly embarrassing to stand up in front of the College to receive it. I am not a limelight kinda gal! One huge advantage of working at the college is the opportunity to gain further qualifications. A requirement of these posts enabled me to gain the Diploma in Teaching, QTLS, Assessors award and recently the Award in Teaching for Language and Literacy. I am always studying for something – just never a typical “librarian” qualification. To remedy this, I am working (albeit slowly) towards Chartership!
The college saw a significant change in 2012 when a federation was formed and all non-teaching staff were transferred into a shared service company. My current title is Head of Library Services for NES (Norfolk Education Services) which is part of the Transforming Education in Norfolk group. The TEN Group is a federation of educational institutions in Norfolk, all committed to excellence in education. The theory is that the shared services company takes care of all administration, leaving the Principals free to focus purely on teaching and learning. My role involves sitting on the Senior Management team of NES and I work directly for the Managing Director. Things are constantly changing and evolving as we get to grips with all the different establishments.
It is a busy role, as I currently oversee 9 libraries, including a Junior School, 4 Academy libraries an FE college and separate HE library and a newly opened University Technical College library. One of the great things about my job is that there is no typical day. I love being in different places, meeting different people and thinking on my feet. My working day usually starts at 7.30am, when I can make use of the quiet office to catch up on emails and prepare for the day. There is a lot of driving between sites, but I enjoy being out and about. I am currently working on some new projects – one of which is to set up a shared library management system for the whole group. This is no easy task and I am lucky to have been able to set up an experienced and forward thinking team to work with me. I am a great believer in giving others opportunities to excel, even if it means they eventually leave to go on to better things.
I try to keep regularly in touch with each “customer” as I offer a bespoke service for each library. The Customer is normally the Principal or Deputy Head. I also keep in regular contact with the team on each site, as many of the Academy Librarians are lone working and I strive to make them feel part of the team. We have set up a blog newsletter and Skype sessions. It has been great fun collaborating with others and setting up shared events. A key change to my current role is that I now need to generate income for the group. I have lots of ideas, which I shall be trying soon. Watch this space.
The skills that I think are most important for today’s information and library professional are being flexible and adaptable. Never settle, if things aren’t going right, think again and try something else. Try to be as engaging and entrepreneurial as you can. My motto is “challenge, change and drive it”.
I am always horizon scanning to see what can be adapted for my customers and am not afraid of taking risks. If something fails, learn from it and move on. The worst thing in my mind is to become stagnant for the students. I also believe anyone can achieve what I have. Experience is not a substitute for qualifications, but it has really helped me over the years. I still get sneered at for not being a librarian, but I haven’t let this stop me. If fact it spurs me on! My advice to anyone considering a career in Information Management is go for it.
I am happy for anyone to visit or contact me – send me a message through the blog!