Aileen Hamer – St. Luke’s Science & Sports College, Exeter

Aileen HamerHow did you first get into the information and library profession? My husband left the Royal Navy and trained as a teacher. He got a job at St. Luke’s High School and that’s how we heard that the school library needed someone to help out at lunchtimes. I applied and got the job on a sharing basing with another mother. We both had young children and working a couple of lunchtimes per week suited us perfectly. That was 14 years ago in January 2001 and the job just grew from there. After 4 years I was promoted from library assistant to library manager and I have been there ever since. I originally trained as a nurse but stopped to have my family.

What qualifications did you take? I was awarded ACLIP in February 2008 and then in 2013 I gained a certificate in libraries, archives and information services followed by the diploma in libraries, archives and information services in 2014. I am now compiling my MCLIP portfolio for submission in 2015.

What is your current job title? I am the Library Manager and I am the Health and Safety coordinator for the school. I also carry out admin support for the deputy principal in her work training new teachers. I do all this over 3 days per week.

What does your job involve? I am responsible for the day to day running of the school library all through the week so all managerial and budgetary decisions come to me. I have 2 assistant librarians who also work part time and opposite me so the library is always manned. Key stage 3 students have fortnightly reading lessons and we use the Accelerated Reader scheme in the library. I maintain all the library databases and computer programs and plan all our events such as author visits and World Book Day. I choose all our stock and plan the library layout and design, also displays around the school.

In my health and safety role I am responsible for the day to day management of health and safety across the college so all accidents and damage are reported to me. When I took that role over it took a solid 6 months getting it straight but now I just have to keep an overview.

Admin for our trainee teachers is mainly arranging meetings and observations for them with key staff so is quite straightforward. I am also a class tutor two mornings per week.

Can you describe a typical day? I start the day with my tutor group taking the register and sorting any issues the students may have. Once lessons have started, I catch up with my emails and deal with those. Students are coming into the library throughout the day to borrow and return the books so any tasks I am carrying out tend to take twice as long to complete.

If we have new stock in they need accessioning, cataloguing and shelving. Keeping the library tidy is a never ending task as the students seem incapable of putting books back where they found them. There are ongoing issues with our LMS and VLE presence and this takes up large chunks of my time. Dealing with overdues and arranging special events are cyclical but take a lot of time to plan properly.

The library is open to the students at break and lunchtimes so I have to supervise them and make sure they are not using the computers inappropriately. They can do their homework or coursework but there are always a few trying to play games. We have some timetabled lessons which we offer our support with helping students to find the information they are looking for.

What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional? Having the ability to explore the wide range of information sources in this technological age and be responsive to people’s needs. One needs to stay abreast of technology to be in the best position to offer support to users.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? Be flexible and prepared to carry out a hugely vast range of tasks. It is what you make it so immerse yourself and enjoy. In a school library, if I was to just to sit at my desk and wait to be asked, I would have a very boring job. You have to get out there and get involved in the life of the organisation. Be invaluable.

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