The making of a science librarian

June 22, 2010

@gigglesigh asked “when and why did you decide to become a librarian?”

It’s a long story. Are you comfortable?

I went straight from school to a BSc, ended up majoring in Botany and lost motivation around the beginning of my honours year. It should have been a clue that my lecturers were urging a gap year and I couldn’t think up a project of my own but did one my supervisor was more interested in than I was. Anyway, I didn’t do so well but after that did work as a research assistant on a taxonomy project in Sydney for a couple of years. One good thing that happened from my honours year was meeting hubby. In fact we met through another student of my supervisor’s so even though my honours was a bomb I would not have had the life I have today if I hadn’t done it. (My kids know this story well- the lesson is that failure is not necessarily failure in hindsight.)

The research project finished at the same time as the early 1980’s mining downturn and I worked for the Commonwealth (Telecom) for a time to qualify for a mortgage while hubby was contracting. Then he got a permanent position with a mine in Broken Hill. I worked at a few different things there for a while (Dairy lab, geophysics fieldy) then ended up back with the Commonwealth government in the Broken Hill Social Security office. The work wasn’t great but did provide some benefits. It kept me occupied and they had maternity leave provisions and supported part-time work. (From that experience I know just about everything on the “dealing with difficult clients” front.) They also provided free job counseling.  I knew I couldn’t stay there forever so I took advantage, did some hard thinking and skills analysis. I also read a bit. I would recommend this book for anyone contemplating a career change. It helped me.

I was focusing on my organisation skills and what they could be applied to but other transferable skills sprung to mind. My training in taxonomic Botany meant I think in hierarchies and classification just comes naturally. And it was always the literature search phase of a research project that I enjoyed the most.

So I decided to give librarianship a go. Curtin University offered external studies and I started a graduate diploma in 1991. I did a couple of units and then withdrew. I was trying to combine it with maternity leave and the infancy of Ms-now-18. This was also pre-web and some of the assignments assumed access to an academic library when I only had the local remote rural public library. In late 1994 hubby got a job in Perth. I was pregnant with Mr-now-15 at the time and again on maternity leave. I worked in the Social Security call centre part-time and when he was old enough for longer day care I reapplied. Curtin let me back in 1997 and even gave me credit for the couple of units I had already done.

The rest, as they say, is history. But the experience in Social Security may explain to you why I prefer not to work in a public library.



3 Responses to “The making of a science librarian”

  1. Penny Says:

    Heh – I decided 1/2 way through my BSc that I didn’t want to take it to post-grad work because of the focus on “cell&molec” that was the burgeoning trend at the time. I was interested in the bigger picture and that was no longer trendy so finding someone to do post grad work with wasn’t lookin’ good. I also did taxonomy papers and have an abiding interest in herbariums.

  2. Hoi Says:

    hey thanks for the tips about Social Security, I shall not read about that till I leave the public library one day. =)

  3. […] a small theme may be occurring today, so let me share my story of becoming a librarian with you as […]

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