Jessie Linardi Nicol works part-time in an FE college in Glasgow. She combines this with building up her own translation business.
After completing a degree in languages and spending two years working as an English Language Assistant in Spanish state schools, I had high hopes of starting a career in translation once I got back to Glasgow. However, in-house translation jobs were scarce and the thought of starting a freelance business filled me with dread, so I turned to another field that I’d always been drawn to: library work.
While completing the Postgraduate Diploma course at Strathclyde University, I somehow managed to get a (very) part-time job in as an Information Assistant in an FE college library in Glasgow – I was only working six hours a week but it was a foot in the door. Amazingly, I’m still there four years later, but with increased hours. I also spent a brief stint as a Library Assistant in an independent grammar school library but it turned out that corralling teenagers was just not for me!
I should mention that for the last several months, I’ve been working fewer hours at the library in order to build the freelance translation business that I was so afraid to start a few years ago. So far, I’m enjoying being back in touch with languages, and I was surprised to discover that the two disciplines actually feed into one another more than I had thought they might, especially in terms of developing subject knowledge.
Although my ultimate ambition is to work in a language library or information service (like the University of Glasgow’s Language Centre Library or SCILT), or become a subject specialist, these sorts of posts are rapidly dying out in light of budget cuts and restructuring. Fortunately, my work in the FE college library is extremely varied and I can get a little of my language fix by helping out students who are learning English or those who are studying foreign languages in the evenings.
Here’s a typical schedule of mine:
This is time in the back office designated to things such as administrative or routine tasks, general upkeep and training. Each member of staff is part of one of three core teams: Resource Management, Digital or Information Literacy. I’m currently on the Resource Management team (although I was a member of the Digital team before), meaning that I deal with the print resources life-cycle – selecting / ordering books, processing, cataloguing, shelf-tidying, weeding etc. At the moment, I’m responsible for sifting through staff and student resource requests and ordering any reasonable ones (six back issues of an art journal we’ve never subscribed to is not a reasonable request!) then making sure these items get to the appropriate person when they arrive and are processed. In the past, I coordinated serials and also catalogued. Every member of our team will soon be trained in all three of these roles to ensure they can still be carried out should anyone be absent.
1300-1700 (with a couple of short breaks in there somewhere)
A colleague and I spend the afternoon staffing the service desk, which is usually busiest between 12pm and 2pm.
Students ask us all kinds of things: to book onto computers, to buy our very budget-friendly stationery, for help with our intimidating-at-first-glance printing system and photocopiers, how to get MS Word to co-operate (I sometimes advise them to just look it up online…), to change their account password, and for subject information.
Because of the huge range of courses offered by the college, the library has to cater accordingly. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve helped students find information on psychometric tests, retail display, construction regulations, professional IT bodies, 1960s textile patterns, medals, strength training, Frida Kahlo, LGBT advocacy and human resources.
However, it’s not all rosy! Following some major restructuring, we no longer have any dedicated IT support for the library, so a fair proportion of our time on the desk involves attempting to lessen the impact of niggling technological problems. It can be frustrating for both students and staff alike, but we do all that we can to work around any issues to avoid inconveniencing students.
1700-1900 (overtime shift – once a week)
The library is open until 7pm four days a week, so we take turns at staffing it alone for the extra two hours. It’s much quieter in the evenings than during the day, but it’s often the only opportunity that many evening-class students have to use the library, as many of them work full-time.
After tidying up a bit, turning everything off and making sure I’m not locking anyone in I head off home.
Thanks, Jessie, for writing about how it is possible to combine working in libraries with another career. If anyone would like to comment or ask Jessie more about this, please reply below. She is happy to follow up by email, or follow her on Twitter @LinardiJ.