Marjory McKean is Site Librarian of SRUC’s Elmwood campus in Cupar, Fife.
It wasn’t a surprise to a lot of my friends and family that I became a Librarian. However, if you had asked me 10 years ago midway through a degree in Geography what my chosen career would be I doubt I would have said becoming a librarian.
I graduated with my Geography degree in 2007 determined to do a bit of travel before coming back to the UK to embark on teaching. Before the travel could take place I needed funds and so I worked looking after the Book Department in my local WH Smith for 8 months. I had always been a bookworm and I really enjoyed this job, especially helping customers to find books for their purposes. I took great pride in sorting out and putting in a system for all the excess book stock in the basement. So there were clues as to my future profession, I just hadn’t noticed them.
In 2008 after a month-long intensive CELTA course I jetted off to China to teach English as a Foreign Language. I taught on Mainland China for 6 months before moving to Hong Kong to teach in Primary Schools. Nearly 2 years later I came back to Scotland intending to do a PGDE in Secondary Education to teach Geography. I didn’t realise though how badly the recession had affected jobs and the education sector whilst I was away. They had slashed the places on the program to 8 and I was interviewed but didn’t succeed in getting one. In the meantime, I had found a job in Dumfries working on a Sustainable Travel Project and I really wasn’t sure what to do next.
That is when I discovered the MSc in Library and Information Studies at The Robert Gordon University. I was really excited and, although quite a change from a PGDE and with no library experience, I still saw it as a way to tie up my various interests into a really good career. During the MSc I had a fantastic placement with The James Hutton Institute. I also got to spend time at The Rowett Institute and The FRS Marine Laboratory as part of the placement. It was great being able to use some of my experiences from my Geography degree in a library environment and, as I had no prior library experience, it was invaluable. I would advise anyone to either volunteer or find a work experience opportunity and to really make the most of it, ask a lot of questions and try to be involved with lots of different aspects of the service.
After graduating in 2011 I did a Third Sector Internship based at The Boys Brigade Headquarters in Larbert, helping to organise some of their many materials. I also worked as a relief library assistant for Scone Public Library, whilst at the same time I taught freelance English at Tayside Language Centre and did sustainable travel workshops throughout schools in Dundee. At the time it was exhausting and, although I was constantly applying for library jobs, it was looking as though I would have to leave Scotland to find work. Luckily, I received an email from a former classmate who was working at Elmwood College to say that he was leaving and that his job might be opening up. I had previously applied along with my classmate when the job had been advertised the previous year. I was offered an interview for the position the same day as some particularly bad family news but I immediately said yes. A week later I attended the interview and was delighted to get the position of Lead Library Assistant at Elmwood College Library in May 2012.
The Librarian left later that summer after 27 years to embark on a new career and in October that year Elmwood College merged with The Scottish Agriculture College, Oatridge College and Barony College to become SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College). A year after I started at Elmwood I became Site Librarian, Elmwood Campus SRUC. I manage the library here at Elmwood with 2 part-time Library Assistants and I work with a team of people spread over 6 campuses across Scotland. Mergers definitely bring challenges, especially to someone like me who was a new professional, but working as part of a team with a head librarian who is very supportive is a really good way to learn. My variety of experiences help hugely, especially teaching, but my previous degree and interests definitely contribute too.
I was in the right place at the right time, but I got there because of my variety of experiences and constant applications and enthusiasm for education and libraries. For any new graduate, or indeed anyone looking to work in libraries, I think the key is to persevere and use your experiences to your advantage. I have a great teacher stare which I use when the students need to be quiet amongst other things!
Thanks to Marjory – contact her on Twitter @merry_ferry, or leave a comment below.