Sunday, 14 February 2010

My library route

This is my contribution to the Library Routes Project. I, too, am an accidental librarian. I remember childhood trips into Edinburgh with my Dad most Saturdays would include a visit to Edinburgh Central Library. More worryingly, I vividly recall 'cataloguing' my own books based on the Browne system used by my local library in Inverkeithing. Which I was recently saddened to discover has been closed and relocated into the town's Civic Centre. Although, to be fair, it was about the most inaccessible library I've ever seen.

During my teenage years I didn't pay libraries much mind. I was an infrequent user, but always held the belief they were a good thing - that anyone could walk in of the street to a public library and avail themselves of their services free of charge. After a few jobs after college I successfully applied for the Library Assistant post at NHS Health Scotland (then known as the Health Education Board for Scotland). And so, my career in librarianship commenced at 9.30 on the 31st March 1993 in a small library of 5 staff in leafy Morningside, Edinburgh. The fact that remember this so well indicates I found my niche.

OK, so initially I photocopied articles and performed various admin duties. But I soon became more interested in undertaking a wider range of tasks. It was by this time I knew librarianship was for me. I enjoyed alot of support from our Library Services Manager, who allowed me to take on more para-professional tasks. I enquired if I could take the BSc(Hons) Library and Information Studies by Distance Learning at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. I started the course in 1997, completing in 2001 whilst continuing to work full-time at HEBS. Summer schools in Aber were a hoot. I met some wonderful friends there. Oh, and I shalln't forget the lock-ins in the Black Lion just down the road from the Llanbadarn Fawr campus.

Armed with my degree and 9 years experience, I felt ready to leave HEBS and so I started as solo librarian at ASH Scotland in August 2002. Looking back, being solo librarian brought its own challenges I hadn't anticipated. Mainly being incredibly busy single-handedly running a small library whilst developing new services (with support from my line manager). Such developments included negotiating access to The Knowledge Network (formerly the NHSScotland eLibrary) and improving the production, content and delivery of a weekly current awareness bulletin on new tobacco control publications. This in turn paved the way for me to produce a 'daily digest'. These bulletins proved very popular and our emailing list included addresses from all over Scotland and beyond.

With this post came a greater need for me to offer user education to ASH Scotland staff. This involved me offering training sessions on database searching and the production of a range of guides to databases and the library collection. A library assistant was appointed about a year after I started which helped share the workload a great deal.

After 2 years I decided I needed a change. A move to somewhere bigger. So in September 2004 I moved out of the health sector and joined the Library at Lauder College (now Carnegie College) as an Assistant Librarian. By now user education was becoming a far bigger part of my role. Giving library tours, lots of 1-2-1 student training on relevant resources to support their course work, and being involved in curriculum group meetings all served to show how important user education was. Looking back, I can see I was playing my part in teaching information literacy skills to our students. I just didn't know it then.

However, development opportunities were limited so I decided to move on, and in June 2005 I joined the Library Service at the Scottish Executive (now the Scottish Government). It was great to return to bigger library, and initially I was with our acquisitions team. With its emphasis on managing the library's document supply service and helping to manage contracts, I felt this was valuable experience. No doubt. But I did miss being on the front-end. In April 2006 I moved to the enquiry team. I've been there ever since. I currently conduct literature searches to support Scottish Government policy, and find myself involved in all manner of tasks to offer and develop information services to such a large and geographically widespread organisation. And information literacy has now become very much a central part of my job. Postings on my blog (hint, hint) will give you a measure of the specifics of the work I currently undertake.

Posted via email from Paul Gray's Blog


  1. Great reading Paul! All very interesting and loved the image of you cataloguing as a child! My dad used to take my sister and me to Edinburgh Central Library in the 1960's where we had to sit outside the Fiction lending section as children were definitely not allowed. (PS You see we do read your post after all!)

  2. Thanks Jenny. Probably reads a bit better now I've corrected all the typos!