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Rachel Oldridge

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I read English at university, didn't really know what I wanted to do, wanted to put off the decision as long as possible, and knew I wasn't going to teach or write, which seemed to be the default options. A computer-guidance system suggested librarianship, and having read up on it I was interested - but hugely put off by the need to work in libraries for a year and then do another year's study (this was 1995). I had had enough of studying by this stage, I had a fiance and wanted to get on with earning a living. I half-heartedly applied for some graduate traineeships but when I didn't get them I went on to plan B, which was to move back home and see what turned up.

What did turn up was a job as an Information Assistant at my county Careers Service, which meant maintaining libraries of careers information resources in 3 careers centres. It wasn't rocket science, but I loved it. I moved on to a position running the central resource library for the service, and at that point began at looking for ways to get a professional qualification that didn't mean giving up my job and house. At that point Cilip or LA, whichever it was then, was staunchly hostile to the idea of a work-based learning route to qualification, but luckily University of Wales Aberystwyth were just launching their distance-learning masters, so I enrolled on that and was one of the first cohort.

Unfortunately at that point my personal life went pear-shaped and I left my job and moved to Bristol, where I managed to get a temporary job as a library assistant in a "proper" library and University of Bristol. As that came to an end, my ex-fiance came to his senses and I moved back to Herts to get married, and found another temporary library assistant job at an FE college. Stilly studying by distance learning, I then moved to University of Hertfordshire as an Information Officer (they don't use the L word at UH). Still studying, I applied for every project secondment going and got in on a project cataloguing ejournals. Project funding came and went, I graduated, and still was between paraprofessional and professional roles depending on what money there was. Eventually I got fed up with applying for professional jobs and not getting them; but at 8 months pregnant my dream job at UH came up. I applied for and got it, big with child, but obviously had to defer starting until my maternity leave was up. When I finally reported for work my poor boss could only say "oh" as I announced I was pregnant again. So I had a few months enjoying my job, which was everything I'd hoped it would be, before another stint of mat leave.

I returned from the second mat leave into the middle of a restructuring, about which for fear of libelling someone I should probably say nothing except that I was made redundant. Which seemed like the end of my library career, as it's not easy to pay two lots of childcare out of a librarian's salary and you really can't do it in public libraries at all. So I was over the moon to see an advert for a position at University of Bedfordshire which could really have been written for me. So here I am at last, I still don't have librarian in my job title but I'm managing eresources, cataloguing and learning loads and enjoying it hugely.

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