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Theresa

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I read history at university, graduating in 1974. I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do afterwards: all I knew was that I was getting married within weeks and moving to London. Within a month I had moved from my cosy undergraduate life in the city of dreaming spires to the harsh realities of a couple of grubby rented rooms off the Archway Road and no job. I set about looking for employment (any). These were hard economic times (not long after the three day week for those of you who remember) and graduate opportunities were few and far between. In addition, my new husband had only just started as a pupil barrister and would not be able to earn anything for at least 6 months. After three months of searching I landed an admin traineeship in the Borough Engineer’s Department of an outer London Borough. Every morning and evening I commuted for an hour and a half in the opposite direction to everyone else. It is a miracle that I survived being trampled to death each day at Liverpool Street! The job was grim, particularly the bit spent working in a wages depot housed in a Portakabin. However, after about 6 months I was promoted to the post of assistant to the Project Manager. It was my job to collect data on the progress of engineering works and prepare it for inputting into a program designed by my boss which was run on the Council’s mainframe computer: basically, I was a data prep clerk. It wasn’t very interesting work but it was bearable. Until, that is, my boss left and was replaced by another about whom it is best that I say nothing. Suffice it to say, I started looking for other employment soon after his arrival. It was at this point that I spotted an advertisement for a library assistant post with the Polytechnic (now University) of the South Bank. I was interviewed and appointed. The minute I walked into the library on the first day I knew that I never wanted to work in an office again. I spent a happy year working in acquisitions and was encouraged to apply for Library School (UCL) from which I graduated in 1977. On completion of my M.A.Thesis I returned to PSB for a few weeks in a temporary position (working for someone I had previously trained!). Then I landed the job of Librarian of The English Folk Dance and Song Society. The money wasn’t much but, as by this time, we had moved the Camden Town, I could walk to work and I got to work in a lovely building with lots of old books and ancient recordings. I met some really interesting people. The Chairman of my Library Committee was the widow of Ralph Vaughan Williams. I also got really into the music and met some major figures on that scene. For three years I was very happy but in my heart I knew I had to move on – all I needed was a prod and that came one weekend when the venue was hosting a gathering of members: it was 8 o’clock on Saturday night when one of the delegates expressed surprise that I was not planning to come in the next day because the members were (of course, for them it was a hobby). Shortly afterwards, I went for an interview at the Middle Temple Library and arrived to be told that the post I was applying for (cataloguer) had been frozen: however I was still interviewed and told that the Librarian would be back in touch if/when it was unfrozen. Months passed and just after I got back from another interview for a job I thought I would get, I received a phone call from Middle Temple asking me if I still wanted the cataloguer’s job. I asked for a little time to consider, was told I couldn’t have it, so made a decision which turned out to shape my future career: I accepted. Needless to say, a couple of hours later I received a call offering me the other job – such is life; in retrospect it is clear that I made the right decision even if the other job would have been fun! I had been at Middle for about a year and a half when the Librarian of Gray’s Inn died suddenly (at an age which I am now approaching …). Shortly afterwards, a notice appeared on the staff notice board at Middle asking anyone who was thinking of applying for the Gray’s Inn job to contact The British and Irish Association of Law Librarians. Out of curiosity, I wrote and was advised of several reasons why I should not apply: only one of these concerned me: the salary. A few weeks later, the post was advertised at a more appropriate salary and this time I did apply. That was 1983. I got the job and have been Librarian of Gray’s Inn ever since. It could be said that subsequently I have neglected my career but to be honest, the only ambition I had once I got to Middle Temple was to run an Inn of Court Library and I got to do that by the time I was 30. Add the fact that I have had three children, a divorce and a major illness and been welcomed back each time and I reckon I have no regrets. I have a lovely working environment, everything from mediaeval manuscripts to the latest technology. The work is interesting and varied and my staff are brilliant. I even get a free three course meal every day – what more could anyone ask?

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