In under two weeks, I shall be going to Wales. It’s okay, they know I’m coming. I’ve even started practicing spelling ‘Aberystwyth’ correctly in case I’m given a spot test. Aberystwyth. Aberystwyth University. Aberystwyth University where my study school is being held. Aberystwyth University where I shall learn how to become a LIBRARIAN!
In two to five years. Hopefully.
Going to a new place, especially one where I’ll be required to think and interact, rather than spend twenty minutes hugging the walls and then slinking off to hide in the toilets, is scary. It’s fine though. I haven’t done a scary thing in a while and I’m sure to have hidden reserves, like a squirrel before winter. The study school, an important part of my distance learning MA, is, after all, just the start of the Scary Stuff. It’s a gateway scare. After that, comes the hard stuff. Here are a few things I’m afraid of:
Money (lack of)
When I first applied for the MA, the plan was to spend a year or so saving up. With luck, I’d have a few grand in the bank, more than enough to pay for the first modules (thankfully A-b-e-r-y-s-t-w-y-t-h give distance learning students the option to pay per module). That was last year. 2016. There was no good luck. I deferred until the following September. Fast forward to August 2017. I’ve spent the last few days doing my version of sums: ‘If I don’t get made redundant, and if I acquire a taste for powdered soup, and if I don’t have a car/house/life disaster then maybe, just maybe…’ Pursuing a postgraduate qualification is expensive, that’s obvious. The question you ask yourself, as you balk at your account balance, is: ‘Is it worth it? Will it make me happier and more employable in the future?” Answer: I ruddy well hope so.
Graphs (abundance of)
Will it involve… graphs? I don’t know why I have an irrational fear of graphs (or herons, for that matter), but I think they represent things I don’t quite understand, like maths and fax machines. As a public library assistant, I get to do plenty of frontline tasks. I’m well-versed in customer service. I can shelve like a damn pro. But I don’t get to do, or even really see, the nuts and bolts of librarianship. The CILIP conferences I’ve attended, and all the cool library folk and accounts I follow on Twitter, have exposed me to so many different things, all these fantastically clever and exciting parts of the library world that I never knew existed. It’s like reading and loving a standalone novel by a new author and then being told that they’ve written twenty more, series after series. There’s so much to learn. Will I be able to catch up quick enough? Will this course, with its steep learning curve, ever become less intimidating?
Age (excess of)
Let me quote what a dear friend said to me recently:
“I can just imagine the Freshers looking over at you in the bar and wondering who let the middle age woman in!”
Let me now assure you that said friend’s testicle retrieval operation has gone quite well.*
I am 29 years old and I’ve finally figured out what I want to do. Although my late blooming librarianship does not bother me too much — I think it’s one of those careers that people do tend to stumble upon or else can only afford to pursue after years of working in paraprofessional roles — I am annoyed that I’ve wasted so much time. My competitive spirit, my inner Tracy Flick, wants to get ahead, earn a decent salary, gain job security. I want the job I’ll hopefully be qualified for in five years.
Technology (the need for)
I’m writing this on a battered eight-year-old MacBook. It gets very hot, it makes a lot of noise and it has a worryingly co-dependent relationship with its charger. I love it, quite ardently, and dread the day it finally gives up. I have previously used lack of money for my aversion to new technology. I don’t know how to use one of those, I bleat. I couldn’t afford anything like that. While true, this is also an excuse. If I really wanted to, I could figure it out. When my walls got damp, I spent weeks reading up about penetrating damp. I could recite a textbook example of wet rot (less sexy than it sounds). These mental blocks I have — to technology, to unknown sectors, to people — are absolute buggers to get rid of but they are, in a way, what libraries are all about. Embracing them isn’t a desirable quality on the person specification, it’s an essential quality. A big part of this course will be pushing myself to be less small-minded, less scared. Even of the Scary Stuff.
* You know I stole this line from Ms. Perky.