CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Alison Leslie, National Library of Scotland

Category: Meet our Members

This blog is part of our Meet our Members series, focusing on different members and their careers.

I am Alison Leslie, and currently work as a Maps Assistant in the National Library of Scotland. Working at a national institution has enabled me to gain a breadth of experience without having to change employer – Official Publications, Legal Deposit Cataloguing, Enquiries and Reference Services, Acquisitions and the Map Library.

Today I see a lot of new professionals starting off on temporary contracts.  That’s exactly how I started, and how I expanded my skills and knowledge.  A foot in the door is far better than looking in from outside.  Until I got my first permanent post 6 months later, in Legal Deposit Cataloguing, I was still applying for jobs. I was looking for a change when the maternity leave cover in Acquisitions was advertised and decided to try it out.  I thought that if I didn’t enjoy it I wasn’t going to be stuck there forever.  I did enjoy it, and the time flew by.  My time in Maps started off with a request to Reference Services staff to volunteer for extra Saturday shifts.  My friend and I decided it was a good way to save for our holidays.  We were given a few tasks to do, and I found my interest growing.  I didn’t get the first Maps job advertised, but I was offered the job share post of the successful candidate.  Job sharing can be tricky, making sure you’re up-to-date with your work in one unit before going back to the other, but again I was learning new skills.  Extra funding was secured to help the Library meet a strategic aim and I became temporary full-time in Maps, with my job-share posts to go back to at the end of the contract.  Near the end of this contract one of my colleagues retired, and I was thrilled to be offered their full-time and permanent post.

Working with maps every day has been a revelation.  They are not just a way of finding your way from A to B. They bring history alive.  During listing projects it’s very interesting to see how towns and cities are developed over the years.  I deal with personal visitors to the Library, as well as remote enquiries, shelf-mark new acquisitions, take part in creating small displays and participate in special projects that contribute to the Library’s strategic aims.  I’m also a trade union health and safety rep, first aider, member of the Health at Work Group, and a member of the CILIPS East Branch Committee.

When I graduated 20 years ago I had no other thought than to work in a public library.  After graduation I volunteered in Duns, Galashiels and Berwick-upon-Tweed public libraries, spending one day in each every week in order to gain experience.  This led to getting added to the relief list for the Scottish Borders.  During this time I was given a variety of different projects to work on , as well as carrying out the standard issuing, returning and re-shelving.  I had always said I would go where the job was, and the National Library job took me to Edinburgh.

My CILIP membership has provided me with a support network through good and bad.  It has also been key to helping me stay in touch with Library World outside the National Library.  You only get out of your membership what you put in.  Getting involved in East Branch, and attending conferences, has put me into contact with people from a wide variety of backgrounds I would not otherwise have met.  I don’t look on CILIP membership as an “extra”.  To me it’s an integral part of my career.