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Fanny Bernard, University of Glasgow Library

Category: Blog, Meet our Members

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

I have been a weekend library assistant at the University of Glasgow library since 2010. I work an afternoon shift in Library Services. I took this job when I started studying for a distance-learning MSc in Library and Information Studies. I was working full-time during the week in an unrelated field, so I felt that I needed the practical experience to support my learning. I also needed actual library experience to complete a professional reflection module in second year.  My previous library experience amounted to a bit of volunteering – and lifelong, voracious use as a reader.

This job was a great introduction to the world of librarianship and provided me with valuable experience straight away. Over the years, the service evolved, with more emphasis on self-service and reader-led provision, so the job has changed accordingly. It was challenging at first to learn the job with only four hours a week and rapidly-changing procedures and processes, but after almost ten years, I feel very comfortable in the post and my far-reaching knowledge of the library is certainly an asset.

This job is enjoyable as it affords the chance to do a bit of everything. I spend half of my shift in a customer-facing role where I deal with reader queries, fine payments, membership applications… Our students come from all over the world and I enjoy the diversity. My native language, French, can occasionally be a great help if students have just arrived in Scotland and are feeling self-conscious about their English. This aspect of the job is often high-pressure at peak times like freshers’ week and exam periods, but this is also when the job makes the most sense to me, as I am here to help and reassure those who need it.

The second half of my shift is spent doing back office tasks like processing book-drop returns and holds, fetching items, and displaying daily newspapers. This is the time when I get to go up in the stacks, which I love – eleven floors’ worth of books is my idea of heaven. Roaming the building is also the opportunity to help any students in need. We operate with a reduced staff team at the weekend, so it is useful to be as visible as we can.

The library is open all year apart from the public holidays at Christmas and New Year. Through the academic year the building goes through phases of being extremely busy to extremely quiet, with anything in between. And because there are fewer staff in than during the week, I never quite know what I’m going to be asked or where I will be called to assist, but I like this aspect. It keeps you on your toes!

Despite a distinction for my MSc, my career in librarianship hasn’t quite gone the way I planned, yet, for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless I am very attached to my job at Glasgow Uni and the skills I have gained in the role have supported my main career as an administrator, and vice versa. The fact that it is part-time also fits in nicely with my family life.

Academic libraries have always held a special glamour for me and I count it as a significant achievement that I get to work in one!