CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Pamela McLean, St Ninian’s High School Library, East Dunbartonshire Council

Category: Meet our Members

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

I’m a school librarian. Most Mondays during term-time I deliver careers sessions to S2 pupils and I always start by asking: “who knows what they want to do when they leave school?” Out of a class of 25, usually only 4 or 5 put up their hands. The rest don’t know yet.

I didn’t know when I was their age either. All I knew was I wanted a job that helped people and that I enjoyed. While studying for my undergraduate degree I got a job working as an occasional hours library assistant with Glasgow Libraries. I spent the next 8 years working across all of Glasgow’s public libraries, with a permanent post in Partick Library and then Hillhead Library between 2008 – 2011. I realised in 2011 that I wanted to make libraries my professional life: that’s when I joined CILIP and started researching library schools.

I completed my MA in Librarianship at the University of Sheffield between 2012 –  2013 and successfully applied for a professional post at Inverclyde Council, where I worked as Learning Services Librarian between 2013 – 2015. I loved my time there, working with a fantastic team that provided learning opportunities to adults across Inverclyde. It’s a small authority compared to Glasgow but I learned an incredible amount about professional library work in that role, applying for funding, managing projects, carrying out self-evaluation and contributing to the work of public libraries nationally by participating in SLIC’s Digital Champions group. But I also got to do frontline work, helping people in our 1:1 technology drop-ins.

I was very lucky that Inverclyde Libraries supported me when I undertook Chartership, giving me the time to build my portfolio and visit my school librarian mentor in her workplace. The advice to choose a mentor from a different library sector gave me an insight into an area of library work I had never considered up to that point. I gained Chartership the year after I left Inverclyde Libraries and without it I wouldn’t have my current job: I would have had neither the sector insight nor the qualification I needed.

I love my job. My school is incredibly supportive of the work the library does and I’m part of a team of school librarians who made me feel very welcome from the outset, and who were very generous with sharing their time and experience. Although I know it can be an isolating job for some, I have never found it to be, although my previous public library experience was crucial. Without it I would have found it very difficult to manage all of the different aspects of running a library on my own.

It takes all the best bits of public library work – frontline service, book buying, reader development, learning opportunities, project work – and combines them with getting to know a school community, working with departments and showcasing what the library can offer young people in the way of the curriculum, career management, literacy, reading for pleasure, research skills, digital skills and health and wellbeing.

It’s both a challenging and exciting time to be in school libraries – challenging because of the current climate of cuts, but exciting too, especially with the publication of the National Strategy for School Libraries in Scotland and the opportunity to apply for School Library Improvement Funding from SLIC.

Being a member of CILIP has also given me access to funding to attend conferences, and the opportunity to join the School Libraries Group Scotland committee. I love being a school librarian, and my CILIP membership has been instrumental in getting me here.