Sunday, 14 August 2011

Story of my life

Thing 10 is about "routes into librarianship". Is this where I tell you the story of my life? Oh dear... I hope you're sitting comfortably!!

I am French, and did my degree in France. The education system is obviously slightly different than the UK one: as far as I am aware, there is no straight 3-years librarianship degree. But there are ways to get there! So, right after my "A levels", I did a Diplôme Universitaire Technologique (DUT) [lots more words in French in exact degree title] specialising in libraries. This is a 2-year degree, which included modules on communication, management, classification, cataloguing, event organisation, etc. and work placements, that made me a qualified librarian. I then did a 1-year degree, called licence professionnelle, to get the 3-years equivalent to a bachelor's degree in the UK.
In France, each village or town or city has (or not, if it is really tiny) its own library service. The smaller ones are supported by the Bibliothèques Départementales de Prêt (BDP) which have a département-wide (equivalent to a British county) remit. Unless they work in a firm, librarians in France are fonctionnaires, which can be compared to the civil servant status. A fonctionnaire has a greater security of employment and usually good work conditions compared to someone working in the private sector. However, to become a fonctionnaire, one has to sit a sort of exam called concours. The problem is, especially for library positions, there are far too many applicants for too few posts, and therefore few people succeed (e.g. latest ones my French friends attended had a ratio of 200 applicants for less than 8 posts) - this is partly due to the fact that the library concours are usually open to anyone who is degree-educated, even if they have never worked in a library before. Once one has passed this test, they will work either for a local authority or for the state, depending on which concours they got. If a librarian does not have the concours, their contract in a public library, a university library or at the National Library can only be short-term. Only the fonctionnaires working in these organisations are permanent.
I hope that makes sense... and that you can see why I am glad I moved to the UK!

As part of my licence professionnelle, I had the opportunity to spend a semester at Northumbria University as an exchange student and to do my work placement with Newcastle Libraries. I got a job as a Library and Information Assistant at Newcastle Libraries right after I finished my degree, and I am still there! I was lucky to arrive a year before the new City Library opened, and therefore saw and participated in many different things. However, I feel that my library assistant shoes are getting a bit tight: I would like to do more! I have a library degree, I can do more than what I am currently doing, and I would love to have more responsibilities and learn about new things... That's why I joined CILIP: to progress in my career. And as soon as I have been a member for a year, I will be looking into registering for Chartership.

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