A personal history
I am at a loss for something to write about while avoiding New Year resolutions, lockdown, or another recap of 2020 (all covered more eloquently by fellow bloggers).
I will instead be recapping UK public libraries in the nineteen-seventies, based on my article published in Best of British magazine, August 2018, having reinstated everything I cut to meet the wordcount – and a bit more.
Library Training in the ’60s
In 1968, I joined our local London borough’s public library service as a trainee librarian.
It wasn’t exactly a vocation. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school. A posh school friend had a Saturday job in the local library. She’d told us the work was easy and the pay reasonable, so when the headmistress asked what I intended to do with my A-Levels, I said I might try for a job in the library.
At once, she was on the telephone to the Borough Librarian. One of his candidates for Trainee Librarian that year had failed to make the grades required to take up her library school place. I did want to be a Librarian – didn’t I?
The borough sent two trainees to library school each year . The Borough Librarian couldn’t reallocate this funding to any other purpose so he was keen to find a replacement, especially as this was the last year the borough would be recruiting trainees.
Already, the UK’s cuts to public libraries had begun.
Traineeship was a four-year commitment, for which I would be paid a salary throughout.
A year’s work experience would take me through the different departments of the library service followed by two years of Library School. I would then work a supervised year as a librarian before I could qualify as a Chartered Librarian. This would entitle me to add the initials A.L.A. after my name (Associate of the Library Association), but only as long as I maintained membership of the Library Association.
My fellow trainee that year had already completed a university first degree and would be taking the one-year postgraduate course at Library School. A postgraduate qualification is now the usual route to librarianship.
(The Library Association merged with the Institute of Information Scientists in 2002 to become the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals – or CILIP. Somehow, MCLIP doesn’t trip off the tongue in the same way as ALA.)
A snag developed when the Library School that usually accepted the borough’s trainees declined to offer me a place on interview. They felt my attitude was ‘too frivolous’ for librarianship, and who’s to say they were wrong?
I’m not sure if it is a measure of the forbearance of the Borough Librarian or his desperation to allocate that year’s funding that directed me to the less prestigious Library School at the other side of London. They must have been as desperate for candidates as the Borough Librarian, since I was accepted for entry in September 1969.