I started work at a private school at the beginning of an Autumn term. My new position as Girls’ School Librarian was more about keeping an eye on the pupils than developing the collection. The library was located in the girls’ school building, but it served boys and girls in both primary and secondary schools up to Sixth Form. An unsupervised Sixth Form library was located in the boys’ school wing – presumably the remit of the ‘School Librarian’, who was a longstanding senior teacher.
I was proudly introduced to an already ageing BBC B computer, clearly surplus to teaching requirements, on which a member of the computing lab had installed the library catalogue. The system didn’t go as far as issuing books to pupils though. Loans were still recorded by book cards in borrower tickets filed in wooden issue trays.
My predecessor’s retirement had followed the introduction of this computer to the library, so the fact that I’d supervised Granny’s Garden (an early “educational” computer game) on a BBC B as a volunteer at my childrens’ primary school may have been a factor in landing me the post.
I had been a computer enthusiast since my first Sinclair ZX, especially since the Amstrad that replaced it included a word processing program. My handwriting has always been illegible and my typewriting erratic. (I even felt the need to practice handwriting before sitting the exams I’d recently taken for the first half of my degree.)
Looking back, this was a gentle reintroduction to the world of work. Books approved by the bursar were bought by teachers (who claimed on expenses) and I merely processed them and added them to the catalogue. The School Librarian and the Head seemed unduly impressed by my efforts at tidying and reorganising the library. Teachers praised my unartistic attempts at an autumnal arrangement on a notice board I discovered under a large outdated event poster. They asked if they could display pupils’ work in the library – which seemed to me a much better use for the board – and began bringing pupils in for library sessions during lesson time.
The job was term-time only and part-time during term, but I soon discovered that thirty hours per week didn’t leave much time for shopping. At least I could get the children off to school in the morning an my sister collected the younger ones along with her own. I arrived home soon after them. It also helped that, being a private school, my vacations were longer than my children’s school holidays.
But it is a truism that outgoings expand to consume the income available.
When one is juggling a monthly income of not-very-much (and variable at that) it is easy to believe that a regular salary will fill all the gaps and help reduce that credit card debt that we moved between card issuers whenever the latest “no interest on transfers” period expired. That belief had been over-optimistic.
The library’s resources included several daily broadsheets and a local newspaper as well as the Times Educational Supplement. During the summer term of that year, a local Sixth Form Centre advertised for a librarian and I applied. If nothing else, it would give me more interview experience.