|A German duck / A German rabbit|
The first was on the 15th of July 2009 on the day I decided to become a librarian. After an interview for a graduate trainee position at Manchester Metropolitan University Library, I realised I had been more comfortable in that interview room with those other candidates – those library folk – than I had been in many social situations. I gave up a place at law school and completely adjusted my plans in order to pursue a career that felt… right.
The second was the 18th of July 2012 on a day when I was in Chicago and realised that not only had I survived my trip to America – a trip involving confusion, exhaustion, anxiety, and fear – but I had enjoyed it. I’d enjoyed it more than almost any other experience in my life. By straining at the very edge of my social anxiety, I pushed through the barrier and discovered that I wanted to be around people and do things.
Since Chicago, things haven’t been the same (2). When I came home, I wrote that I felt like Frodo Baggins at the end of The Lord of the Rings:
At the end of The Return of the King, after all his adventures, Frodo Baggins returns to his nice quiet home in the Shire. I always thought that Frodo should be so happy to get home, to write the Red Book of his experiences, and to finally relax after all his hardship. But, Frodo, like his uncle Bilbo before him, finds the Shire changed on his return: or at least, changed for him. He’s seen too much; done too much; suffered and fallen and won. How can you go back to the way things were? How can you ever settle down again?
That feeling never went away. It seems absurd given all that I’ve done and seen in the past three years but I got into librarianship for the chance of a quiet life. To be left alone with books and infinite curiosity. But experience has changed all that and my curiosity reaches beyond the pages of books.
A solicitor for whose firm I was doing work experience once told me that I was intelligent and that the curse of intelligence is boredom. He said that intelligent people grow bored easily and that they need – they crave – constant mental stimulation. Otherwise they collapse in on themselves. Since July, I’ve travelled to Sheffield, Edinburgh, Birmingham, and London (several times) in attempts to stave off boredom and recapture the spirit of adventure. Durham – a charming city that I really like – has come to seem too quiet and the North-East has come to seem too empty. When I’ve not been travelling or meeting people or doing things, I’ve been bored.
Life doesn’t change on its own: you have to make change happen through work, rigour, and intelligence. I’ve worked over the past few months to change things to match my new perception. This has meant a renewed focus on the people in my life, making some personal changes which I don’t want to go into, and making some professional changes which I do want to go into.
And so, I have several announcements:
1. I have accepted an invitation to join the Board of SLA Europe as Co-Chair of the Early Careers Committee. I will be taking over from Bethan Ruddock and joining Lyndsay Rees-Jones in organising the Early Career Conferences Awards 2013 (3).
2. I have accepted a position at the British Library. I will be helping to co-ordinate the Qatar Digitisation Project.
And, as a result of the above:
3. I will be moving to London.
I have dreamt of working at the British Library for years. It sounds silly. Some men dream of walking on other planets, some of curing diseases, some of amassing great wealth. Since I read Borges' 'The Library of Babel', I have dreamt of the Total Library (4). The opportunity to work at our main legal deposit library - at the heart of British librarianship - is incredibly exciting. It comes at a point when it benefits me professionally and personally to move to London. And, for the first time in years, I'll be living with other people again rather than on my own: meeting new people and doing new things.
I've very much valued my time at Durham University Library - particularly the people I've met there. I'm very grateful for the experiences there which have changed me into the person I am now. But it's time to move on.
|The British Library at St Pancras in London|
Everything is going to change. Gestalt shift.
(1) For a better expression of this, listen to the song 'Suddenly Everything Has Changed (Death Anxiety Caused by Moments of Boredom)' by The Flaming Lips.
(2) Somehow it seems trite to say this. As if admitting how much that Experience meant to me somehow makes me less because there are people who have been through so much more. But I don’t care. Subjectively it was important.
(3) A secondary purpose of this blog post is therefore to promote the awards. Look, new professionals! Look at the impact winning the award had on me!
(4) I wrote an essay on the subject for Panlibus and you can read that here. Funnily enough, I did most of the research for that essay in the British Library's Boston Spa Reading Room.