20 Apr 2020

Reflecting on my Career as I approach retirement

Guest post by Linda O'Connell, Maynooth University Library

Photo courtesy of author

I started my working life at 16. I’m now 66. During the intervening fifty years I have been, at various stages in formal employment, a stay at home mum, a student and am now finishing my career in formal employment again.

Early Career
I was born in London to Irish emigrants. My first job, in 1969, was in the London Bridge branch of the Midland Bank. I worked there as a copy typist/administrator for two years. Next I joined IPC (International Publishing Corporation) where I carried out general administration duties. This was a great experience because of the social scene associated with the role. I got the opportunity to attend functions where Rod Stewart, Slade and Roxy Music were present. These were organised by magazines that IPC published such as Melody Maker. 

In 1973, due to the tragic death of my younger brother, my family moved back to Kerry and I relocated to Dublin in search of a job. I signed on with an employment agency and I was lucky enough to be offered a job in the library of the IMI (Irish Management Institute). The IMI run training courses in all aspects of management. It was then located in what is now the Russian embassy in Orwell Road, a short time later they moved to a state of the art building in Sandyford.
Photo courtesy of author       
At that time The IMI held the largest collection of management literature in Ireland.  There was no computerised system in operation. The books were catalogued manually and catalogue cards filed in a wooden card catalogue. My role entailed typing the card for each book onto a stencil and printing out the number of cards needed for each book i.e. one for the subject heading entry, one for the classification number entry and one for each separate author entry. Some books had up to six cards depending on the number of authors. I also put classification numbers on the spine of books.  The Browne issue system was in use. Inside each book there was a pocket with two cards. These cards were retained by the Library, when a book was borrowed. One was filed under the name of the author of the book, the other under the name of the borrower.  I also carried out desk duties, primarily issuing and returning books to IMI members. We had a diary at the desk and we would write in the date the book was due back and two days before the book was due we would post out reminders to the borrowers. This was the pre-Internet age and we searched the card catalogue to find books.

Photo courtesy of author
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the IMI, it was very much a customer focussed library and was ahead of its time. In 1983 I left the organisation to raise a family, however I kept in touch with the library and worked on projects on an ad hoc basis, for example the annual salary surveys.
Back to Education
In 1999, when my children were older, I enrolled on a Community Employment Scheme in Celbridge. This lasted for two years and it introduce me to the idea of going back to education.  I subsequently enrolled in a FETAC (Further Education and Training Awards Council) course. This three-year programme included computer skills, English, Business Studies and other subjects. There were annual exams in each subject. During this time I also completed the Leaving Certificate English exam. At the end of the course, I was encouraged by the course co-ordinator to apply for a degree programme in Maynooth University as a mature student. I was successful in the three panel interview and was accepted in the Arts degree programme. I chose Sociology, Celtic studies and Anthropology as my three subjects. This degree programme was a big step up from my previous education experience. I really enjoyed my time as an undergraduate in Maynooth University. I met wonderful people and I was supported and encouraged by the University to succeed. After three years I was awarded a second class honours degree, an achievement I am still very proud of today.

Later Career
During my time as a student I availed of the University Library facilities on a regular basis. I applied for an advertised contract role in 2005 and was fortunate enough to be offered a job as part of what is now the Engagement & Information Services (EIS) team. I’ve been in that post for the past 15 years. I am part of a team of nine who work on desk services at the ‘coalface’ dealing with students, faculty and external members. Our team deals with a huge volume of queries, from circulation enquires, helping sourcing material and general assistance. The library is a very busy environment and no two days are the same. I have witnessed many changes in the Library.  The biggest change has been the use of technology, which has replaced many time consuming manual processes.

As detailed above, one of my earliest jobs was in a library and I am finishing my career in a library. To have a successful career you need to be versatile, adaptable and willing to learn the new skills required as the role changes. Some aspects of the role have not changed since I first started my career, being customer focused, dedicated, hardworking and an ability to get on with your colleagues, are as important today and they were back fifty years ago.
As I near my retirement, I hope that I can bring the skills I have learned to the next phase of my life by actively participating in local clubs, volunteering for charities and joining the Retired staff Association in Maynooth University.


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