28 Sept 2021

From home-made bread to home-schooling; the turning points in my path to becoming a Library Assistant

Libfocus is very happy to post one of the joint second placed entries in this years CONUL Library Assistants Award. Congratulations Sinead Byrne, RCSI Library 

The Covid pandemic has upturned nearly every aspect of life as we know it. We are constantly being bombarded with Covid related news headlines; barraged by grim projections of escalating case numbers and further waves; and blasted with horrific images of human suffering. 

But buried in all this doom and gloom are the “good news stories”; “reaching out to others” (metaphorically of course); “stories of conviviality”; “neighbourly gestures”........ I could go on. On a personal level there were two major events that changed my perspective on the global situation and prompted a shift in focus in relation to my own career goals. 

The first stand out memory for me was Mother’s Day 2020. My anxiety was at an all-time high. I removed myself from every WhatsApp group albeit one (the FOMO in me would not allow total social exclusion!). A text from a neighbour instructed me to look outside my front door at which point I was greeted by the most delicious loaf of homemade brown bread ....... This was a turning point for me .......the sense of community and the feeling that we are all in this together grounded me. I could not eradicate this awful virus but I could take joy in the simple things and also try focus on my personal goal of pursuing a career in the library sector which was something I had thought about for quite a while. 

I completed the MLIS in 2011, recession hit and, for financial reasons, I was forced to stay in my permanent, pensionable administrative job. Two children later and my interest in library work was still to the fore so I began working on a voluntary basis in a school library. I contacted the Library Association of Ireland to get guidance on CPD (Continued Professional Development) and after a whirlwind application process I was accepted on the Prof Cert in Digital Information Management in UCD. All was going to plan until the pandemic hit. 

The second turning point was the onset of home-schooling. How difficult could it be to home-school a 7 year old while keeping his 4 year old brother amused ...I completed the MLIS part time over two years while working full time...... I have this sussed I thought....... Oh how wrong I was!!!! This picture aptly depicts how I survived my new found career in “teaching”: 

Figure 1. The Home-school Life. 

Home-schooling was a double edged sword –it seriously tested my patience; survival was based on copious amounts of coffee and chocolate. But it had a very positive outcome in that it catapulted me into applying for a role as library assistant in RCSI on a particularly difficult day of “teaching”. 

Fast forward 6 months and I was offered a contract in RCSI. You would be forgiven for thinking I was suddenly enjoying leisurely lunches in the lavish surrounds of the library at Stephen’s Green while doing a spot of people watching. The reality was somewhat different. The not so lavish green at the front of my house is my only option for people watching. The sounds of the neighbourhood kids infiltrate my “office” window ........the sound of laughter and football matches have become the soundtrack to my day. 

And so I began my role as library assistant. Getting to know my team was somewhat different to my experience of starting previous roles. Casual coffee dates and spontaneous after work drinks have been replaced with a more structured social etiquette. Virtual coffee and chat dates were arranged on Microsoft Teams and this is how I got to know the library staff. Although we are dotted around the country I still felt connected from the start. All meetings are conducted online, and there are often “guest” appearances by toddlers or pets! My cat was very keen to join in until I relocated to my “office” upstairs!! I also have regular interaction with students when I deal with their queries via email and LibChat. I have undertaken training courses in the US without having to board a plane. I have attended conferences country wide while remaining at home. All instances of physical distancing while attaining virtual connectivity. 

ALMA, a new library management system was introduced in 2020 and staff are still familiarising themselves with it. I have been building up my expertise by attending training sessions as well as documenting workflows. I have learnt so much in my two months and I am enjoying every second! 

As I write this I am inwardly jumping for joy at the prospect of spending my first day in the library and meeting three of my colleagues. According to Dorothy there is no place like home but I think I might just have to agree to disagree in this instance. 

Figure 2. Dorothy Home-schooling. 

Photo Credits:
Figure 1:
“The Home-school Life” meme. Mom Saves Time, Money, Sanity. Wordpress, 30 December, 2017.

Figure 2:
“Dorothy Home-schooling” meme. My San Antonio, Houston, 30 March, 2020. 

mysanantonio.com/houston/article/Homeschooling-memes-highlight-what-life-is-like- 15166171.php#photo-19240271 


1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on the new job Sinead. I enjoyed reading your post and it reminded me of my first ever library job as a library trainee in the Mercer Library many many years ago. Such a lovely bunch of people and such a fun place to work. I hope you had a great first day on site.