I’m about to start a job within Information Services at Aberystwyth University – it’s been nearly 6 years since I left secondary school in Wales, and now via quite a roundabout route I am about to live here once again!
I received my BA from Queen’s University Belfast, taking classes in English and Archaeology – a bit of a random combination, but I had a lot of fun spending summers in dusty holes digging and talking about books. I was lucky enough to take part in the Erasmus programme during my third year, studying in foreign parts, namely at Aarhus University in Denmark. This was due to a general liking for things Scandinavian, as well as memories of reading Seamus Heaney’s ‘The Tollund Man’ in school (”Some day I will go to Aarhus/ To see his peat-brown head”). The whole year was a great experience, with interesting classes combined with the chance to study with people from all over the world. A lot of independent research was expected, so I got the chance to work out new library systems and databases, which was a lot of fun and got me thinking about working in libraries in the future.
After graduation I spent some time living in Oxford; working in a bookshop and volunteering in a public library. But by then I’d got a taste for living abroad, and though I did some research into library schools at home, I was interested in other pathways. I’d heard that the Royal School of Library and Information Science in Copenhagen offered an International Masters course – the Danish method of teaching had impressed me before, and it sounded like a great opportunity (it also helped knowing that tuition in Denmark is free for EU students). Their international coordinator was friendly and helpful thoughout the application process, which was pretty straightforward anyway.
I started the 2-year course in February 2011, arriving in deep snow that lasted another couple of months. It was definitely the right choice for me; the courses were interesting and varied, and Copenhagen is a great city to live in. The school has only been offering courses in English for a few years, so my small group of international students was still a bit of a novelty…the Rector would often stop and ask how we were doing (he once sat next to me at lunch happily chatting away about Dylan Thomas and the Mabinogion!). Our small number meant that while it was easy to get to know other international students, I also made great Danish friends – some of whom took English courses too. The faculty publish widely, and I had good opportunities to attend guest lectures and workshops. In one class we collaborated with German students to organise a week-long summer school programme in Stuttgart, and I also helped with the BOBCATSSS 2013 library student conference in Ankara, Turkey.
What was I doing when not at university? Well, I grew an extra bicycle-shaped limb – as that’s by far the easiest way to get around. I volunteered as a library assistant at an international school, and worked as a student assistant for the engineering consultancy firm Rambøll. This was mostly web communications and content management, not library-related, but I learnt a lot working in an international company (not least about different types of bridges and wind turbines!).
Shortly after graduating early this year, I was very pleased to be offered this Aberystwyth job, and to have a chance to develop as a new professional within LIS. Having living away from Wales for quite a while, I’m excited to be back again – even if I start speaking a strange mixture of Welsh and Danish that nobody understands! After spending so much time delving into academic library catalogues in various places, this is a sector I’m really interested in. It’ll be great too, to continue to be involved in international, as well as national, LIS activities. I’ve found the work done by IFLA to be really interesting, especially their New Professionals Group. As I only start working in July, I’m taking the opportunity to do some travelling, and as I write I’m also packing for a trip to Poland and the Caucasus. Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve been invited by the Tbilisi State University Library Services to visit them while am in Georgia. So there’s plenty to look forward to, and am excited to see what happens next in my little corner of library-land!