It is with great pleasure that I announce that I will be returning to the United Kingdom in August 2011. I am planning to pursue an LLM in International Law and Sustainable Development. Whilst this may seem a bit of a departure from school librarianship, it is something I have a strong interest in, and I believe that a further academic qualification will be an advantage for my long-term career goals, particularly if I make the move into academic librarianship.
I made the decision to return to higher education whilst living in Syria. When the sponsorship for my job in the UK fell through at the very last minute (literally), I was not sure how I wanted to proceed. I had spent six years volunteering in libraries, working in bookshops, and trying to cobble together a living working as a library assistant, in addition to obtaining the master’s. I spent the first year post-qualification moving around the UK and working in a variety of temporary posts before landing a job with an employer who was still willing to sponsor foreign candidates (or even consider hiring, for that matter).
I definitely had my reservations about working in school libraries in Scotland; school libraries in the UK do not have the best reputation in comparison to US or Australian school libraries. I wondered whether I was experienced, outgoing, or resilient enough to cope with the challenges of working in a sector that is often misunderstood by many in the education sector. In fact, I admit that I did not have the necessary qualities when I accepted the position, but did so mainly due to the Council’s offer of sponsorship and in part out of a perverse desire to see if I could succeed.
After some ups and downs, I found myself unsure how to take the news that the Council had not succeeded in obtaining a Certificate of Sponsorship on my behalf. On one hand, I saw it as an opportunity to move out of an insecure sector that could be frustrating at times. For the most part, however, I was disappointed that I had to leave just when I was starting to see the impact of my work. I had spent much of my first year getting the physical and virtual infrastructure in place and building up relationships, so it was not until the last few months of employment that I really had the opportunity to begin working with students and teachers in a structured manner. I was finally starting to conduct and evaluate regular lessons and was receiving positive feedback from teachers and pupils.
After my rollercoaster experience in the Highlands, I decided to use the opportunity to reflect on my career thus far and decide how I want to proceed in the future. As much as I still support the mission of education libraries, I have to admit that it is refreshing not to feel as though I must constantly defend my position, even though I still find myself blogging and commenting on articles in support of school libraries. I do miss working directly with pupils, but I realised that I am ultimately interested in issues surrounding social justice, access to information, educational inequalities in a global context, and government transparency and accountability. Therefore, I have decided that studying law will be a way for me to expand my knowledge of a fascinating subject manner, whilst at the same time maintaining an involvement in the information profession.