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It only takes a second (ment)

What the hell is a secondment?
Some people I have chatted to have no idea what I'm talking about (and I also discovered that some spell-check utilities don't even recognise the word) so I thought I would clear the confusion by ripping a definition straight from Merriam-Webster:

Definition of secondment

plural -s

: the detachment of a person (such as a military officer) from his or her regular organization for temporary assignment elsewhere.

So if you just substitute "library services officer" for "military officer" you have an explanation of my situation!

Being a qualified Librarian can take you in so many different directions. One of the reasons I chose the tag "Ambidextrous Librarian" was because I honestly had no idea which direction my career would go. I have worked in school libraries and the kids and teachers are absolutely fantastic, but the pay, conditions and options for career development aren't all that varied. I tried working in an academic library for a while but found it was a little too quiet and staid.  So now I'm in a public library and I am pretty sure I have finally found the right fit - but my dilemma is now deciding what to do in this setting.   At the moment my official title is Library Services Officer, which is a Band 4 role that is primarily customer service with a little bit of programs stuff on the side.  It's a great, stress free job that gives me plenty of time on the floor - but for someone who has a librarian qualification it can get a tad same-samey after a while.  I need a little bit of challenge at work to avoid boredom, so I'm always looking for new projects to keep the work day moving along.  Thankfully the council I work for offers secondment opportunities when colleagues go on extended leave - this provides someone to fill the role while the incumbent is away and also offers the person awarded the secondment some great professional development opportunities.

Intellectually, I can kind of imagine what the different roles in my workplace entail, but it's hard to gain a complete understanding unless you get the chance to actually have a go for a little while.  This is why the secondment opportunity is so perfect.  It's just long enough to get a good idea of whether you like it (or dislike it - equally important!) and it also helps to provide concrete experience on which to base your career direction.  In my two and a bit years with my current employer I have had three secondments.  The first was a 4 month temporary promotion to the Band 5 position of Information Librarian, the second was a 3 week toe-dip into a Band 4 technical services position as Periodicals Technician, and the latest was a 3 week headlong dive into the Band 6 role of Children's and Youth Librarian.  I've got no qualms about putting my hand up for a little bit of everything, in fact I find the variety offered by these secondments super-energising and rewarding!

So if you haven't figured it out yet - I am a total fan of putting yourself forward for secondment opportunities as often as possible - they are a GREAT professional development tool.  In fact, there is another secondment currently on offer that I plan to apply for... and as I typed this yet another one landed in my inbox!  I know my experiences have all been great, and I would love to hear of any other experience new Librarians have with secondments and how they helped shape your career 😊


  1. Hi Ambi. I've worked in public libraries for over 30 years (mostly in Reference services). You seem to have good research skills so this would seem a natural fit for your career development. However, in this age I think the "growth area" in pub libraries is in children's services. Get that story- telling skill - ask your employer to send you to a course to improve this. Other areas to look at is IT - always need for tech skills that can be used not just in a library environment but in local government in general, or even outside the library industry. TAFE is the best for obtaining qualifications (that is unless you want to do a lengthy and expensive university course.) Local studies is another area I think has potential. You not only get experience in research and presentation skills, but also in conservation and preservation (TAFE again can help here). Your employer may also provide financial help with costs and time off for study. I recall colleagues doing an MA at SU, on a local study topic. If you have a thing for marketing and promotions, what about community information librarian/specialist? God knows pub libraries need better promotion. Again I would recommend you also get some tertiary training in this, so you gain recognition. [and looks good on the CV].


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