Archive for January, 2012

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived (nearly) at the seaside. Her name was Catherine and she had one brother (her hero), one Daddy (her even bigger Hero) and one Mummy (her star and her idol). She lived in a very special house on a very special estate. The War Memorial homes. Catherine could never understand why people gave each other a knowing look when she said where she lived. Her “best friend” would not come and play at her house because her Daddy said that Catherine’s Mummy and Daddy weren’t in the same “group” as them. Her best friend repeated this incomprehensible comment to her before saying” and Mummy says you can’t come to our house because my Daddy works at Barclays and your Daddy looks foreign”. Catherine talked to her Daddy but he laughed and said never mind what silly people say. So she didn’t. She spent her time out of school with her pet hedgehog (Mummy and Daddy had made it better when it got knocked down), the barn owl Daddy rescued from the outside toilet, and her roller skate (which was really her pet dog and had a lead of its own and could do tricks – mainly roll over and heel).

Catherine had a wonderful childhood because even though they never had holidays abroad, they had hardly any money, her clothes were never in fashion and sometimes her schoolmates laughed at them, she was always encouraged to think  about things, nobody ever stopped her asking questions and always tried to answer them, she had all the books she wanted to read from the public library and she knew she was loved whatever she chose to do.

Until she was eleven Catherine dreamt of being an archeologist, to do this she was going to go to University and study history. Catherine passed her 11+ and went to Grammar School (now luxury apartments). This was a good thing (apparently). At Grammar School she was taught English by a truly inspirational woman and decided she would study English Literature and become an academic, she would discover new knowledge and improve the world (somehow). At this time her love of anything unable to speak out on its own behalf began to really blossom. Her parents had some concerns, especially when she stood up and shouted at the trainers at the circus for being cruel to the elephants, sat in the local fur shop giving a running commentary on how FAT fur coats made people look and how cruel the fur trade was, and was very vocal about the Unspeakable in pursuit of the Inedible. They had a “quiet word”. Apparently they wanted Catherine to realise she probably wouldn’t be able to rescue every “lame duck” she met. However, they couldn’t hide that they were actually proud of her for standing up for her dreams and her principles.

Then the daft girl met a Boy. She decided to share his dream, and become a hotel receptionist so they could open the hotel he dreamt of. This meant not going to University and disappointing her beloved Mum. So she failed her A levels on purpose and went to Catering College instead. She became a Head Receptionist at a wonderful hotel and still dreamt of a future running their own hotel. Except now He was sharing that dream with another girl.

Skip a few years forward and Catherine had joined the Civil Service, where she dreamt of a great career progressing to mandarin status and the dizzy heights. Except she was a girl. Despite the fact she passed the exams with more marks and a better report than a Senior Manager’s son, she didn’t get promoted and he did. Somebody suggested she should try for a job in the Computing department. So she did. She started as a computer programmer in a department where being female was to be in a minority. It was fantastic. New dreams were born, inspired by Ada Lovelace and Lynne Lindsay. Catherine had many happy years working (playing) with computers and creating systems that she hoped would make life better for many lame ducks.

All this time at the back of her head Catherine still dreamt of university, learning and a way to be useful which her Mum would have been proud of (by now Catherine had been an orphan for ten years). Her husband supported her pursuing her real dream and so she saved up, sold her sports car (same model not actual car), and went to a wonderful university to study Library and Information Management.

It was a revelation. All the dreams, all the reading, all the talking and working she had been doing suddenly came together and she was incredibly happy. It was hard work but she finally felt that she was doing what she was always meant to do and that it would result in her being able to help other people achieve their own dreams. Before she had started the course her father in law and brother in law had joked with her that being such a very mature student might be difficult and she would struggle to get the grades her younger colleagues managed. She bet them she would get a 1st – a new dream. Catherine graduated with a 1st Class Hons, 2 awards and the highest marks in the cohort. A dream achieved.

Since then Catherine has had other dreams, some of which she achieved and others which she had taken away. On the whole she has achieved a greater proportion than she has lost. One huge dream she always knew would never happen. She would never be part of an elite university working on new ways to help other people achieve their dreams. After all she was from a very underprivileged background, with no A levels and worked in a profession that many people under-rated and didn’t value. Then one day she got an email, and all her academic dreams came true. Not only did they come true but now what she was given the opprotunity to do may very well help other people achieve their own dreams too.

The moral of this story is always think about things, read, ask questions, realise that “lame ducks” matter, and remember you are loved; then there is nothing that you cannot achieve.


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I read an excellent blog this morning, it is about Awards and Recognition by Andy Woodworth. It started me thinking (yes, I know “That must have hurt” haha). I personally think excellence, innovation and just being great at what you do should be recognised. Ok, so being loud about what you achieve and some self promotion isn’t for everyone, that’s fine too, but just because it isn’t for you is no reason to be embittered about those who it IS for.

Why should the mere fact you have been lucky enough to hold onto the a job for umpteen years progressing smoothly up the ladder of grading to retirement mean you are entitled to awards and recognition? Yet somebody barely out of library school who has put their future career on the line to shout about the wrongs being committed to their profession is somehow not entitled to them?

Then I started thinking about a broader picture. All the questions I have been having about my profession and the wider society I live in lately.

Why should it be a prerequisite that you are in current employment before you can contribute to the profession you still belong to and care passionately about? Why should you need a job description that matches a certain narrow set of criteria before you can be called a professional? Are you unprofessional in your approach to what you do because you lack that job title or piece of paper? Why if you say in 1000 words what you could say in 10 should you be considered more erudite and worthy of respect? Why do people who are all working for the same wider cause not listen to each other and respect each other?

Then finally I wondered Why do some people find it so hard to say Thank You to recognise and award what somebody has done for them, even if it is “part of their job”? 

Answers on a postcard.



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