Saturday, March 31, 2018

Once a bookworm, always a bookworm

French Village Diaries bookworm library work
Once a bookworm now a librarian

When I was a little girl I was a bookworm and now I have news to share, news that would make any bookworm glow. My childhood bedroom was filled with shelves and each shelf was carefully filled with books, all arranged in alphabetical order and I may even have had little stickers on the spines too. I would have loved to be a real librarian, especially after helping out in our local library every Saturday morning for a six-week community service project when in the Guides.

However, in life, things crop up, paths change and somehow I swapped wanting to be a librarian for setting off to teacher training college instead. It didn’t take me long to realise university life wasn’t for me and so began my numbers phase. A part-time holiday job as a bookkeeper led to many years working in accounts, studying and taking exams, and by the time I went on maternity leave in 2000, I was a management accountant commuting daily to the City of London. Not bad for someone who scraped a grade C in GCSE maths.

My other weak subject at school was French, so again I’m kind of bemused to find myself living in France and speaking French well enough to be actively involved in French village life. I’m even called upon to help my English-speaking neighbours when they find themselves in tricky language situations. I put my language success down to getting involved and one of the things I’ve been involved in, since 2007, is volunteering to help run the village library. It might only be one afternoon every few months, but it’s something that takes me back to my childhood dream of being a librarian. It has also now opened a door to a really exciting new chapter in my life in France.

At the end of January, I received a surprise phone call from the library in our local town of Chef Boutonne, asking if I would be interested in a four-month, 22 hour a week contract to cover the maternity leave of one of the librarians. The phone call being in French meant a time lag of a few seconds to ensure my brain really had understood her, but by the time I put the phone down a little flame of excitement was already burning within and I’d agreed to go for an interview.

The interview, with the librarian who’d called and a member of the local council, lasted an hour and seemed to go well. I’d taken the trouble to update my CV, in French (with the help of a friend) and although they hadn’t asked for one, appreciated my effort. I might not have any work experience since 2004, but I certainly had a comprehensive list of volunteering experience. The Maire, following his briefing with the councillor, made the final decision and he said yes!

I am over the moon and can’t believe I am going to be paid to spend my days in a library, surrounded by books. I’m also a little anxious about managing my time as a wife, mother, gardener and librarian, plus being in a public-facing role, necessitating speaking French every day and ‘performing’ in front of primary school children at their animated story-time sessions. However, I am a great believer of the benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone every once in a while.

I may be 46, but on Tuesday of next week, my dream of being a real librarian is about to come true, so never give up on your dreams.