From Children’s Librarian to Document Controller – A Personal Transition Story
Anne Christine Seidelin made the leap from librarian to Document Controller this summer, and now she gives a personal and vivid account of the change.
By: Anne Christine Seidelin
September 30, 2021
At the end of 2019, redundancies were announced at my workplace and I was one of those who ended up with a redundancy interview. As a passionate and successful children’s librarian for more than 20 years, I had no doubt that my next position would also include book talks, school collaboration, materials care, and children’s events. However, I was aware of the need to update my professional skills, so I looked at courses provided by central libraries and at my labour union homepage; here I found a workshop course as well as a mini training in Records Management. The latter sounded interesting and different, and it allowed time to pass while waiting for the right position. Although my basic identity is a facilitator of children’s literature, I have always been interested in cataloguing, classification and the whole system that forms the skeleton of the library world. And I was genuinely curious about how an information specialist identity might manifest itself in the private sector.
As everyone knows, the world changed abruptly because of the pandemic, and by the time my position ended in mid-2020, the workshop course had been cancelled and the Records Management training postponed until the autumn. There were also not many vacancies in public libraries; a consequence of the spring 2020 shutdown. So after a tiring summer, I was overjoyed when it was finally time to learn something in early fall. It very fortunately fell right in the gap between the first and second wave, when one could still meet in real life.
Spots in the mini-education
The joy of analogically being with real people in a real room and learning real things, the relief that I was not the only available (children’s) librarian with years of experience on the course, the feeling of having in many ways thrown myself into deep water professionally. But the overriding impression was of lecturer Tine Weirsøe from Scandinavian Information Audit. Amidst the review of hard-to-understand ISO standards and surreal real-life cases, the commitment and joy of work shone through. I probably showed up mostly to meet colleagues, network and get an experience, but when I stood with the course certificate, I had no doubt that having skilled Records Managers is important, that the work is interesting and that I might like to work in it.
My endless job search for the next six months included a few Records Manager applications, but as I was still unemployed at the start of 2021, my job centre suggested I might be up for more training. From the Records Manager training I remembered the importance of Document Controllers, and I had a feeling it would be easier to get a job in a profession that is growing and where there seems to be a shortage of skilled employees.
So in the spring of 2021 I started the Document Controller course, offered by Scandinavian Document Control, and with the same dedicated trainer as on the previous course. It was no coincidence that this was the course I chose!
Document Control and Records Management are two sides of the same coin, and it was clearly easier in the second instance to understand and actively participate. Much of the technical and business terminology is common and I felt if not at home then at least equipped to understand the English acronyms, business criticality, ISO 30300 series, risk scenarios and many of the technical terms that were completely alien to me at the start of 2020. It was still quite difficult, but it was also satisfying to learn new things and know that this new professionalism is relevant and that people who can manage documents, processes and systems are needed.
While I was in training, I was still looking (as one should) for at least 2 vacancies a week, mainly in public and school libraries. I went to a few interviews, and they ended up not wanting exactly what I have to offer. So right there, in the month of April 2020, I decided to wholeheartedly change my saddle. Now it was going to be completely different, with unsolicited applications in English and a focus on stakeholders instead of patrons. I updated my LinkedIn and tried to make it more clear that I was interested in a different type of career. Started writing applications and put myself through the difficult art of writing an unsolicited application that had to emphasize what I could bring to a company while at the same time not having any work experience with me in Document Control.
When I stood at the beginning of June with my training certificate in my hand after successfully completing the test in Document Control, I believed it. So did my trainers, because shortly afterwards they called me to offer me a job as a consultant in Scandinavian Document Control.
What will I say about my work now
I have been fortunate to have a very experienced and skilled Document Controller to train me. The work is also much more exciting than I first thought.
And: on the course we had a fictional case about the hotel chain Golden Days that wanted to establish itself in Copenhagen. I secretly thought it was silly, implausible and unnecessarily complex. My first consultancy job was with a client in the wind industry, and for the first two months I worked 25/t a week, except that in the second month things happened that made the Golden Days hotel look like a cosy adventure, and I had to work over 40 hours a week to deliver what the client needed. Yes, I got paid for it, and no, I don’t have small children who were misbehaving because of the exponentially increasing job load. Reality has proven to be both more interesting and more complex than any contrived case…
What can you use from the (children’s) library: pride in your professional skills. The satisfaction of offering the right book to the right borrower can be transferred to coming up with the right solution at the right time – or completing one of the more complex tasks well, correctly and on time.
Structure, planning, system understanding, quick turnaround, IT skills and service mindset. The ability to host, to listen to your customer to understand where they stand – and organise the work and approach accordingly. The ability to learn from others so that the customer can understand what Document Control is and what the tasks of each stakeholder are in the DC context.
As expected, my learning curve has been very steep and for the first 2-3 months I was really tired after finishing work. But I’ve hit a plateau of competence now, and although I still have a lot to learn about being a good Document Controller, I can feel that I can oversee and understand the processes and take responsibility for making the workflow work. I meet many new people who need to be guided by a well-qualified information specialist and it feels right to make a difference and be the expert in document management. My colleagues at Scandinavian Document Control are exciting and talented people who I feel privileged to work with.
I took the plunge. I haven’t regretted it. \\\