The Naked Philologist Considers Other Careers

I know, terrible prospect, that. But the fact is, I am at present more or less unemployable in the Real World, while at the same time there’s a couple of degrees between me and even the chance of an academic job. Overseas degrees. Expensive overseas degrees. And one has to *live* as well as study.

I’m telling myself that I need a secondary career- maybe even a separate qualification- so that I can hope to earn some kind of money between degrees. So that I have something to fall back on when there are simply no academic jobs going. That sort of thing.

When I mention this plan to Wise Academics, they look at me with solemn eyes and say to me ‘once you’re in the real world, it’s hard to leave’. They remind me that once one is earning money, it’s very hard to throw that in for another three to five years of study. They absolutely balk at the idea that I might take *another* degree in order to gain employment, the purpose of which is supposedly to earn me money to take further degrees in Medieval Studies…

I was thinking of TESL. Teaching training, I figure, can hardly go astray for a prospective academic. Language teaching training doubly so, for a prospective Anglo-Saxonist. And I’m told by people who work in the TESL industry that it’s primarily part time, and no one can stand to do it for a permanent career. So it sounds like a nice, transportable secondary career that probably won’t suck me into it completely.

Recently, though, I’ve wound up as the student supervisor of the College library. And I’m reminded of one of the rough plans I had when I came to USyd in the first place: a Bachelor of Arts followed by a Dip Lib.

literature,ravenclaw,books,nerd,wicked_visionsI like libraries. I like books. I like books covered and catalogued and put in order. As a child, I not only covered and alphabetised the contents of my bookshelf, I stuck little white stickers with handmade ‘F- MON’ style library tags on all of them. A book is not truly a book until it is catalogued and shelved. I really do like the Dewey Decimal system. I thought I just appreciated its usefulness, until, in the course of correcting cataloguing errors, I discovered that the other student librarians, who have all been at uni for years, have failed to internalise the broad Dewey categories. To me, it is not merely a nuisance to find a work of literature mis-catalogued in the 500s, but a Gross Disturbance In The Order Of Things. I have had to conclude that I am abnormally emotionally attached to the Dewey Decimal System.1

Accordingly, I am thinking that I would enjoy training and working as a Librarian. I know I would. But is librarian-ing a useful skill for a medievalist? Would PHD scholarship people look at an application and thing ‘sweet, a librarian, we need more of those in medieval studies’? Would an employer look at a job application and think ‘neat! An academic with information management skills’?

Whaddya reckon, internets?


1. And I have library-fu. I can tell the difference between 829.91 and 829.9 1, and between S829 91 and 829.9 S1. (Apparently this is so difficult that the Library has had to make a computer game to teach people. Me, I just hung out up there for far too long. Eventually, after swearing a lot and walking in circles a lot, I got the idea. It seems not everyone does.) The other day, I unearthed a book which was catalogued simply as 942. Have you any idea how many 942s there are on the ninth floor of Fisher? Everything from 942 ABC to 942 ZYX, and hiding somewhere in there, one 942-nothing. Which turned out to be under the initial of the dedicatee, not the author. Fortunately, I was possessed by Library!Ninja-power that day…


4 Responses to “The Naked Philologist Considers Other Careers”

  1. daiskmeliadorn Says:

    ZOMG that game is awesome.

    and you should totally be a librarian! 🙂

    actually one of my lj friends 🙂 is an archivist and historian. she’s well known as a historian but has done all her research whilst working as an archivist, thus not having to deal with all the things associated with working as an academic.

    anyway it sounds to me like quite a good option. obviously i wouldn’t know the first thing about medievalist peeps and employment opportunities though 🙂

  2. daiskmeliadorn Says:

    p.s. hmmm it looks like i overdo the smiley faces when they come out looking like that. i don’t like it

    *angry face*

  3. highlyeccentric Says:

    That game is WEIRD, but ok 🙂

  4. Sophist Says:

    Expensive overseas degrees are not a good idea unless you are on a fellowship, and even with a fellowship I think it is better to get a cheap overseas degree over in France or Germany, where you might also get a chance to perfect another tongue. Learning another language would be at the same time the most practical and most complementary to your would-be academic prestige.

    Between a library degree and one in teaching, the teaching one would be better fit for an academic carrier, though working in a library might give you a peace of mind. As long as it is an academic library, which is not nearly often enough the case.

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