Little did I realise, in 1985, when I was serving tea and coffee in the Senior Common Room at Bath University, to the Librarian at the time, that I would end up in NHS libraries. I asked him about a shelving job and after a long chat he pointed me to the SCONUL trainee scheme (I was a geology graduate!) and 36 years later here I am starting a new job at Tees, Wear and Esk Valleys NHS Trust.

My journey here includes my SCONUL year with the BL, my PG course at Northumbria, and then 28 years in FE - Darlington College, Bishop Auckland College and finally Newcastle College. In 2016 I was devastated when I was made redundant at Newcastle College and wondered if I would ever work again. I must admit that I had never thought of NHS Libraries. I had been very involved with CoFHE and then ARLG (CILIP groups) including Secretary of the National group, helping with conferences and all sorts of jobs with the regional group but NHS Libraries somehow had escaped me.  When I saw a job advertised at Sunderland NHS Trust I thought …why not? Friends asked if I really wanted to push trolleys full of fiction around the hospital but that wasn’t mentioned in the job description so off I went for the interview. Surprise, surprise I got the job as a Library Assistant.

I had 5 happy years there during some of the most difficult times with the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, I helped out with all sorts of jobs – fruit packing, inputting data, helping with the vaccine clinics and keeping the library operating - always trying to have a smile on my face helped by a great team at Sunderland.  I then found out that Samantha Gavaghan was advertising a librarian post at TEWV Trust. I had served on committees with Samantha so found out more and was tempted to apply.  A teams interview was all new to me but I was delighted to get the phone call to offer me the job.

After years of travelling, my journey to West Park, where I am based, is only 15 minutes and so far there have been no problems getting parked  - which is a joy. I have hit the ground running – 3 weeks in I  have been to all 4 sites, met the team, had huddles ( a new one on me!), worked out all the new systems and procedures and today I finally got my new ID badge and lanyard – have been parading around with my STSFT badge and lanyard! I was worried that I was too old to change jobs  but I have survived  and am sure will enjoy the challenge of a mental health trust , learning all the new acronyms and abbreviations…as they say – you are never to old to learn.

Helen Ashton 

Librarian | Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust