Margaret Wilson (Class of 1954)

Tell us what you do for a living?

I retired in 1997 from the post of Chief Librarian at the Department for Education and Employment. I had worked in the Civil Service since I left school (1954) first as a temporary clerk for which I needed five O levels to be offered a post. I later became promoted to a permanent clerk and was fortunate in being given support to attend Library School. After acquiring my professional qualifications I returned to the Civil Service an assistant librarian. Four years later I was promoted to Librarian grade. I spent several years in a variety of posts in different Government departments and acquired a knowledge of information topics in the fields of aerospace and aviation, technology, fuel and power, nuclear science, building and architecture, statistics and market intelligence and education, I was promoted to senior librarian and spent time lecturing to Chambers of Commerce and I was an external lecturer at universities who ran business information courses. 

I was also on several national committees associated with business information.

I transferred to the Property Services Agency where I travelled the country inspecting sub libraries and ensuring they had the documents necessary to meet their user’s needs. I was also responsible for the financial control of the library service with a budget of £1 million. During this time I was sponsored by my government department and attended City University on a part time basis and gained an MSc degree. During this time I became acting Departmental Records Officer and held the official seal used when government owned properties were sold.

With the closure of the Property Services Agency I was offered the post of Chief Librarian at the Department for Education with the remit of taking the library through a privatisation programme. I did this and after making sweeping changes the library stayed in house. The work I undertook was used as a basis for other government libraries facing privatisation.

When the Department for Education merged with the Department of Employment I was appointed Chief Librarian and promoted. I was tasked with merging the two systems and achieved significant savings overall.

Are you doing what you thought you’d be doing after you left school?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school. There was little careers advice available and the only advice I can recall was Mr Embleton saying that as I liked reading and was very introverted then work in a library might suit me!

I found that being a librarian meant that I dealt with:

  • Information management
  • Financial accounting
  • Human resources management
  • Publicity and entertainment
  • Information technology
  • Building, environmental and architecture advice
  • Conservation
  • Public information provision
  • Recruitment and professional development across several government departments.
  • Lecturing
  • Training development
  • Managing a publications sales office
  • Data security
  • Subject specialisation
  • Historical research
  • Quality control of other sites
  • Facilitation and management of organisational change
What’s been your inspiration? What’s pulled you forwards and into your current role?
When I was at school I wanted to go on the science stream but was put on the arts stream. I enjoyed maths, science and geography but was bored with languages.

I worked in a government library and the head of administration wanted me to consider a career in the general civil service but I wasn’t really interested. Although I didn’t really want to be a librarian I was encouraged to go down this career route. Becoming a librarian meant that I was running a small business with all the problems associated with it. Certainly not for and introverted person who liked reading. There were other senior librarian colleagues who encouraged me and helped me throughout my career.

What would you say is your biggest achievement to date, the thing you’re most proud of? Professionally or personally!
Being awarded the OBE in the 1998 New Year’s Honours list, passing the driving test at age 50 and in the same year gaining my MSc degree. In Information Science.
Was there a particular teacher, or a moment at school that particularly inspired you?
I think Mr Archer our maths and geography teacher most inspired me I was also inspired by our art and cookery teacher as she taught the science of cooking which I found very interesting.
How important do you think your school days were in shaping who you are today?

Reasonably important. I made friends at school and still keep in touch with them. I had a good, all round education and would have liked to go on to 6th form but it was not a financially viable option.

What’s your work:life balance like? How important is that to you?

When I first went to work I had a good balance of life with many opportunities for socialising.

After I became professionally qualified I often worked a 10 hour day excluding travel to work. As I went up the career ladder I had little social life and, because of various home pressures, found that I needed to see a councillor for about 7 years. Any social functions I attended were usually work related.

What advice would you give to today’s students who may be struggling to choose which path to take beyond school?

Don’t make up your mind too soon. Try various options first.

Be true to yourself.

Take opportunities that exist – it’s never too late to find you perfect career.

Develop as wide as possible a portfolio of skills and interests and be prepared to use them flexibly as different employment opportunities present themselves

Be Machiavellian!!! If trying to get an action across, plant the idea in others minds first then praises them for coming up with a good solution. If you are a staff manager cultivate a listening ear and try to be aware of problems before they arise.

Finally, do you have a favourite quote, expression or mantra which inspires you to keep going?

Think outside the box.

Be open to others ideas. 

Aim to do something credible


Application to Sixth Form 2023

Save the Date

The Sixth Form Open Evening will be held on 17th November 2022.

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We are open today, Tuesday 13th December. If the situation changes with the weather we will update the website and social media accordingly.