Name: Angela Betts
ND Type/s: Dyslexia
What do you do: Librarian
Where do you live: Nottingham, England
How did you start your day – do you have a morning routine – and what do you have for breakfast, do think a good diet is important?
I’m not the most organised of people so my routine changes. For breakfast I usually have a smoothie or toast with peanut butter and fruit. I really enjoy cooking, I’m vegan and put a lot of thought into my meals both for health and environmental reasons. I’ve been working from home since March 2020 and one of the benefits of this for me is that I can have BBC6 music on in the background while I work.
How do you stay active?
I like to do Zumba mainly on the Ninetendo switch or YouTube and play basketball in the garden with the kids. I also enjoy walking and walked 100 miles in March this year for the World Wildlife Trust.
What do you do to relax?
Reading would be number one on the list. I struggled to read during the first lockdown, which was very frustrating. I think adjusting to working from home, home-schooling three kids and losing some of the time to unwind on the journey home from work all played a part. But I started reading again first via short story audio books and now I’m back reading print and listening to a more diverse range of audio books. Pre lockdown my husband and I went to lots of gigs, Nottingham has some great venues and we’re in easy reach of other cities too. One of the last gigs we went to was Vampire Weekend which was amazing, I totally let go and enjoyed the music. As a family we’re big film fans, especially Marvel & Star Wars films. My son goes to sleep reading a Marvel encyclopedia and can tell you everything about the characters and how they fit in to the MCU. We’ve also visited EMCon as a family and love to geek out on comics and sci-fi.
Do you have a favourite word or phrase ?
At the moment, it’s “satisfying” a word that my eldest uses all the time. I love how language changes and develops; how certain words become more prominent with different generations. If I say something is “ace” my kids tell it’s so 90s! My relationship with words and language changes. Sometimes I hate words. It can be very frustrating when I’m trying to spell something and even Google can’t work out what the word is. The effect dyslexia has on my ability to use language is not a constant for me though. Some days both speaking and writing can be really challenging and other days it’s not so hard (not perfect) but not the same challenge.
Have you read anything good recently? Is there a book that changed your life?
As I mentioned before, I struggled to read during lock down and it was The Midnight Library by Matt Haig that reignited my love of reading. It’s the perfect novel for these times, really makes you think about your life. It was the book that gave me the inspiration to start my project, Dyslexic Librarian. As part of that I’ve been reviewing all the books I read and adding them to the booklists for people to view and purchase if they would like to.
So far, I think The Familiars by Stacey Halls is one of my favourites. It’s the story of a wealthy lady whose life becomes entangled with the ‘Witches’ of Pendle and the famous witch trials. It examines how people are treated and how perceptions can be changed. The wise women serving their local communities are vilified and deemed to be witches as a result of propaganda.
One of the books that changed my life was The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy. This was one of the first books I remember not being able to put down as a child, having reluctantly been given it to read. I fell in love with the characters and was very proud not only to finish it but to also read the whole series.
My all-time favourite book is Do Android’s Dream of Electric sheep? By Philip K Dick (the book was the inspiration for Blade Runner). Usually, I manage a short chapter at a time when I’m reading before the letters start to dance around the page, but with this book I couldn’t put it down so would give myself a short break and come back to it. Dystopian novels and films really appeal to me.
Which 5 albums will you want to have with you on a desert island?
Such a hard question. I love music and always have it on in the background when working, I can’t sit in silence it helps me to relax and concentrate. I could easily name twenty but here goes!
1. The Strokes – Is This It – it gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it and still does today (I would also cheekily sneak their new album The New Abnormal in the record sleeve, as it’s been on repeat during lockdown)
2. Nirvana – Nevermind
3. St Vincent – Daddy’s Home
4. Weezer – The Blue Album
5. Al Green – Let’s Stay Together (1972)
In the metaphorical desert island that was lockdown, I found listening to old favorites really helped.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and who was it from?
Not direct advice as such but my parents always installed a sense of pride in being yourself, and in celebrating your achievements big and small. I think this is great advice for anyone with a neurodiversity. It’s better to have pride in your achievements rather than compare yourself to others. Your personal achievements might be something that others don’t understand or value but you know you’ve worked hard at them. Recognising that everyone is different and learns differently has really helped me get to where I am today.
My own advice to someone with a neurodiversity would be to speak up and tell people about your neurodiversity. I didn’t tell work for 3/4 years, when I finally did, it lifted a burden I didn’t know I was carrying. I worried that people would think I was stupid but I’ve actually gained support and recognition of my strengths. In life too, I think it paves the way for other Dyslexics if you can help change the assumptions that others have – people are surprised that I’m both a dyslexic and a librarian.
When you were young, what did you want to be when you were a grown-up? And what was your first Job?
I wanted to be a firefighter but I’m only 5ft and shortsighted, so that wasn’t really an option and I think I would probably be a bit scared. I also wanted to work with animals.
What do you do now and how did you get into it?
I’m a librarian working in a company library and got into it kind of by accident. I did a degree in Geography and considered primary school teaching (this was prior to being diagnosed with dyslexia). I then spent a year working in schools, mainly special needs schools and while I couldn’t see myself doing it long term, I gained a lot of respect for teachers, especially those working with kids who need extra help. I was temping doing office jobs for a while and decided to go to a careers advise office. I took a test there and Librarian came out near the top, after teacher. My sister in law is also a librarian so I called her for advice and then managed to get a job in a law library for a year before doing an MA in Library and Information Studies at Loughborough. I’m glad this was before my diagnosis as I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to apply to be a Librarian once I knew I was dyslexic.
Creativity and thinking differently are often credited to neurodiversity. Would you say that is true? And if yes, could you give an example?
Yes I very much believe this to be true and it can be a real advantage at work. Sometimes it can be through creativity in the traditional sense like designing web pages for our catalogue and work portal pages or sometimes just approaching work differently. I often see a problem from a different perspective to everyone else. I can’t give any specific examples, but I sometimes do things at work that others seem really impressed with, and I think are really obvious and not that amazing. And then other times I find something really hard but others just see it as part of the job.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus, what do you do to get back on track? Do you have any hacks, tips or do you use any apps to keep you on track during the day?
If I need to do something that requires me to focus I try to do it in the morning as I know I’m more focused at that time. I also find taking some time out and coming back to a task also really helps. Music really helps when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes I just jump around to music in the kitchen to help get rid of some pent-up feelings. I use the Calm app at night to listen to music or sleep stories to help me drift off. Also don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re struggling with something. I have three kids, and I hate filling in forms for school (people need to think about making forms more accessible). I can easily get overwhelmed, but I share this with my husband to take the stress away. I do the same at work with colleagues. Asking for help it makes it easier for others to ask you for help and it comes full circle.
What makes you happy?
Family. I grew up in South East London and moved away in my 20s, so have missed seeing my parents, brother, sister and wider family since lockdown. Getting everyone back together again made me very happy. And just the simple things like watching my kids play sport or in a school production. I like to spend time with the people I love, rather than waste time on the people who don’t make me happy.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
I’m extremely proud of my children and the grounded empathetic people they are becoming. Also, I’ve recently given talks to over 300 people at work, something I never thought I could do. It’s a great feeling to challenge yourself from time to time. I’m just proud of where I’m at both work and in life. Dyslexia makes you very determined and although I knew I would get to where I needed to be eventually, I never thought I would achieve a master’s degree having struggled at school, so that’s a big achievement for me.
Do you have a Positive ND message to the world? Imagine you have a £5 million advertising campaign to spend on billboards all over the world. What would you say?
I would use it to educate others on neurodiversity, to tell the world about the positives we bring to the workplace and to life in general. The world becomes a better place when you have a diverse range of people in it. Hopefully that would help people think about how we educate, employee and generally treat each other. I would also use some of the funds to tell people that it’s ok to be messy – in mind and in life. Life is way too boring when it’s perfect.
Final question – where can people find out more about you. Do you have a website and social media pages.
I have an affiliates page on bookshop.org where I recommend books for fellow Dyslexics, reluctant readers young and old, but I think there’s something for everyone there. I receive a small commission for any books sold on the site, but it’s main aim is to share books that I’ve loved and give an honest opinion on how friendly they are to dyslexic readers.
I also have an Instagram account and a Twitter, which I use to promote the bookshop.org site but more importantly to share what it’s really like to be dyslexic, I hope via these three platforms that I can encourage others to see the advantage that neurodiversity is rather than being something to hold you back – after all whoever heard of a dyslexic Librarian?!