Profile of a School Librarian

My name is Missy Cahill and I am an International School Librarian living in Changchun, China and working in the Changchun American International School.

What path did you take to get to your current role?

I started off working part time in UCD in their Health Sciences Library during my MLIS. After graduating I was lucky enough to get a job in Trinity in the John Stearne Medical Library where I worked part time {Mon – Fri 1-5pm} for 2 and half years before moving down to the main campus library for another 6 months. Whilst working part time, I volunteered in St. Andrews College, an IB (International Baccalaureate) school and established their primary school library. I worked in the mornings there for 6 months.

After 3 years in total of working for Trinity part time I was fed up of constantly being poor and having no disposable income. I had always wanted to work as a school librarian and had wanted to live abroad. During the summer of 2014 I applied half heartedly to a few international schools, thinking it was too late to be recruited. But low and behold I got an interview with a school in Beijing, Panama and Changchun {Where I currently live}. I wasn’t even going to do the interview for my current position, but my boyfriend convinced me to do. I ended up getting on really well with the Head of the School who interviewed me and the next day he offered me the position.

I accepted it on the August Bank Holiday Monday, told my family and on September 13th moved to China. During all my interviews, the thing they focused on was my 6 month work experience in St. Andrews, they weren’t interested in my experiences in working in Trinity or UCD. This I believe is what got my position.

"IMG_9142 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

IMG_9142 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Describe a typical day

My day starts at 7.50am when the school day begins. Throughout the day I’ll be teaching a number of classes with ages ranging from 3-18 years old. We are an IB school with students from over 30 different countries. I teach 22 classes a week in the library. The schedule varies from day to day. What I teach depends on what the students are learning in their classrooms. I primarily work with the Primary School but have classes with the other grades too. I’ve been teaching the students how to use the library, and now with my new technology how to conduct online research, I read stories etc. With my older students I bang on about referencing and citing. I think I have gotten it through to them how important it is to avoid plagiarism. I finish the day at 4.20pm.

What traditional library skills are important to have within your role?

Not sure if it is a ‘traditional library skill’ but good customer service. A smile goes a long long way. Being helpful and friendly to little people is very important. There is no room for scary old fashioned librarians.

I also wish I had cataloguing experience. There has been a few times where I’ve had to catalogue a book and I really don’t have the slightest idea how to do it from scratch. That’s been challenging and I’d like to try and find some course of guidance online for that.

What non-traditional library skills are important to have within your role?

Arts and crafts. Trying to come up with different and exciting ways to make the library visually appealing to students and visitors. I’m not very good at this, but Pinterest has been my saviour! The amount of posters I’ve had to make this year has been ridiculous but fun at the same time. I just wish I was more creative!

Teaching too! I’ve never taught anything in my life before. Its been a learning experience for sure, but I love it and am now going to get my teaching certificate online from the UK to help me further.

Are there any specific software packages or technologies you use on a regular basis within your role?

I really pushed for technology to be implemented. We had ancient Dells that no one used. I fought for 6 months to get 10 iPads and a Smart TV to be put into the library so I could teach. It was very difficult teaching 20 kids around one computer. The iPads are a fantastic resource to have. With my MYP (Middle Years Programme) students, we’ve used Adobe Voice for one project on Greek Figures, and now I’m starting a new project using the Stop Motion app on the iPad. The students, in groups are reading their selected book and then going to animate them in Stop Motion. I also got the school to purchase a subscription to EBSCO, which now makes information literacy classes so much easier! I’ll be teaching the new teachers in September how to use this.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

My predecessor wasn’t a very friendly fellow. In fact I heard he hated people coming into the library. What I love is when the teachers come up to me tell me how nice it is to be allowed to be in the library and how helpful me and my staff are. Also when parents of students come in and give me compliments about how much their children enjoy library time. I love anything that encourages and fosters a love of reading. This week we are celebrating Book Week in the primary school. We’re having a Character Parade, Spelling Bee, Book Bowl, Read your Way around the World, Open the Door to Reading {homerooms have to decorate their classroom door of their favourite book cover} and many more things. The students are so excited and so am I!

"Celebration of World Literature" by Pesky Librarians is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Celebration of World Literature” by Pesky Librarians is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

Management and Internet Access.

Management is tricky because sometimes I feel like I have to fight for absolutely everything I want. For example, I wanted to hang an iPad wall mount onto the side of the bookcase. It was well received the idea, and the owners of the school were really excited by how 21st century it would look. I ordered the wall mounts, and when they arrived they were very heavy. Thus meaning a screw would have to go into the bookcase. I filled in another form asking if a screw could be screwed into place for hanging them up. I was denied. I was then told we’d have to find an alternative solution and to buy something that didn’t require screws. Its frustrating the amount of paperwork you have to fill in {but hey its China!} for simple things. If I want to request a pen, I fill in a request form. If I want to have someone repair my laptop I fill in a form. You get the picture, everything needs a form. Asking for permission gets constantly tiring, so I stop asking and just do it anyway!

Internet Access. It sucks. Everything is blocked. Teaching basic information literacy skills is virtually impossible. All teachers have their own personal VPN {Virtual Proxy Network} to access the western world. I wouldn’t be able to live without access to Netflix, Twitter and Google. I have to figure out my lessons by working around the lack of VPN. And trust me its incredibly difficult. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it or do my Info Lit classes any justice.

What are the career prospects within your area of librarianship?

I have the best job in the world. The world is literally my oyster. Working internationally as a school librarian can take me anywhere. Absolutely anywhere in the world. I’m the head librarian, so I can’t get any higher than that! One of the best things about working in an International school are the perks. My accommodation, a 2 bedroom beautifully decorated apartment, return flights annually, health care, visa provided, contract bonus are all fabulous perks. I have no bills to pay. I get collected in a bus for a 10 minute commute to work. But best of all are the school holidays. Twelve weeks a year are spent on vacation and trust me you need those 12 weeks. Working with kids is difficult! But living here in China means that travel is so easy and accessible. So far this year I’ve been to Beijing {twice}, Shanghai {thrice} & Vietnam. This summer I’ll be travelling South East Asia for 5 weeks, before a quick visit home for two weeks before school starts again.

Do you have any advice for people interested in pursuing a role in your genre of librarianship.

If you’re interested in working as a school librarian or as an international school librarian, you need to be willing to accept different cultures and different norms. Embrace challenges cause they occur almost daily. Get experience in your local school, even if they have no library, ask to set one up. All this experience is invaluable. Working abroad can be challenging and lonely. I personally don’t like the city I live in, its cold {its -25 in the winter which lasts 6 months of the year}, its dirty and the food is awful. Yet I’m making the most of it. I’m on a great salary, I save 80% of my salary each month. By the end of the school year I will have saved 15,000 Euros. I don’t think I could have managed to save that in 5 years living in Ireland. There is nothing to spend my salary on here. Eating out and the occasional drink is as exciting as it gets. It can also get lonely. Thankfully I’ve made some amazing friends here in my school and we are a little family unit. I think the best selling point is you get to see the world. I had never been to China before moving here, and I’ve seen only a fraction of it, but its been eye opening. The job opportunities are endless. And they can take you absolutely anywhere.

If you need or want to find out more information please feel free to contact me on twitter @missymoecahill

Explore the new Cregan Library during Library Camp

Cregan Library5St. Patrick’s College is one of the oldest third-level educational institutions in Ireland and has enjoyed a leading position in the area of primary teacher education in Ireland since its foundation in 1875. Cregan Library has had several homes in the College, with the last iteration being built in the 1970s and located at the back of the Drumcondra campus.

Cregan Library4In February of 2015, (after a prolonged building period and much hard work!) Cregan Library moved into a brand new state-of-the-art four-story building which faces onto Drumcondra Road. It provides students and staff with a modern, comfortable, expanded learning space complete with collaborative and group study spaces and an archive room for the Library’s special collections.

Cregan Library3Named a ‘flagship project’ by the President of the College, the colourful Library building is now firmly placed both in the Drumcondra skyline and at the heart of the student experience for 2016.

Cregan Library2We were absolutely delighted when we were offered the library as the venue for this year’s Library Camp. We are also very excited that tours of the new library will be running during the Camp so you can have a good look around this beautiful new building. So what are you waiting for? Get booking and we will see you on Saturday May 23rd at 1pm!!

Cregan Library 1

10 reasons to attend attend Library Camp 2015

If you’re still not sure if what Library Camp is all about and whether it’s for you, we’ve compiled our top 10 reasons for coming along. If you still haven’t got your ticket, click here to book!

#1 Speed networking

Networking can be intimidating so why not try speed networking? You get a short amount of time to chat to whoever is closest to you and when the bell rings you move on. Thanks to Helen Kielt who suggested speed networking for the first Library Camp.

Cregan Library5#2 A tour of the brand spanking new Cregan Library

The Cregan Library at St. Patrick’s College in Drumcondra opened in February of this year. Here’s your chance to have a good nosy around! We’ll also be running tours during the breaks. It’s a beautiful new building and a tour is sure to be one of the highlights of the afternoon.

#3 Have we mentioned the cake?

Every year participants bring cake and other goodies. There is usually more food than we could possible eat in a day.

#4 We’ll have an Ideas Lounge

This year we’ve decided to introduce an Ideas Lounge. We’ll have an area where you can come and talk to the CDG committee, let us know what you would like from us, what we’re doing right, what we could be doing better, or if you have any ideas for upcoming events. Or ideas for anything really!

#5 Brainstorm how to use a combination of new and traditional marketing methods

How do we combine traditional marketing methods such as newspapers, radio and exhibitions with newer social media approaches. Comes and tell us how it has worked for you and learn from the experience of others.

Library Camp 2014 Marta#6 Advice for your Elevator Pitch

We have lots of great pitches for you to get involved in. This includes your elevator pitch, how do you explain the importance of your skills as an information professional and the value of libraries in general.

#7 Advice on marketing library services such as LibGuides

This pitch will explore ways of marketing library services to students, as well as using these services to reinforce the Library’s role in the wider community or organisation.

#8 Want advice on marketing a small library in a larger organisation? We’ve got it covered!

In this pitch, Niamh and Andrew will share their experiences of how to promote librarians and libraries within a large organisation. The pitch will also look at how to market to different stakeholders; e.g. those who use the service versus those who manage the budgets!

#9 Borrowing & lending items for an exhibition? There’s a pitch for that.

This pitch is based on UCC Library’s Special Collections’ experience of lending an 1802 item to the British Library for an exhibition.

#10 There will be even more ‘networking’ after the Camp finishes in the Ivy House.

After the event we will gather for drinks and more  talk at the Ivy House Pub, 114 Upper Drumcondra Road.

 

Pitching at Library Camp

Last year was my second time attending Library Camp but my first time pitching. Pitching an idea may seem a bit intimidating so I’m sharing my experience to show that it really isn’t intimidating at all.

Library Camp 2014

Library Camp 2014

I really wanted to get involved last year but as I had recently graduated and had only just started a new job I wasn’t sure what I could contribute. The only thing I knew about was job hunting so that’s what I decided to pitch. I titled my pitch ‘Information Professionals and the jobs market’ and emailed a few short paragraphs about my idea to the CDG committee.

Library Camp is really informal and there are no powerpoint presentation – just you, a marker and a flip chart. I had written down my ideas on some flash cards but really the person standing up with an idea is really just there to facilitate a conversation. I was definitely nervous at the beginning of my pitch, that’s totally normal, but a few familiar faces put me at ease. Librarians are a friendly bunch!!

I started with the job hunt itself, I gave some recommendations of job sites I had used and then we added more suggestions as a group. Naturally we tackled internships and had an open discussion around their pros and cons. We also discussed how to get the most out of your internship if you decide to do one. We then moved on to networking and CPD. Again, I gave a few suggestions and then opened the question to the floor for further ideas. The time flew by and I had to wrap up quickly.

Library Camp 2014 LauraI really enjoyed the experience and saw my role as giving pointers to start a conversation rather than me exclusively talking about my job hunt. So if you have an idea relating to marketing within your organisation, jot a few ideas down and then throw it open to the floor. Library Camp is all about collaboration and communication of ideas.

Although I’m not involved with marketing in my organisation I have decided to pitch again this year. I sometimes struggle to explain to people what I do and why it’s important. So this year I’m tackling the Librarian’s elevator pitch and I’m hoping we’ll have a really great discussion about how to tackle this problem.

So what are you waiting for? Get your thinking cap on and get pitching!

by Jenny O’Neill, DRI Data Curator and CDG Committee member

Reflection on my first information literacy tutorial

This week I taught my first real information literacy session to a group of students on “Advanced Google Searching”. The following is a before, during and after account of my experience.

Before

I approached my manager in late February asking if I could design and teach an information literacy session on “Advanced Google Searching”. Information literacy is an area I have a keen interest in and I wanted to add “teaching information literacy classes” to my CV. I frequently sit down with students and do one to one sessions demonstrating the use of the library catalogue, databases and information management options but I felt standing up in front of a group of a class would give me more of a challenge. After getting the go ahead from my manager I decided to start my preparation.

Preparation

One thing I really underestimated was the amount of work that actually goes into planning and designing a session such as this. A 30 minute session took nearly three weeks to plan between researching the information needs of the students, to advertising the class and preparing handouts, feedback forms and the presentation itself. I read some literature on information literacy and analysed different types of teaching methods to best suit me and my audience. For the content I did extensive research on Google’s Inside Search and Power Searching with Google and took ten main search operators and other Google features and then designed these around relevant examples.

Most of the students are Art & Design students so I focused on finding information about painters, sculptures, image searching along with critical theory articles. Credibility of information was key in this session so I demonstrated how to only search educational websites (sites with domain name ending in .edu) for research and how to limit their search results by relevancy. When I felt my presentation was ready I had to start marketing my class. I contacted academic staff to inform them what I was doing, sent out emails, stuck up notices and advertised by word of mouth when students came to the information desk.

"Information Literacy" by Ewa Rozkosz is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Information Literacy” by Ewa Rozkosz is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Information Session

Due to the room being occupied by a class until the last minute, I had trouble with the projector at first but after some awkward moments I got started. Even though I never had an issue with public speaking, I was nervous. I knew I was prepared but there was still an element of panic as my audience waited in anticipation. Once I got started I was fine. I stressed the importance of using the libraries resources as a starting point for any academic research while simultaneously explaining how Google is becoming more popular as a research tool with Google Scholar and its other features.

In my head I had prepared for questions at the end of the presentation and got slightly side tracked when I got asked a question bang in the middle of the presentation. After going off on a tangent but still answering the question I was able to resume where I left off. Before I knew it forty minutes had passed and I was finished. I asked the students to answer a short feedback form and inform me where I could improve.

Reflection

All in all, I felt the class went well for a first attempt but there are definitely areas I need to improve on. Structuring and speed being the two that I feel need attention. Due to the time of the academic year there was a low turnout but it was a place to start and get teaching practice. While I may have lacked teaching experience (and wish to do more in the future to improve on this) other skill sets were vital from beginning to end.

Research Skills

I spent time in the preparation stages deciding how I would present my class. I played around with Prezi, Microsoft Powerpoint, PowToon and eventually decided to go with Google Slides as I am used to working with Google Drive. Pinterest was also very useful for giving me ideas on effective library teaching. And of course I had to research the different ways to search Google and keep myself updated on any changes.

Communication and Networking

Networking and building a relationship with other staff within my Institution was important as I needed to consult with academic staff for advertising my class on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Moodle, administrative staff for the booking of the classroom and informally advertising my class with the students when they came to the information desk.

Time Management and Organisational skills

Designing, planning and giving a session like this required me to use my time management skills as I still had to carry out my daily tasks. I was informed that most essays and writing assignments were completed at this stage in the semester and the rest of the time may be spent on practical work so this time in the academic calendar wasn’t ideal. However, at this stage I feel I have a good foundation to work from and this information skills session can be built on.

Tips for first time Info Lit Instructors

  • Try and get some teaching practice in College or place of work- it can be intimidating getting up in front of strangers. Class presentations are an excellent way to gain experience in speaking publicly about a topic.
  • Network and communicate with others in your institution. Introduce yourself to other staff in your building and inform them you work in the library. You will need to consult with them on advertising your class, booking a room, inviting them to your talk etc.
  • Practice your sessions on someone and preferably in the room where your talk is taking place. Arrive early and try and solve any technology issues beforehand so you do not waste any class time.
  • Allow time for questions at the end and be prepared for questions at any time of the session.
  • Request feedback at the end – Find out what worked? What didn’t work? Where can you improve? Constructive Criticism does help!
  • Read some literature on best practice for information literacy training and ask experienced librarians for advice. What style of teaching do they use? Is it formal or informal? Think about your learning style and then think about what you want your teaching style to be.
  • And Finally: Do not underestimate the time that goes into planning a class. This was the most valuable lesson I learned in this experience.

Mary Murray, Library Assistant at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology

Networking on a budget

"librarian" by Joachim S. Müller is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

librarian” by Joachim S. Müller is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

If there is one thing I’ve learned since becoming an information professional it is that other information professionals are fountains of knowledge and wisdom. Going to events and meeting others who inevitably have advice or experience you can draw from will make you more knowledgeable about the profession as a whole and can be invaluable at different points in your career when you have questions or need support.

Unfortunately when you are just out of college or that contract you were on has come to an end it can seem like networking is completely unaffordable; however, don’t be disheartened – there are plenty of ways to engage with your peers and keep up to date by spending little or nothing at all.

Firstly, make the most of social media. Twitter is an excellent resource for information professionals. Some of my network I have never met face-to-face but nonetheless they have offered advice and support when I’ve needed it. Get involved in things like twitter chats to build your contacts and look out for lists of information professionals so you know who to follow. There are also plenty of librarian groups on the likes of Facebook and Linkedin also.

Attend free networking events – A&SL and HSLG have a joint networking event every winter (usually January) and it is always a great night with plenty of opportunity to mingle and chat. If you aren’t from Dublin look out for regional events such as events run by the Western Regional Section of the LAI.

Attend conferences virtually – this year I couldn’t make it to A&SL but thankfully the conference was streamed live, allowing me to participate without costing a cent. And if you’re social media savvy there isn’t even a need to miss out on the networking aspect. Twitter can be a conversation – follow the hashtag for the day and get involved by asking questions and replying to comments.

Apply for bursaries!!!! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from this.

"Ace of Cakes, library edition" by clemsonunivlibrary holder is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Ace of Cakes, library edition” by clemsonunivlibrary holder is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Finally, there are some events that are specifically targeted to those who haven’t got a budget for networking and CPD but can really benefit from it. NPDIreland run free events aimed directly at new professionals. And LibraryCamp is an annual event run by the CDG and A&SL, there is a nominal charge and everyone brings cake! So for a very small amount of money you get to spend the day listening to, and chatting with, lots of your peers and you get cake into the bargain – what’s not to love!

So there is no excuse – go forth and network!

by Sarah Kennedy, Collections Review Assistant, The Royal College of Surgeons of England

Profile of a Parliamentary Librarian

Ann O’Sullivan, Assistant Librarian in the Houses of the Oireachtas Library & Research Service

What path did you take to get to your current role.

I had a short lived career as an English teacher in Madrid just after graduating from UCC; I then worked as an Air Hostess with Royal Jordanian Airlines and lived in Jordan for 2 years, before moving to Dublin and embarking on a career as a Librarian. I completed the Higher Diploma in Library & Information Studies in UCD in 1998.

Describe a typical day.

The Houses of the Oireachtas Library & Research Service is responsible for delivering information and research services to support the work of both Houses, Committees and individual Members in respect of their parliamentary duties. Our Statement of Services is available online.

Within the Library & Research Service I have two main areas of responsibility: acquisitions (print and electronic) and enquiry handling so my days are busy, interesting and varied. On any given day I am involved in some or all! of the following tasks:

  • answering reference & short research enquiries for Members and our other users;
  • subscription renewals for journals and databases;
  • negotiating and liaising with all our information resource suppliers;
  • reviewing usage statistics;
  • dealing with any issues/questions about our information resources and providing information skills training.
"librarian" by Joachim S. Müller is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

librarian” by Joachim S. Müller is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

What traditional library skills are important to have within your role?

Collection development and research/information skills.

What non-traditional library skills are important to have within your role?

Project Management, negotiating skills, budgeting & finance, strategic planning.

Are there any specific software packages or technologies you use on a regular basis within your role?

At work: our various subscription databases, our library management system (Liberty) and Lotus Notes email. Outside work for professional reasons: Twitter, FacebookLinkedIn and Basecamp.

Editors note: I hadn’t heard of Basecamp before so looked it up. It’s a project management app.

"Library Bookshelf" by twechy is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Library Bookshelf” by twechy is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

In my role as a Librarian I have always been focused on the end user of the library/information/research service. I particularly enjoy the personal interaction with users – assisting and guiding users to the information they want, at the time they want and in the format they need it. I have always worked in roles where access to relevant information is business critical so I enjoy being part of a “rapid response information team”!

What is the most challenging part of your role?

As a special librarian multitasking between the myriad tasks and demands can be challenging.

Do you have any advice for people interested in pursuing a role in your genre of librarianship?

Networking and actively engaging with other librarians/information professionals is extremely important at all stages of your career. My involvement with the LAI for the past 10 years has been hugely beneficial. I would highly recommend seeking out a mentor/buddy in the profession for new entrants – librarians, in general, love to talk and share their knowledge and experience with other professionals.

Are you a member of any professional associations?

I am a personal member and an Associate of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI). I have been a member of the Committee of the Academic & Special Libraries Section since 2005, I was the Hon. Secretary from 2005-2007 and the Chairperson from 2007-2011. I am also a member of the Government Libraries Section and I recently joined the LAI Taskforce on Information Literacy.

Profile of a Music Librarian

Laoise Doherty, Assistant Librarian, Royal Irish Academy of Music

What path did you take to get to your current role?

I completed the HDipLIS in UCD in 2002 and later completed the MScILS via distance learning (Robert Gordon University). I’ve worked in a few different library settings, including a primary school, a commercial law firm, a third-level college and a VEC. I’m still not sure how I ended up in a music library and I’m sure my piano teacher would be even more baffled by it. She used to leave me alone in the room with her wee dog. After a while, even he was scratching at the door trying to get out!

Describe a typical day

Because the library is small and there’s only 2 staff we both do a bit of everything so there’s a bit of variety – acquisitions, cataloguing, dealing with reference queries, helping the catalogue-phobes find what they need, trying to sneak useful information into the Facebook Page in between the funny pictures!

What traditional library skills are important to have within your role?

I work in a fairly traditional library. Organising, searching and communicating are the core skills. I still catalogue from scratch too – that feels a bit retro.

What non-traditional library skills are important to have within your role?

Some people probably still think of librarians as introverted types, but an interest in people is essential. I’ve worked in very different libraries with diverse library patrons. In the RIAM, the library users range from little five year olds who are attending pre-instrumental classes to Doctorate students who are professional musicians. (I probably have more in common with the five year olds). Communication and people skills are important for building relationships with faculty, students, library colleagues, management, etc.

Project work and collaboration are becoming more of a feature of library work. Promoting the library – its services and collections – is also important. In this regard, a bit of creativity and humour never hurts – probably not the first words that spring to mind when you hear “librarian.” Given the many threats to the profession, I think it is really important that we engage in professional development, keep learning and up-skilling and keep advocating for librarians and their skills (both traditional and non-traditional).

Are there are any specific software packages or technologies you use on a regular basis within your role?

I’m afraid that we’re not exactly at the cutting edge of technology – no 3D printers churning out violins or anything! Our Library Management System is SirsiDinyx’s Symphony (very apt!). In the last few years, I’ve been getting into social media. The RIAM Library Blog and the online exhibition space, The Academy Remembers, are on WordPress and RIAM Library is on Facebook and Flickr. I’ve used Survey Monkey to get student feedback and Jing for screen-casting.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

Similar to many librarians, I enjoy bringing order to chaos (that’s my OCD talking) and connecting people with the information they need (or the information they don’t even know they need until they get it). I was delighted to work with RIAM Opera Development Officer, Kathleen Tynan, to create and develop the RIAM Opera Archive. I felt like I’d finally cracked it when one of the teachers said, “I liked your opera archive; maybe you could do the same for the performing groups.” Also, once in a while I manage to get a classical music question right on University Challenge and that makes me feel really brainy.

RIAM Library BlogWhat is the most challenging part of your role?

For me, being a non-specialist in a specialist library has been very challenging. I still don’t really think of myself as a “music librarian”. I sometimes think that being a non-musician in the Academy is a bit like being the only Muggle at Hogwarts! When I mentioned this to one of my colleagues on the A&SL Committee, she pointed out all the important skills that we, as librarians, bring to any organisation and she recommended that I try to find my own particular niche. She’s definitely right, although some days I have the horrible suspicion that my niche might be unjamming the photocopier. Anyway, I can highly recommend a pep-talk from Niamh O’Sullivan if you’re feeling unappreciated.

What are the career prospects within your area of librarianship?

As everyone knows, library jobs have been a bit thin on the ground in recent years. There aren’t many dedicated music librarian positions out there. The RIAM only has a library staff of 2, so not many opportunities there! But then some public libraries have music collections, the National Library has a music collection and you can look at orchestras, archives, arts and cultural organisations, e.g. The Irish Traditional Music Archive, RTÉ and The Contemporary Music Centre. You can check out the IAML website for more information on music libraries. Professionally, one of the best things I’ve done in recent years is to join the Committee of the Academic & Special Libraries Section of the LAI. This has helped greatly with my professional development and given me a great network of colleagues.

Do you have any advice for people interested in pursuing a role in your genre of librarianship?

Be able to read music, play a musical instrument, have a broad knowledge of music history, composers, musical forms and genres, be able to speak about 5 different languages. Or if, like me, you don’t have any of that, be really open to learning!

Profile of a Health Librarian

SVHGLibraries logoAssistant Librarian in St. Vincent’s University Hospital

What path did you take to get to your current role?

Typified by the old joke – “If I wanted to get to there, I wouldn’t start out from here!” A B.A. in modern languages from UCC many years ago, years working in tourism and in the dairy industry, during which time I completed an evening course in DIT resulting in a Diploma on Management Law (DIT) and a BSc(Mgt) from TCD. Then a couple of years working with Dublin City Businesses topped off with evening and weekend Library Assistant work in both the Mercer and St. Luke’s Hospital Libraries. I felt – finally! – I’d found my niche and owe a debt of gratitude to both Gay Doyle (former Librarian in St. Luke’s) and to Beatrice Doran (former Chief Librarian, Mercer Library) for their assistance and encouragement. I returned to College and got my DLIS from UCD in 2004. My first professional Library role was on the TextAccess project based in TCD and sponsored by AHEAD (Association for Higher Education Access & Disabilities. I’ve been in my current role for the past 9 years.

Describe a typical day

I’m based in the University Hospital Library and during the academic year we generally have students as physical users while staff are mostly “virtual” from both the University and the Private Hospitals. Student needs are minimal really – an introductory talk and visit, book loans and – the bane of my life! – printing/photocopying. Staff needs are what occupy the largest part of my day. Clinical professionals are (almost) all obliged to engage in audits, research and CPD to maintain their professional status and hospital librarians assist with developing their search strategies, sourcing and provisionally appraising the literature and offering training or refresher sessions on the use of key clinical databases. A basic but comprehensive search will take between 3 and 8 hours so that can leave me with very little time for anything else. On a proactive basis, I send out a bi-monthly alerts bulletin to all staff as well as a number of targeted alerts by request. I’m also involved in literature searching for the NCCP and am on the HSLG Committee as CPD officer.

What traditional library skills are important to have within your role?

Searching (and finding!), training, informing, research, data management – these all feature on a regular basis. I’m team leader on a research project set up by the American MLA (Medical Library Association) and even though there’s never enough time to devote to it during working hours it’s an interesting hands-on way to develop my research skills.

What non-traditional library skills are important to have within your role?

It’s not entirely non-traditional but advocacy and promoting our services is constant and each year I try, with my colleagues, to come up with ways to maximise and promote the use of the Library, the Librarians and the resources we provide. In addition, there is more pressure to quantify your contribution and align it with the main goals of the hospital but it’s something that we now try to do on a regular basis. I have, with my former colleague Breda Bennett from our sister hospital, St. Michael’s, carried out an audit on the impact and value of the service and this provided good qualitative evidence but identifying quantitative evidence is more challenging.

SVHGLibrariesAre there any specific software packages or technologies you use on a regular basis within your role?

Mostly databases – subscribed and more frequently, open access, such as PubMed, PeDROTRIP Database etc. Also reference management software such as Zotero or EndNoteWeb. One thing to expect when working in a hospital library is that access to anything Google- or social media-related will most likely be blocked by the firewall as a failsafe to avoid any possible breaches of confidential patient files. The hospital has just subscribed to Moodle though, and I’m looking forward to getting constructive and creative with that.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

It’s great to get feedback from staff saying that the help you provided is benefitting real live patients who are of course our ultimate end-users.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

This is a toss-up between staying up to date with my own CPD needs and trying to find time to get everything on the to-do list completed on time every time. IT issues are ever-present, firewall restrictions means that I spend a lot of time looking for workarounds because I can’t use the nice free web tool that would do the job most conveniently. Like most libraries, our staff numbers dropped during the lean years and it goes against the grain to say “no” to any request especially when we have worked so hard to raise our profile so we are still struggling to provide the same service with minus one-third of the Library staff. CPD is crucial but finding the time and the money to keep attend the necessary courses is a challenge. I did complete a MOOC but there’s a learning curve to these.

What are the career prospects within your area of librarianship?

Room for cautious optimism here. I’d suggest a read through S. Layla Heimlich (2014) New and emerging roles for Medical Librarians, Journal of Hospital Librarianship, 14:1, 24-32, DOI: 10.1080/15323269.2014.859995. Also, Aoife Lawton (2014) The Value of Health Libraries and Librarians to the Irish Health System, The Irish Medical Journal, 107:3, 90-92. I also see a major role for healthcare librarians in patient education and information and there are numerous examples of such initiatives taking place around the globe – from bibliotherapy and book prescriptions to personalised health management and public health promotion. So, there are opportunities but it will be up to the individual to carve a niche for themselves because librarians don’t generally spring to mind as a solution to these issues.

The other side to this is the upskilling required to meet the demands of these new roles. There is growing pressure to establish core skills and competencies for healthcare librarians to underpin an evolving profession. A good read on this would be Aoife Lawton & Jane Byrne (2014) A review of competencies needed for health librarians – a comparison of Irish and international practice, Health Information & Libraries Journal, 2014 Dec 30. doi: 10.1111/hir.12093. [Epub ahead of print].

Do you have any advice for people interested in pursuing a role in your genre of librarianship?

Health Librarians in particular work in an evidence-based world and actively promote the use of evidence in practice. At the same time, we are lacking in a strong body of evidence to underpin our own profession – my first piece of advice would be to get involved from the outset in research that will strengthen our own evidence base.

Secondly, the papers highlighted in Q9 present a range of roles and opportunities but in reality these roles rarely exist and we have to be prepared to advocate for their introduction. Think about what you could achieve in terms of added value, beneficial outcomes, cost savings and so on – these are most likely to gain a positive hearing.

Thirdly, while health librarians work in a range of different settings from Academic to Special libraries, there are many working as solo librarians and this can be a challenge. I strongly recommend getting involved in (or initiating) collaborative projects, library committees and groups, discussion lists as a means of keeping in touch.

Library Camp is back!

asl logoSPD Library Letterhead (web) (1)

Drumroll please…. the CDG in conjunction with our lovely friends, the Academic and Special Libraries Section and Saint Patrick’s College Library, are delighted to announce that May 23rd marks the return of the LAICDG Library Camp!

""Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read" Groucho" by bruno is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Library Camp is a chance for all members of the Library Community to get together to discuss current trends and opinions on everything Library related. What makes Library Camp a bit different is that it is pretty informal and inclusive; you don’t have to be working in a Library or be a LAI member, all you need is an interest!  The Camp is a daylong “Unconference” where there will be several mini workshops and talks happening at once. The idea is that you can wander to and from the various discussions allowing you to gather as many ideas as possible.  Another perk of the Library Camp is that in spirit of networking (and eating!) everyone is encouraged to bring sweet and savoury food to share, so if you like cake you like Library Camp!

file000370626123The theme of this year’s event is Marketing, we chose this topic on foot of the success of the Information Skills for the Future Event. This event generated some healthy discussions about what skills are deemed important for future career development. Throughout the course of the day it became apparent that Marketing and knowing how to brand your library/services/you is a real cause for concern among the Library Community. It is hoped that the Camp will help address this skills gap and generate some new ideas on how to tackle it.

We are very fortunate that this year our event will be hosted in the brand new state of the art library in Saint Patrick’s College Drumcondra.  So regardless if you’re an established Librarian or you are just curious about the world of information and Library management we want  to see you there to join us in the discussion and the fun.  Keep an eye on our Blog, Twitter and Facebook for more details on this event and how to get tickets.