Profile of an Academic Librarian

DBS Master Logo May08Head of Library Services


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

After completing an arts degree in English and Geography at UCC, I did a Graduate Diploma in Business Studies in the Michael Smurfit School of Business at UCD. Whilst at UCD I saw a post for a pre Library course internship for one year at King’s Inns Library. I did this and subsequently the GradDipLIS at UCD. Whilst doing the MLIS I worked as a part time library assistant at DIT. I continued in this role after graduation, going on to work as Senior Library Assistant at DIT, Assistant Librarian at the South Eastern Health Board, an Assistant Librarian at the Welsh Office, an Assistant Librarian at UCD, an Assistant Librarian at the Oireachtas and finally to my current post at DBS Library.

I worked as a library assistant for about two years after completing my MLIS. I believe that library graduates shouldn’t get overly focused on getting a professional post upon graduation. If you can obtain a professional post – that’s great but don’t hold out for a professional post solely. Just get working in a library. Get  library experience- the rest follows.

When I qualified there was quite a lot of contract work in libraries. Rather than fixating on securing a permanent pensionable job, I did a number of contract posts to build up experience. This helped me to secure a permanent job at DBS. Although I didn’t go down the business road, my business studies qualification helped me re HR, management issues. Bring what you have learned from your studies in their entirety into your current role even if it isn’t specifically library related.

DBS libraryDescribe a typical day

There is no typical day for the modern library manager. I am responsible for the strategic management of the Library so oversee a lot of library projects and developments in all areas of library operations. I am also involved in the library and research elements of programmatic and new validation events which are conducted by Quality Qualifications Ireland. I also devote time to marketing the MSc in Information and Library Management at DBS, a programme that I am passionate about.

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

Good collection development and IT skills. Ultimately a library is about providing access to materials for the empowerment of its users in the format that they require.

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

Project management is not a skill that is taught in library schools. This is pity. Most library projects are large scale projects. These projects must be implemented in an efficient and cost effective manner with maximum outcomes for all stakeholders.

The implementation of a new Library Management System for example is a huge project involving thousands of book and patron records. You also have to maintain essential library services whilst implementing these projects. One of the most important roles to emerge in libraries over the last decade is the role of the systems librarian. They are a huge resource when implementing any library project with a technical element. I am very fortunate to have an excellent systems librarian who you may know: David Hughes.

DBS library1Are there any specific software packages or technologies you use on a regular basis within your role?

Metrics and statistics are everything re showcasing to management, quality assurance agencies and other stakeholders the success of your department. For this reason I like the reporting and statistical modules of Koha and library databases. Healthy circulation figures, database usage figures also help to make the case for the renewal of library subscriptions.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

Assisting the learner in achieving the learning outcomes of their programme. I also enjoy developing library staff professionally.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

DBS Library has a high retention rate re its staff. This is wonderful as we retain key staff who bring huge value to the department. The flip side of this is that it means that there are fewer promotional opportunities for library staff that are starting out in their careers.

What are the career prospects within your area of librarianship?

Over the last few years we have created a number of professional roles in DBS Library including the Systems Librarian, Information Skills Librarian (a teaching librarian), a Research Librarian, an Acquisitions Librarian and others. Career prospects are good and many of these professional roles are occupied by DBS Library staff who were formerly library assistants who completed their postgraduate library qualification. Full-time library assistants at DBS are also entitled to pursue the MSc in Information and Library Management for free.

Staff retention is high so opportunities don’t come up frequently. More recently some of our library staff have moved on to positions such as the Library Manager at Barnados and Executive Librarian at Wicklow County Council Library.  This created promotional opportunities for remaining staff. I believe that the experience one obtains at DBS Library is invaluable in building ones library career. We also offer short stints of unpaid work experience to library graduates wishing to build up their CV.

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

The old adage – get your foot in the door – be it a short stint of unpaid work experience, a job bridge contract or part-time library work. At DBS Library we have recruited part-time and full-time staff from people who have carried out work experience with us because they have made an impression on us etc.

Also keep learning. Even if you don’t have a lot of money – there are free Moocs that you can pursue that provide a talking point in interviews. Have a good CV which showcases your skills. Practise for interviews.  I am a great believer in the mock interview prior to doing an actual interview. Get a more experienced librarian to ask you relevant questions etc. by way of preparation for the actual interview. Find a mentor in the library profession with significant experience who can provide advice and support re your career development. I do a lot of this and find it very rewarding.

Profile of a Law Librarian

The Bar Council Law LibraryJohn Duffy

Sub-Librarian (Collection Development & Systems)

Bar Council of Ireland Law Library.

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

I graduated from Robert Gordon University in 2000 and began as a cataloguer, working on a short-term contract in Trinity College Dublin. From there I took a temporary position as Assistant Librarian in ITT Dublin, with responsibility for cataloguing, systems and collection development. My next post was a return to being a cataloguer in the Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas, but over nearly six years there the role evolved to take in systems, online services, and a large amount of the acquisitions and collection management duties. My job title was “eResources Librarian” when I left.

My current role is a further widening of these duties, with management responsibility for all aspects of what used to be called “technical services”: collection development, systems, and an array of online services, both commercial and developed in-house. I have reporting responsibility for four assistant librarians in this area, as well as a separate team working on digitisation.

Describe a typical day

My work tends to be quite project driven. At the moment a major revamp of the Law Library’s public website is being planned and I’m part of the team working on the design and content for that. I also assist with the routine flow of information through the organisation to our users, such as publishing content to our intranet or indexing digitised judgments.

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

The ability to see your service from the user’s point of view is absolutely crucial, and even more so as we move into an era of mobile services where users aren’t necessarily coming into direct contact with library staff or facilities. Designing things intuitively is vital for the library’s survival, and testing where the weak points are with analytics and surveys is also important.

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

It’s a cliché, but communication is key: within teams, throughout the organisation, and out to the users who are the reason our service exists in the first place. Every librarian should consider communications and marketing as part of their job.

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

I couldn’t live without Notepad: a  surprising amount of web content gets created or processed through it. I stumbled across InfoPath seven years ago and have made great use of it for creating and editing XML data. I was sad to see it has been discontinued by Microsoft. If anyone has any suggestions for a replacement I’d love to hear them!

[Editor’s note: I’ve heard good things about Oxygen which is paid for software.]

Law libraryWhat is the most rewarding part of your role?

Finishing things! Having a project, any project, completed, signed off and operational.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

Keeping all the plates spinning, making sure lower priority work does actually get done and that it’s not all grand projects or quick fixes.

What are the career prospects within your area of librarianship?

Times have been tough lately for the profession as a whole and I certainly don’t envy anyone starting out. The techie and systems side of librarianship can sometimes be undervalued too, by senior management who don’t understand what it is or how it differs from IT support. That said, there’s always a need for good technically-minded librarians. Bide your time, hone your skills, and the opportunities will come.

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

The old saw that nobody wants a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole, is apposite. Always present yourself as being about solutions, improving efficiencies, adding value to services. Never lose sight of what the technology and the processes are for: making life easier for the people who use the information we hold.

Save the date #CDGchat Wednesday 4th of March from 8pm to 9.30pm

LAI CDG Twitter Save the Date

You are cordially invited to join your CDG committee for a Twitter Chat on Wednesday 4th of March from 8pm to 9.30pm. We are really looking forward chatting with you all about job-hunting, skills and non-traditional careers for librarians.

So, what’s a Twitter Chat?

Forbes succinctly describe a Twitter chat as “a live Twitter event, usually moderated and focused around a general topic. To filter all the chatter on Twitter into a single conversation a hashtag is used. A set time is also established so that the moderator, guest or host is available to engage in the conversation.”

To join our Twitter chat all you have to do it tweet during the chosen time (Wednesday 4th of March from 8pm to 9.30pm) using the hastag #CDGchat.

What will we be chatting about?

We will have a pretty informal, semi-structured chat where by we will post certain questions for you to chat about. These will include topics such as

  • what you want from your committee
  • what resources are invaluable to you on a day-to-day basis or for job-hunting
  • what skills are essential to your job
  • library roles you’d like to learn more about
  • non-traditional library jobs
  • the skills gap and transferable skills

We hope this will be a great way to let us know what’s important to you with regards to career development as well as to meet and chat with other librarians and information professionals.

Setting up a Twitter profile

Sign up for TwitterTwitter is a fantastic way to get to know other information professionals, to keep up date with the latest library news and generally great fun. Signing up is free and easy. Simply pop over to, put in your name, email address and choose a password. In the next step you will be prompted to choose a username, this is unique to you and is the name your followers use when sending @replies, mentions, and direct messages. Once you have created your account you’ll be sent a confirmation email with a link to confirm your account and then you’re good to go.

Don’t forget to follow the @LAICDGroup once you have your account up and running. If you prefer to have your account private you can ‘protect‘ your tweets, but for the Twitter chat we recommend unlocking your account to participate more fully.

New and old methods of art historical research

As a librarian in a fine art library, I was thinking about how I would characterise researching a painting and the parallel methodologies of research used; book and internet.

Traditional methods

The traditional method has been to use art books for the purpose of fact-checking: leafing through heavy, bulky reference tomes and, if you are lucky, to have in stock a monograph on the artist. In addition there may be archival files held in the gallery which collate aspects of a painting’s provenance, but the content of such archival files can occasionally be akin to a “lucky dip” in terms of what you can find.

However these methods of research remain the tried and tested methodologies in terms of art historical research and their consultation is a vital and continuing aspect of any research project. Regarding biographical dictionaries many of these would have indispensable reading lists, or bibliographies, providing the researcher with vital clues to the lives of artists, which the internet simply doesn’t cover to such a specific extent, nor provide a sufficient level of factual reliability, although “Wiki-thoners” would beg to differ.

Newer methods

On the other hand, the benefits of the internet to art historical research have been far reaching in terms of broadening the overall knowledge and contextual language of a painting. In terms of researching art, i.e. the interpretation of paintings, a vital new development has been the growing importance of Google Images as a high speed device showcasing comparative images for a key word search.

A contemporary example

An example of this is in a current research paper I am writing on a painting held in the National Gallery of Ireland. Entitled “Arras 1917” this oil on canvas is a depiction of the destroyed belfry of the town hall of this northern French town, painted by an obscure artist called Fernand Sabatte during the First World War.

From using traditional art historical resources, notably Benezit’s multi-volumed biographical dictionaries held in the library, scant albeit important information is available; his birth and death dates, where he was educated, some facts regarding his career as an artist, and the various prestigious art awards he received.

However by comparison, conducting searches on the internet has brought up a fascinating series of linkages regarding the subject of the NGI painting, showing that it is one of many painted depictions of Arras, being one of a series of bombed out towns including Louvain, Rheims, Soissons and Ypres, known generically at the time as “Les Villes Martyrs”, or Martyred Towns. Allied propaganda responded with outrage at the destruction of French and Belgian architectural patrimony, as shown in the following image. Here Reims Cathedral is shown in flames after hits by German artillery. The graphic artist Albert Robida produced this lithograph in 1915 in a set of 8 prints (including the burning Arras Belfry).

In each of the 8 engravings a demonic German eagle was positioned beside a burning French landmark. Such was the popularity of the destroyed Arras Belfry as a propaganda subject, that there is a similar artwork entitle “The destruction of Arras” and held in the Mariano Procópio Museum, painted by the Australian war artist George Washington Lambert. Similarities with the NGI painting are striking. The Lambert oil on canvas depicts the burnt out ruins of the Arras belfry from the same viewpoint as the NGI work and is executed in a very similar painterly style with a heavy use of oil impasto.

Destruição de Arrás 1916” by George Washington Lambert [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

These images produced one hundred years ago of course acted as propaganda for the Allies. A full range of visual media was employed; prints, books, postcards, newspapers, and even postage stamps (known as vignettes) depicted the “Villes Martyrs”, with similar, and in some examples, the same view as the NGI’s Arras Belfry. What we also discover is that the esteemed position of “fine art” has been used for the same function as demotic, folkish ephemera, that is, as a vehicle for political propaganda.

Andrew Moore, Library Assistant (National Gallery of Ireland)

Revamped CDG website

Your new CDG Committee was convened after the AGM in September 2014 and although it might seem like we’ve been quiet over the last few months I can assure you that we have been working hard in the background and have lots of plans for the coming year.

New features

libcampblogWe’re working very hard on some exciting events, including LibCamp 2015. We hope to announce details of another fantastic event in the Spring focusing on skills for the library of the future and we’re planning a Twitter Chat based around resources for developing your career (#cdgchat) for early March. So watch this space!

You may have also noticed that our website has had a bit of a facelift. We are planning to start adding librarian profiles of various types of librarians, from systems librarians to law librarians to corporate librarians, to the site. The term ‘Librarian’ has so many meanings and we feel this new feature will help outline different career paths.

We’re are also working hard on adding new content and resources for librarians who are hoping to upskill. At the top of the website we have a new menu item for ‘Resources’. These are divided into job hunting, education and training, skills for librarians, online resources and useful software.

This is where you come in!

We need your help to expand the number of resources for librarians. So tell us (comment on this post, email us, send us a tweet, comment on Facebook) what resources you’ve found invaluable in your career or career development.

Is there any piece of software you can’t live without? Are there any online resources pinned to your bookmarks bar in your browser that you use daily? Have you attended a training course you can recommend? What did you find useful when you were starting off job hunting or looking to climb the ladder a little bit higher?

Guest blog posts

UnknownDo you have an idea for a guest blog post related to job hunting, training, skills, software or other resources?  Would you like to write about any aspect of your job? If so please get in touch with an outline of what you’d like to write. Posts need only be around 500 words. We request that the post is your original work and has not been published elsewhere, including your own website or blog. If published your post will be licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence.

We are particularly interested in hearing from trained librarians who are working outside of a traditional library. How has your library training helped you in your role? What transferable skills do you feel librarians have?

If you attended our Academic Writing Workshop this is a great way to put what you learned into practice and expand your CV at the same time. So what are you waiting for?

Technology skills for librarians

cropped-data.jpgTechnology skills and the ability to use various pieces of hardware and software are quickly becoming essential skills for most jobs and this is equally true for librarians. Every librarian needs a certain level of technical knowledge, whether we like it or not.

Need to know

Librarians working in more public facing roles still need to be able to show users how to use the online catalogue, how to check emails and browse the web. They will also need to be able to use certain features of their Integrated Library System (ILS) to check materials in and out and to create and update patron accounts. They may also need to be able to troubleshoot software problems or perform basic fixes on the printers or photocopiers.

Reference librarians will obviously need to be proficient at searching catalogues, databases and the internet. Cataloguers need to be comfortable with the cataloguing functions within the ILS and need to be familiar with online resources such as Library of Congress subject headings and authority lists.

Useful to know

Moving beyond the ‘need to know’ to the ‘would be useful to know’ is the ability to edit websites. Many librarians find themselves doing a bit of everything within their roles and the ability to understand, read and edit HTML and CSS is very useful. An understanding of Information Architecture will also help with designing useful and useable library websites.

For librarians who work with data XML looks similar to HTML and has become the best practice standard for how metadata is encoded. Metadata? Cataloguers will already be familiar with MARC21, but it is also important to understand the pros and cons of various metadata standards (Dublin Core, MODS, VRA Core), and be able to apply the most appropriate standard accurately to your data.

Data? Librarians also need to understand different file formats, the difference between .tiff and .jpg, .doc, .pdf and .txt. We need to be able to advise on preservation quality format for various different types of data. Librarians should be leading the digital preservation charge.

Linked Data is another really exciting area for librarians to get involved in. Librarians have been organising and connecting information for centuries and we will continue to do so. But to do so we need to be able to engage with the computer scientists and show them how it’s done.

And for librarians who really want to push the technology boat out the ability to program will give them a huge advantage. All library catalogues are giant relational databases, so SQL (pronounced Sequel, or so I’m told) is an incredibly useful querying language to learn. I asked my software engineer colleagues and they recommended javascript if you already know HTML and CSS, to really improve the library website. For librarians who are interested in getting started with programming they recommended Python or Ruby.

For many of us adding these skills to our arsenal requires a willingness to learn, an ability to upskill quickly and learn on the job. The following are just some resources that are available:

Jenny O’Neill

LAICDG’s 2014 AGM – a review

On October 6th, the LAICDG held its second AGM in the now familiar Rathmines Public Library. We started off with the nitty-gritty of the AGM, with Laura Connaughton (Chairperson) and Bryan Whelan (acting Secretary) speaking about the nature of the LAICDG, who the different members of the Committee are as well as how we communicate as a group. As we feel that events are our raison-d’etre, we spoke about the events that we held through the year. If you’re interested, you can read about the Interview Skills Workshop, Library Camp and Writing for Academic Publication on our blog (just follow those links). An important point raised during the list of events we carried out was that without groups like the Academic and Special Libraries (particularly in reference to the Library Camp event), the activities of the LAICDG would be somewhat curtailed. Lara Musto, LAICDG Treasurer, also spoke about the current finances of the LAICDG. Again, the point was made that the LAICDG is currently relying on the very generous nature of groups such as the AS&L, but without sufficient funding, the quality of our events may be lessened in the future. This is due to various high costs, such as Event Brite (used for booking event tickets) and the rent fee of venues for our events. In addition to this, the group is still willing to continue offering tickets at a lower price than other LAI groups, considering our audience involves newly professionals and unemployed.

Roy Murray‘s talk was one of the highlights of the LibCamp 2014, so we were delighted that he agreed to give his workshop on social media. We all know that the information profession has changed incredibly over the last decade or so, and none more so than in the world of social media. The vast majority of libraries – regardless of what field they operate in – have realised the importance of social media in forwarding awareness of their collection as well as connecting to existing and potential users. There are many examples of libraries who have done wonders with their social media (for example, the NLI twitter feed is always a joy to read) and, of course, some that we may politely describe as a wasted opportunity. The difficulty is that what works for one organisation may be completely innapropriate for your own. With that in mind, Roy presented a very interesting workshop which got everyone discussing this. A key element of Roy’s talk was the need to understand exactly what your organisation is, what its message is, and what it wants to actually do with social media. Particularly beneficial was that regardless of how you operate social media (amateur, pro or somewhere in between) the workshop was perfectly tailored to appeal to everyone. There was a lively discussion before we wrapped everything up and there was a healthy attendance in Mother Reilly’s afterwards.

An AGM can be a good point to start anew and introduce fresh thinking. With that in mind, over the past few months we made numerous calls through many different avenues for expressions of interest in working as Committee members in the LAICDG. The LAICDG would like to thank all those previous members who stood down after the AGM, as well as welcome all the new members. Being a Committee member can be a wonderful opportunity to help others in your field, as well as engage with your peers.

As always, we were tweeting throughout the event on . If you couldn’t make it to the event, you can follow all those tweets here.

Finally, we would like to thank all of those who attended, as well as the representatives of the LAI (who also helped out with some issues that we may have experienced regarding AGM protocol), to the staff of Rathmines Public Library and, of course, to Roy Murray.

Posted in AGM

Writing for an Academic Publication – a review of Helen Fallon’s workshop

We all know it is essential to focus on areas that people traditionally associate with career development (like getting your CV right and all those other basics), but it is important to realise that career development can encompass many different avenues. A new field which is becoming increasingly popular and important is that of writing for an academic publication. Sometimes the words ‘academic publication’ can be off-putting so we were very enthusiastic to help Helen Fallon, deputy librarian of Maynooth University, give a workshop.

The workshop attempted to increase the confidence and motivation to write as a starting point. Helen also explored identifying what is publishable and where to publish. What attendees seemed to react to most positively was the drafting of actual written pieces and for constructive criticism. It can be difficult to stay focused about an area that you have little or no experience with, but the practical element of the workshop was really well received.

You can read Shona Thoma’s blog post about this event here.

If you weren’t able to make it on the day (and weren’t checking #laicdgacd on Twitter) you can read a storify about the event here.

Thank you to all who came along, to everybody who helped, and special thanks to Helen Fallon for organising such a fantastic workshop.