Erasmus+ Staff Mobility for Librarians

Some of the beautiful architecture in Prague

Some of the beautiful architecture in Prague

Did you know if you’re working in an academic library you might be eligible to apply for an Erasmus+ Staff mobility trip which would allow you to go to a participating University library in Europe (and beyond) for training and CPD purposes? I’ve recently returned from a trip to Charles University in Prague where I participated in an exchange of best practice with other librarians. Over one working week my host librarians at the university showed me around several satellite libraries located in Prague and the Central Library where I gave a presentation on my work in Cregan Library in St. Patrick’s College.

Charles University

The Faculty of Arts of Charles University

Founded in 1348, Charles University was the first in Central Europe and now ranks in the upper 1.5 percent of the world’s best universities. The libraries of the university are ‘decentralised’ – each of its 17 faculties has its own main library as well as department and campus libraries. They have 83,169 users and 214 full-time library employees.

Why go?

Service desk on the ground floor of the Czech National Library of Technology

Service desk on the ground floor of the Czech National Library of Technology

It’s always a good idea to step outside of your own cultural and institutional bubble to see how libraries and info services operate in different contexts. As well as many of the libraries of Charles University, I also visited the National Library of the Czech Republic, the Czech National Library of Technology and the Municipal Library. In each place we were treated to insider information on the history and development of services, and the successes and challenges encountered by library staff.  From beautiful installations, architecture and sculptures, and the innovative design of library spaces to the technical and user issues that colleagues have faced, I came away from my trip bursting with ideas, photos, notes and slides, as well as a new international perspective on librarianship.

Prague National Library reading rooms

Study rooms in the Czech National Library

I highly recommend applying if your institution participates – I found it to be a very worthwhile learning experience and it enabled me to build up some contacts with colleagues in Prague and also in Kraków (there was a group of Polish librarians from the Pedagogical University of Kraków on Erasmus at the same time as me). You can receive some expenses (for travel, accommodation and food) by completing the relevant documentation and providing receipts.

How it works:

  • If you work in an academic library apply to the international office in your institution
  • Pick your destination from a list of participating institutions
  • You will be supplied with an application form – complete it with an eye to international cooperation and collaboration/best practice
  • If you are successful you will be expected to make contact with your proposed host institution to arrange the details and itinerary of your visit
  • You will usually be given an allowance for expenditure
  • Start booking flights and hotels
  • Keep all your receipts and travel stubs, as you will need them to claim money back
  • Prepare a presentation on your own Library (making sure to include info about yourself)
  • Remember to bring something for your host institution (like Irish sweets or publications from your home library)
  • Take lots of photos and notes so that you can share info with colleagues when you return
  • Don’t forget to swap contact details/connect on LinkedIn with the people you meet
  • Enjoy! Take in some of the cultural highlights and local food
  • For more information about Erasmus+ see here.

    Me with colleagues from the Pedagogical University of Kraków

    Me with colleagues from the Pedagogical University of Kraków and Charles University

Human Search Engines-Formally Known as Librarians

Library Camp 2015Living in a world whereby technology has made it easier and faster than even before to gain access to information. The real problem is not access to information but rather is too much information to sort through. This got me thinking about my old college days were I didn’t really know to find reliable and accurate information. I always felt like I could have been taught these information searching skills prior to starting my undergraduate college degree. This is where I got the idea of that Librarians market themselves as having expertise in information searching skills and work with secondary school teachers.   This so that school students have a bit of a head start in college and are a bit savvier when it comes to finding information online.

It was that time of year again when I was to attend the infamous Library Camp. I was excited to get an opportunity to pitch my idea to my fellow librarian buddies in a fabulously designed new library. I started off by introducing my idea and opened up the floor to a lively discussion. Some key points were:

  • Schools without a library or professional librarians were at serious disadvantage- opportunities to have space and resources to provide this kind of tuition was very limited.
  • There needs to a change in the school curriculum to provide more opportunities for students to do research at second level instead of spoon-feeding the information
  • At primary level some of these skills are taught for example pupils were shown how to use an index. However because there is no tuition at second level these skills were never developed or were even lost.
"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.

Overall there was an agreement that there is a serious need to provide students with the opportunity to develop these skills. In doing so students are better prepared going into University. These skills are relevant for world we live in today and are important to have for their future career. I really enjoyed pitching and hearing what my fellow Human Search Engines had to say. The whole day was very successful.

By Elaine Fahy

Copyright for the Digital Arts and Humanities

I recently attended a talk given by Eoin O’Dell from Trinity College Dublin on the topic of Copyright for the Digital Arts and Humanities. While the talk was mainly aimed at students of the Digital Arts and Humanities PhD Structured Programme it was also very relevant to librarians, particularly those dealing with digital collections. Here are some of the nuggets of information I took away from the talk (and I mean nuggets, I’m only giving the headlines because as a non-expert that’s all I feel comfortable with). However, Eoin has also kindly allowed me to share his slides.

First, two Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) reports were recommended: Digital Humanities: Ireland’s Opportunity and Going Digital: Creating Change in the Humanities.

There are several relevant pieces of legislation that deal with copyright. These are:

Section 17 (2) CRRA: Copyright subsists in (a) original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, (b) sound recordings, films, broadcasts or cable programmes, (c) the typographical arrangement of published editions, and (d) original databases.

Section 12(1)a CRRA: The author of a work shall be the first owner of the copyright unless the work is made by an employee in the course of employment, in which case the employer is the first owner of any copyright in the work, subject to any agreement to the contrary.

If you are employed to create some original work, for example digitise a collection, then your employer owns the copyright. However, if you are not an employee but have been hired on contract to digitise the collection you own the copyright unless it’s written into the contract otherwise. This is something for libraries to take into account when outsourcing digitisation.

It’s also worth noting that even if you create something on the weekend or in your own time your employer still owns the copyright. So if you are a software engineer and you write code in your own time your employer owns the copyright to that code, but if you are a software engineer and you take photographs in your own time they do not.

Section 37(1) CRRA: The owner of the copyright can copy, adapt and make available the work. This is what is referred to as ‘all rights’ when you see ‘all rights reserved’.

Question: How much do you need to adapt a work before it becomes original to you?

Answer: The more you change, the more you adapt, the more you infringe. If you copy someone else’s work it never becomes yours.

For copyright to exist the creator must use skilled labour and judgement. So quick snaps taken with a point and shoot camera are not subject to copyright as there was no skilled labour and judgement used.

So you want to reuse someone else’s work?

  • Old: Section 24(1) CRRA – “The copyright […] shall expire 70 years after the death of the author, irrespective of the date on which the work is first lawfully made available to the public.” This applies to the EU, copyright laws in other countries (most notably the US where Disney has a big influence on copyright laws) may be different. The 1916 centenary is next year, so it’s worth considering that there is a good chance works created in 1916 are still in copyright.
  • Public Domain: Public Domain means a work in copyright is put beyond copyright. Stuff that is online is not by it’s nature Public Domain (but we knew that anyway, right?)
  • Public Sector Information: Directive 2013/37/EU is relevant but has not been enacted into Irish law. This legislation would see the assimilation of cultural institutions, e.g. libraries into existing legislation, with three special rules:
    1. Only documents where re-use has previously been allowed are reusable.
    2. The institution can charge the full costs, including reasonable return on investment.
    3. Institutions may engage in the award of exclusive rights for digitisation projects.
  • Permissions: It’s important to note that 99.9% of contracts are verbal (I didn’t sign a contract when I bought my morning coffee), oral contracts are valid.
  • Licences: Commonly used licences include: Irish Copyright Licensing Agency, Creative Commons or bespoke licences.
  • Exceptions: Part II Chapter 6 CRRA refers to “fair dealing”. However, “fair use” is a US construct and does not exist in the EU. For example, the Google Books project would not be legal in the EU. Section 52(1) CRRA refers to incidental inclusion of a work, so if a copyrighted work happens to be in the background this is ok, but if it is the subject of your work then it is considered infringement.
  • Orphan works: A work is considered ‘orphan’ when the copyright holder can’t be traced. This is dealt with in Directive 2012/28/EU but only applies to literary works.
  • Links: Providing online links does not infringe copyright that vests in the materials on the other end of the link.

Thank you to the organisers of the lecture and to Eoin O’Dell for presenting a really interesting and accessible view on copyright law. It’s a complex area but it’s good to know it’s not totally impenetrable for those of us in libraries that need to be aware of the laws.



Brainstorm…how to exploit the zeitgeist, using traditional and social media, in order to market your library

Library Camp 2015The sub-title of this post should, I think, be Diary of a Wimpy Pitcher, such was my fear in advance of pitching at Library Camp 2015! The day itself was such a positive and invigorating experience that my particular fears were most definitely unfounded.

The central premise of my pitch was essentially, thoughts on helping your particular initiative stand out in the ‘white noise’ of social media; with subsidiary themes about the power of brainstorming, and the benefits of exploring, and exploiting the zeitgeist.

What was covered? I hear you ask (with enthusiastic anticipation?!!) Well, here comes the bite-size bullets bit!

  • The marketing tool/vehicle is always in flux, it is the message that is constant and important.
  • Social media can reach saturation point…mix it up!
  • The zeitgeist too is, by its nature, in flux, be aware of it, explore it, harness, and even better, expand it.
  • To social media or not, that is the question…but it is no longer an option. However, social media is not the only kid on the block.
  • It’s about establishing, and re-establishing a relationship with your customer, one initial connection could lead to further use of your library, and its services.
  • Trust your instinct and experience, libraries and librarians are their own ‘usp’.

Some of my brainstorming ideas included:

  • Writing a column for a local/college newspaper
  • Broadcast a slot on local radio re. library initiatives/services (Irish people love radio!)
  • Create a podcast, using the help of local media students.
  • Advertise using a pop-up, or better still, a pop-out installation (all the rage with shops and restaurants at the moment).
  • Create one poster, with an eye-catching theme, or image, post the same image on twitter, facebook, etc. Drip-feed the information, create interest and hype around what it is you are trying to promote.
  • The zeitgeist is nostalgia/vintage/throw-back – create an event around this theme, and use it as an opportunity to show how much the library, and the services, have progressed.

The response to my pitch was very encouraging, and generous. Its purpose in giving the audience pause for thought was, I think, successful. If you are thinking of doing a pitch next year, do it! This particular Wimpy Pitcher had turned Evangelical Library Promoter by the end of the pitch…imploring her congregation to ‘go forth and brainstorm’ as they dispersed!

By Carolanne McPartlan

Profile of a Solo Librarian

Damien Wyse

Librarian and Information Officer

An Bord Pleanála

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

I originally qualified as a plumber before attending what is now MU to study social policy. My intention had been to gain employment in the public service in areas of either education or welfare policy. As it turns out, my first job offer was from An Bord Pleanála, the planning appeals board, and I’ve been here ever since.

After a couple of years, I noticed a need for increased records and information management within An Bord Pleanála and applied for funding to study in DBS, explaining the potential benefits to my employers. This application was approved and following completion of my MSc in Information and Library Management in 2012 I was fortunate enough to be promoted and began to work as the organisation’s librarian and information officer.

Describe a typical day

As a solo-librarian my day comprises all of the routine tasks involved in managing a small government library. I have a part-time library assistant who assists me but a lot of time is still spent with reference queries, acquisitions and cataloguing. Additionally, my role as information officer involves investigating Freedom of Information and Access to Information on the Environment requests made to An Bord Pleanála.

Additionally, as an organisation, we are currently upgrading our ICT infrastructure to allow for receipt of planning appeals and applications electronically. This will involve the design and creation of a new case management system for the organisation. As lead for the digitisation component of this project, I am working to create a structure for all data created or received by An Bord Pleanála during the handling of planning appeals and applications. This currently represents an enormous amount of my daily workload.

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

In a state body like An Bord Pleanála, many of the library skills learned in college are more widely applicable. Records management, dealing with information legislation such as FOI or Data Protection, and the use of statistics and evidence for analysis and decision making are all important and extremely useful.

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

Project management and advocacy for information management are two library skills which constantly recur in my role in An Bord Pleanála. As with many of the more traditional library skills, these are generally useful across the public service.

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

An Bord Pleanála currently uses a purpose built case management system which is sadly reminiscent of DOS. However, we are in the process of upgrading our entire ICT infrastructure to include an integrated case management system, geographic information system and web portal. So the future is bright.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

Having the opportunity to practically apply what I learned in DBS in a manner which directly improves services for our own internal staff and the wider public.

By Ryan Maguire, licenced under CC0.

By Ryan Maguire, licenced under CC0.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

As a solo-librarian in an organisation with a lot of information management needs, I frequently find it daunting when I am expected to know the correct approach the organisation should take in important areas such as with our digitisation strategy or records management policy for example. I’m not long qualified and have no fellow information professionals to consult with internally. Unfortunately, I’m not great for networking externally either.

I try to allay my own concerns by conducting research and accessing training where I identify a knowledge deficit. This has led me to utilise standards for record keeping from ISO, guides on creating thesauri and controlled vocabulary from the DRI, seeking additional training regarding FOI, conducting research into the information search and retrieval systems of dozens of planning authorities in the Republic of Ireland and the UK, and contacting other government bodies directly to seek advice or arrange tours or demonstrations. It’s very important for me to have confidence in the approach I’m adopting or recommending for the organisation but having to constantly find my own professional direction can be a challenge.

What are the career prospects within your area of librarianship?

Opportunities are beginning to arise in the public service, albeit slowly. Although for many graduates, the ultimate goal is to obtain a professional library position, I would urge people to consider attempting to enter the public service in any administrative capacity.

There are many opportunities in the public service to directly apply the skills learned in library school and gain really valuable experience. I also believe that information professionals provide unique insight into many areas of public policy where the dissemination of information is under discussion and that without our perspective, public service information systems may not serve the public as effectively as they should.

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

Learn how to advocate for your profession within your organisation. Take it upon yourself to demonstrate what you can do to improve services and seek to work on projects which would benefit from your skills as an information professional. Eventually your supervisors will begin to notice and start to approach you with more opportunities.

Also, don’t give up. Being a librarian is something worth pursuing even if things are tough right now. Best of luck!

Profile of an Academic Librarian

Emily Prather-Rodgers, Technical Services Coordinator, North Central College

Founded in 1861, North Central College is an independent, comprehensive college of the liberal arts and sciences that offers more than 55 undergraduate majors and graduate programming in seven areas. North Central College is committed to academic excellence; a climate that emphasizes leadership, ethics, values and service; a curriculum that balances job-related knowledge with a liberal arts foundation; and a caring environment with small classes.

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

I began my library career as a page (shelver) in a branch of a medium-sized public library system. It was a part-time job to earn a bit of money during college and to figure out if it would be worth pursuing at the graduate level. After a few months, I was promoted to a part-time circulation position. A few months later, I entered library school and accepted a position as a graduate assistant in technical services/special formats in the Fine Arts Library at the university. I was lucky to get a job as a cataloger almost immediately after graduating. After about 18 months in that position, I accepted the position of Technical Services Coordinator at yet another institution. I’ve been here almost 8 years.

Describe a typical day

“Typical” is a bit of a stretch, but the following are some highlights:

  • supervise (hire, train, support) paraprofessional staff in acquisitions, cataloging, and electronic resources
  • serve as head of Special Collections
  • perform reference duties on a rotation
  • serve as an academic-division liaison—collection development/management, library instruction, specialised reference
  • negotiate and manage license agreements
  • administer library-specific software packages

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

My role requires an excellent understanding of traditional acquisitions and cataloging skills. It’s also important to have a fairly high comfort-level with reference and instruction. Generally, it requires the ability to have a high-level understanding of the overall operations of the library and the way various departments interact.

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

Less traditional skills (which are becoming pervasive and are likely to be considered traditional before long!) are the ability to understand and maintain the back-end of numerous software/e-resource admin systems, managerial skills, accounting skills, and the patience to deal with the never-ending sales calls.

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

I work most often with our integrated library system (Voyager and its accompanying Oracle-based reporting system), a link resolver (SFX), electronic resource management system (Serials Solutions), online ordering systems (including YBP’s Gobi and EBSCO’s Ebsconet), and various back-end database/journal publisher platforms.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

The most rewarding part to me is fostering my staff to be their best and helping them understand how their work has broad implications for the way the entire library functions. (It’s also pretty cool that I can access the Special Collections any time I want.)

What is the most challenging part of your role?

Ensuring that everyone has what they need to complete their research in the fact of static (or decreasing) budgets.

What are the career prospects within your area of librarianship?

It varies, but I’ve seen quite a few really interesting job ads lately for people with some experience. I don’t keep much of an eye on entry-level jobs, but they’re definitely out there.

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

Two things: Do everything in your power to get experience BEFORE you graduate. Even “entry-level” jobs require experience these days. And, be willing to consider opportunities outside of your current/preferred geographic area. Many, many institutions in more rural areas really struggle to fill positions, but those jobs can help you get the experience you need in just a few years to get an amazing job somewhere you’d rather be.

Marketing libraries and data analysis

Andrew Moore Library CampThe day being in it, the results of the Marriage Equality referendum were due in, just as we started our pitches, and sampling opinion and analysing demographics was very much on my mind when I began by pitch. My talk regarded the sampling of library visitors, using a questionnaire, at the National Gallery of Ireland, a project I conducted in 2012 for my MLIS.

The theoretical basis for my pitch was from the book “The Library marketing toolkit” (Facet Publishing, 2012) which provided many helpful ideas. The most important was a diagram, The marketing cycle, which puts the use of quantitative data as central to any kind of marketing activities. It shows that a marketing campaign should in theory operate cyclically, and that constant evaluation of library visitors is required to formulate effective campaigns, involving the use of statistics. I then showed the results of my sampling project which showed a breakdown of demographic profiles.

An open discussion then began in which my audience and I looked at the data from my project and considered how to theoretically create marketing campaigns which meet the needs of different groups; students, professionals, as well as differences in age and gender.   The talk concluded with a discussion of which paintings are most popular in the National Gallery of Ireland and I referred to the national vote held in 2012, known as “Ireland’s Favourite Painting” and the winner “The meeting on the turret stairs” by Frederick Burton held in the gallery. This thereby gave a “real-world” example of the importance of surveying with regards to promoting cultural heritage.

by Andrew Moore

LibGuides, Loop and Library Videos…marketing Library services at Cregan Library

My pitch centred around effective ways to market library services using three different tools: a “Welcome to the Library video”, a “virtual learning environment” (Loop), and online Library guides (LibGuides). Library Camp 2015First we looked at who our “target market” might be and decided that the student profile (made up of 66% undergraduate students and 24% who are online/distance learners) were the most important demographic that the Library weren’t currently reaching. Many Undergraduates use the Library mainly as study-space and are unaware of the vast number of resources, facilities and services that we offer them. For my MLIS (completed last year) I researched the information literacy of our Postgraduate students and found that many of our online/distance learners would like more support from the Library when it comes to their information use. So the question posed was how to reach non/limited users and distance learners. I explained each tool briefly, mentioned some advantages and then we brainstormed how to market Library services effectively using each one. I asked one leading ‘post-it’ question per tool and the group came up with some really interesting ideas!

1. “Welcome to the Library video”

Market: new students, distance learners, non-users and potential students Advantages:

  • Showcases the new Library
  • Instructs on new facilities
  • Highlights the Library’s role in teaching & learning
  • Supplements Library orientation

Brainstorm Q: How can we make the video ‘engaging’ to students??? Answers:

  1. Interview students about the Library
  2. Interview friendly library staff
  3. Brevity – keeping it short & sweet!
  4. Avoid info overload
  5. Show activity at the information desk

Post-it Q: Ideas on how we can get students to participate in a Library video:

  • Go outside the Library and ask students around the campus to be involved
  • Ask the Student’s Union for help
  • Ask the Access office for success stories utilising the Library’s impact on students’ studies
  • Have a waive on library fines for participants
  • Offer money off photocopying
  • Give a prize
  • Recruit volunteers on social media
  • Offer free lunches
  • Make it into a Library ‘event’ – invite students informally
  • Offer a title such as ‘Library ambassador’ for participation
  • Use media art, or business studies students to be involved on a project-basis/as work experience

2. Loop (virtual learning environment)

Market: all students and distance/online learners in particular Advantages:

  • Free to the Library
  • Students automatically enrolled to a “Library Loop” page
  • Info is online at their ‘point-of-need’
  • More interactivity possible than with traditional Library website
  • Online classroom facility for info-literacy sessions with distance students

Brainstorm Question: What are the possible disadvantages of setting up a ‘Library Loop’ page??? Answers:

  1. Less foot-fall in the Library
  2. Not accessible to everyone (i.e. less I.T. savvy students)
  3. Increased expectation that all info is online
  4. Increased expectations that we are constantly there to answer questions

Post-it Q: What ‘content’ would you put up on a Library Loop page??? Ideas:

  • New resources – ‘just-in’
  • Useful bibliographies
  • Library staff contact details
  • A newsletter/news
  • User surveys
  • Recommended resources
  • Course info
  • Weblinks
  • Materials for answers to likely exam Qs
  • Past exam papers
  • Link to Library Catalogue

3. LibGuides:

Library Camp 2015This cloud-based content management system allows librarians (with limited coding skills!) to create attractive and easy-to-use guides to Subjects, Collections and events (to name but a few)… Target market? Everyone! Advantages:

  • Guides can be embedded in Loop/VLE.
  • Can increase web traffic to Library resources
  • Can be used to make recommendations or ‘best bets’ for quality info sources
  • Markets the info service
  • Allows collaboration with academics

Brainstorm Q: How can we promote the guides??? Answers:

  1. Through a poster presentation to all College staff
  2. Get buy-in from Lecturers
  3. Embed the guides in Loop/Library website
  4. Use them during Library orientation for new students

Post-it Q: How can we encourage academics to collaborate with the Library on LibGuides?? Ideas:

  • Through Focus groups
  • Word of mouth
  • Assure (and re-assure!) training and support
  • Offer a service in exchange

(we started running out of time here!) In short, I learned a lot about making presentations more interactive and came away from my pitch with loads of brilliant ideas for using these tools to effectively market Library services. Further ideas welcome! You can reach me on

by Genevieve Larkin


Library Camp 2015 145

We had a great day at the Cregan Library in St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra last Saturday. The weather was gorgeous, Orla and her staff welcomed us with open arms, and all the pitches were engaging and sparked a lot of discussion about libraries and librarians. Thanks to all who left their post-its in the Ideas Lounge – we have compiled them all, and will be taking those ideas into account when planning our programme for the autumn.

For a taste of what Library Camp 2015 was like, have a look at our Storify and some lovely Photos.

We will be publishing the various pitches in short blog posts in the next few days.

Many people contributed to the success of the Camp. First of all, thanks to Gen, Jenny, Elaine, Andrew, Louise, Carolanne, Niamh and Elaine for pitching your ideas – you gave us a lot of food for thought. Secondly, thanks to Orla Nic Aodha and the Cregan Library staff for lending us their space, providing great coffee throughout the afternoon, and looking after all the little details [including flip-charts, post-its and markers!], as well as taking us on two tours of their wonderful new library. Thanks also to our friends at the A&SL for moral and practical support;  and finally thanks to all of you who gave up a sunny Saturday to participate in Library Camp and share your ideas with us. We look forward to Library Camp 2016!

Library Camp 2015 105

Library Camp 2015 147


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