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.