Profile of a Branch Librarian (Small Library)

What is your role/ title? If you are happy to include your name and

organisation please also add these.

I am part-time branch librarian. Peggy Byrne, Enniskerry Branch, Wicklow County Council Library Service.

What path did you take to get to your current role. This can be quite general, but will give readers an idea of what career paths can lead to certain types of roles.

On returning from 11 years in the US working as an occupational health and safety nurse (23 years in total) I looked at the Wicklow website thinking they would need a safety officer but the only thing being advertised at the time was the job as a part-time Branch Librarian in Enniskerry and I applied for it.

Describe a typical day. If you don’t have a ‘typical’ day, are there any duties that you regularly have to perform as part of your role.

Everything! Included in my day is the obvious librarian work; checking in and out items, requesting items, supplying the schools with books during the school term, the usual shelving etc. In addition I also have to maintain the hygiene of the library. So I’m a housekeeper as well as a librarian. I manage the cash and library statistics. I run a book club once a month. I used to do a reading corner but due to the insurance risks and Garda vetting required for parents reading this no longer takes place.

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

Good communication has to be top of the list. Patience and most definitely a sense of humour. A reasonable knowledge of the collection. Good organisational skills are also essential, especially since you are a solo librarian. Reasonable IT Skills would be needed too.

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

That’s a difficult one. Every day is different and every borrower has different needs. We’re a small branch so I’m not sure I use many of what you might think of as non-traditional library skills.

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

I would use Microsoft Word a lot. It’s versatile for notices, posters, reports for HQ, book lists etc. I would access Borrowbooks.ie to help borrowers find books in other library services. We would use the internet a lot for new releases information, etc. We use Horizon LMS.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

When somebody comes in and says that was a fantastic book. When you recommend something to a borrower and it works. Children using and enjoying the library service. Finding obscure requests gives a great sense of achievement.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

Rudeness. It can be the hardest thing to deal with in people. I suppose also the subliminal threat (rarely but it is there) that you are on your own and can feel a bit vunerable.

What are the career prospects within your area of librarianship? For new entrants/for promotion?

Zilch. For me that is. Given my advanced age it’s just reality. And that is not being ageist. For new entrants I would say it is pretty good, whether moving within the organisation or from outside the service, there are great prospects there. The volume of experience you would gain working as a solo branch librarian would set you up for any future job/promotion.

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

You need to be out-going. A people person. It’s definitely not an office job, there is a skill in dealing with the public. Good communication skills. A pleasant manner. Helpfulness. Good IT Skills. Good trouble shooting skills. You need to be flexible. Good ability to make judgement calls as you’re working alone, you have no back up.

Advertisements

Profile of a Systems Librarian

 

DBS-40th-Logo

 

My name is David Hughes and I am the Systems Librarian in the library of Dublin Business School.

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

A rather convoluted one!   A BSc in Molecular Biology saw me start a PhD, but for various reasons, that crashed and burned.  To salvage a Master’s degree from the wreckage, I had to do some fairly extensive library research.  Funnily enough, I did think about librarianship at the time, but saw a syllabus for a Master’s course and thought ‘that’s really dull!”

However, using Biological Abstracts (ask your parents!), I was impressed by the power of subject indexing to aid the retrieval of information that I needed and thought that would be something I’d like to try.  After a brief detour as a trainee computer programmer, I found an indexing position with a start-up that had landed a contract with Elsevier B.V. to produce database records for EMBASE.

After that company was bought out and closed down, I moved to a job as an Information Scientist with a UK government department.  This was a gateway role: I was indexing, classifying and doing other IS stuff (e.g., bibliometrics), but also doing some more traditional library roles: such as cataloguing and literature searching.  For personal reasons I was moving to Ireland and it was suggested to me that to improve my employability here, I should do the library degree at UCD.  After completion of the Master’s I had two part-time jobs: working on a XML project in UCD and at DBS as a part-time library assistant.  Incredibly I was offered full-time positions in both but chose DBS, so here I am.

Describe a typical day

A typical day involves handling queries (email, telephone, instant messaging) from students & staff, a lot of which concern access to resources, and performing triage on any library IT issues that have arisen i.e., can I solve the problem; does it need to go to our IT department or is it something a vendor needs to look at?  After I finish this, for example, I have to investigate why YouTube won’t work on Internet Explorer on our student PCs and/or find a solution if possible.   At the start of term, there’s also the need to make sure that all students can borrow from the library and have access to our electronic resources. Similarly, I have to ensure that ex-students can no longer borrow books or access our resources.    That’s the bread and butter, but there’s usually ongoing projects to manage or to work on (in recent times that has included implementation of a new library management system [Koha] and snagging our new reading list software [LORLS]).

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

Search and retrieval and the reference interview in particular; you’d be surprised by how many queries consist of: “it won’t let me login” and replying “tell it I said to let you login” won’t cut it. However, you never know when some other skill is going to be needed; cataloguing came up in the context of the library management system switch for example.

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

IT skills, obviously. Project management: a lot of library work consists of discrete projects (go on, think about it), and having some project management experience is important. People skills and being able to communicate effectively; it’s important to be able to say “no thanks!” politely but firmly to cold-calling electronic resource salespeople.  Thinking about it, people skills should be a ‘traditional’ library skill as this is a service professional after all.

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

Koha, Microsoft Office – one of the best things I ever did was take a Microsoft Access training course.  MySQL, Notepad ++, Zotero, HTML.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

Hopefully making a difference to our users by either by giving them access to the information that they need or resolving the particular library IT issue they have at the time; it’s nice to receive thank you emails and see smiley emoticons on the instant messaging service.  It’s almost pathological, but I like solving problems; I like (pretending) to be the expert!

What is the most challenging part of your role?

There are a million and one things I’d love to do, but can’t because of corporate IT policy – that’s not a complaint, it’s just the way thing are, so some workarounds have to be found.  Time management – answering all the queries, getting all the trivial jobs done and finding the time to keep abreast of what’s happening in the LIS world; Twitter is absolutely essential in this regard.  Librarians shouldn’t just be providing access to information to their users, but should be actively seeking to improve their knowledge of their own field: every day ought to be a school day.  Maintaining a quality service in a time of budget cuts.

What are the career prospects within your area of librarianship?

Mixed. On one hand, IT skills are needed for more and more aspects of librarianship. On the other hand, critical though system roles are in the 21st century library, there’s a danger that they will be hived off to IT departments.  This would be bad as IT departments (in my experience) just don’t have the same service ethos as we do.   A little IT knowledge – even just being able to understand what IT staff are talking about – can take you a long way. Having a 10 minute conversation with the technical support guy for our print management software in her presence was what convinced my manager, the awesome Marie O Neill, to offer me the systems role in the first place.

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

In general, find a niche for yourself. Network, network, network! In particular, look at spreadsheet (e.g. Excel) and database software (e.g. Access, MySQL) in a little depth.  Learn some HTML and XML.  Don’t worry about not being able to code; chances are you’re not going to work in a library where that’s required.  Be willing to admit you don’t know something but you are prepared to go and find the answer. If you’re interested in systems librarianship, The accidental systems librarian by Nicole C. Engard and Rachel Singer Gordon (Medford NJ   Information Today Inc.) is well worth a read.  Also, be aware that you don’t have to work in a library to use these skills, and don’t worry about Imposter Syndrome, it’s not just you; a lot of us feel that way.

Profile of a Law Librarian

cb (2)

Clare Brown

Library and Information Manager

Collyer Bristow provides bespoke legal services to a wide range of businesses and individuals in the UK and internationally.


What path did you take to your current role?

The local library used to employ a couple of students a year from my school as Saturday Assistants. My form tutor decided that it would be a good idea to put me forward as a candidate, and happily, they took me. I quickly realised that no other career would do and the head librarian there put me in contact with The Library Association/CILIP.

As I reached the end of the second year of my Library & Information/English degree at Loughborough University, it was apparent that business and law were my areas of interest. Part of the degree was writing up practical experience so I wrote to a number of law firms to ask for a summer job. Bond Pearce (now Bond Dickinson) in Plymouth was happy to introduce me to law librarianship, and my University was pleased with my report. I firmly believe that this invaluable experience was the reason why in September 1995, I was able to join London law firm Kennedy’s as Library Assistant with such confidence.

Since then I’ve always either worked in small teams or solo roles where I can be in direct contact with the lawyers. Although management roles are financially more rewarding, there is nothing like the challenge of day to day research. As proof of the transferability of our skills, I provided information services to a local government Department for Children and Young People for a few years; though the information was different, the users still required a prompt intelligent response to queries.


Describe a typical day

Typically I start the day by producing a bulletin of the day’s news, cases, legislation, and government press releases. Though much of this is now distributed electronically and delivered directly to the lawyers, I find reading through the newspaper headlines essential.

Once that has been sent out, I then deal with any email requests. This could be anything from assisting with company searches, pitches, database issues, to in-depth research for matters/articles or issues arising out of current affairs. I dash through the admin such as post, circulation, cataloguing, invoices and filing so I can get on with projects.

Projects for September included a CLA audit. We also need to review some databases so that is  time-consuming in the latter part of the year. New trainees also started in September so there was training and inductions to carry out.


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

The core skills for legal information professionals are being able to help users find the right information, at the right time, presented in the right way, and for the right price. In twenty years this has remained central to what I do for the lawyers.


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

Every workplace skill has a place in the librarian’s role. We are organised and practical project managers, we are experienced commercial negotiators, we are technologically aware, we are thoughtful counsellors/mentors, and we are imaginative and creative, which makes us excellent all-round communicators.

However more specific to the legal information role has been a requirement to add value to raw information. It has always been the case that a certain level of filtering is required. For instance, when someone asks for a list of cases on a particular issue, they would be unimpressed if you hadn’t checked through for relevance, importance and currency. But increasingly there is an expectation for you to understand some of the legal and commercial angles which might arise from your research.

As part of an increasingly more knowledge/expert-based role, I have been involved in the creation of legal content for the firm’s new website. Combining my interest and expertise in social media with the firm’s Reputation Management team has created an opportunity to work at the cutting edge of a really new area of law.


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

Thomson Reuters and Lexis Nexis are two big publishers providing the majority of both raw legal information and value added services, so most law libraries will have access to one or the other. However demonstrations of other products are useful and informative. Bailey Solutions remain my go-to company for library management systems and Penlib works really well for small firms.


What is the most rewarding part of your role?

The most rewarding part of my role has been the recognition of my writing skills by the firm. I was named as ‘Star Writer’ in the IT, data and privacy sector by The Lawyer, and given that the other four were lawyers, that is quite an achievement. Sometimes the work we do as information professionals goes unrecognised by other industries, so it is up to us to rise to the challenge and stand out.


What is the most challenging part of your role?

The most challenging part of my role is staying one step ahead of the news, and trend spotting. If I can alert my lawyers to potential developments, they can provide original commentary and, as a result, raise the profile of the firm. However as we are a full service law firm, there are many areas of ongoing interest and keeping abreast of it all can be overwhelming.


What are the career prospects within your area of librarianship?

There will always be a market for legal information professionals but the legal market is changing. Over the next 10 years or so, I believe that the industry will splinter further, leaving a new type of marketplace. There will be the high volume claims firm which will have outsourced all back room services; there will be boutique firms offering specialised services; and big name accountancy, business consultancies, family offices which will increasingly offer legal services; and potentially, local authorities will start offering paid for legal services to the public.

All of these will offer opportunities to information professionals but we have to remain flexible and willing to change with the landscape. As for promotion, corporate/legal information still lacks the opportunity for a progression up the ranks; our role is particularly ‘user’ or ‘client’ facing. However there is still no reason why we cannot become Chief Information / Knowledge Officers or even be made Partner in this new legal world.


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

Academic ability is not important, what matters is your attitude. Mental flexibility, imagination, problem solving abilities, and endless patience, are absolutely essential.

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.

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

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.

Profile of a Health Librarian

St. Michael's logoCaroline Rowan, Medical Librarian, St. Michael’s Hospital, Dun Laoghaire

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

I worked in financial services for 13 years where I worked in a variety of legal, compliance and project management roles. Then I decided to change career and I went back to college in UCD where I got my Masters in Library and Information Studies. When I graduated, I got a short-term contract in Limerick as a librarian in the University Hospital Limerick. That was followed by another contract position working in the Glucksman Library in the University of Limerick. My experience in those roles really stood to me when I applied for my current position.

Describe a typical day

Typical tasks in my role are:

  1. Supporting Clinical Audit – I usually do at least one Clinical Audit support session each day. The hospital has a strong ethos of continuous improvement and encourages all staff to conduct clinical audits. My role involves everything from assistance with the paperwork required to start an audit through to providing guidance on the design of audit survey questions to support generation of useful reportable information to helping staff edit the final results. I also provide training and guidance on using Sphinx software to design clinical audit questionnaires.
  2. Conducting literature searches. This can be as simple as sourcing suitable articles for a journal club, through to identifying 30-40 articles to support development of a new policy.
  3. Engaging with suppliers regarding subscriptions.
  4. Cataloguing the journals or books which have come in using Heritage library management software.
  5. Editing the hospital newsletter. I coordinate the editorial committee meetings, minute the actions, assign deadlines and follow up with each of the contributors to ensure that they have their submissions in on time. I am also one of the magazine’s copywriters, so I have to write at least one article for each issue. I use Microsoft Publisher for designing the newsletter which will go out in print and online format.
  6. Supporting HSELand (an e-learning website) training sessions. Usually this involves talking a client through how to register for HSELand, what course they need to enrol on and how to follow through the steps. However, some clients require more guidance than others. The spectrum of computer proficiency in a hospital environment ranges from highly tech-savvy to staff with very little experience with PCs. Many hospital staff don’t work with a PC during the day or use them only for very defined tasks. So, it is important for them to have someone there to take them through the process.
  7. Providing one-to-one training sessions for clients on using the library’s resources.
  8. Monitoring and managing the Library’s Athens accounts. Athens is an authentication package which allows staff access library resources remotely.
  9. Managing document supply and inter library loan requests.
  10. Managing the physical stock. This can be anything from collating and sorting journals for binding, through to re-stocking shelves.

After work I spend time editing content for the Health Sciences Library Group (HSLG) magazine HINT or working on HSLG Committee items (we are currently planning for our annual conference which is taking place 14 & 15 May) or reading up on educational information. Being involved with LAI committees is a great way to keep in touch with other librarians, which is particularly important when you are in a solo role.

St. Michael's hospital libraryWhat traditional library skills are important to have within your role?

Reference skills are important, because an occupational hazard of working in health libraries is that your client assumes that your knowledge of medicine is the same as theirs.

Cataloguing is another traditional skill that is essential, whether that is cataloguing serial receipts or adding new books to the collection.

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

Desktop publishing is definitely something I would recommend as essential. Photoshop skills are also an advantage.

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

Heritage Library Management System for the daily circulation items. Sphinx software for clinical audit survey design. Microsoft Publisher for newsletters.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

The most rewarding part of my role is seeing the positive and immediate impact I have on people. Recently I was working with a client with dyslexia, helping with coursework applications and identifying the software and resources necessary to support their study. The client said that, until those sessions with me, no-one had ever worked with them in a way that suited their particular learning needs. I knew then that I had absolutely made the right decision to change career.

St. Michael's hospital library2What is the most challenging part of your role?

Communicating the value of the Librarian in a medical environment. There is an increasing belief that the answer to everything is to simply use online resources.  Assuming that all our clients have the knowledge, understanding and ability to engage with electronic resources is a disservice to them and also to Librarians. Resource provision is only a small portion of a Librarian’s role. We are educators who support individuals in their training and development needs. We are researchers providing relevant, appropriate material to healthcare staff so that they can spend their time looking after patients, not floundering around the internet looking for information. We are managers who handle budgets, resources and clients, in the same way that any other business manager does.

What are the career prospects within your area of librarianship?

There are plans to create a centralised library structure within the HSE but it is not yet clear whether this will be a positive or negative change.  Will it be used as a push to centralise electronic library resources, with a subsequent removal of hospital librarians? Or is it intended to enhance the provision of library services at each individual hospital by a professional librarian or librarians?  And what will the impact of centralising HSE library resources be on healthcare librarians outside the HSE?

That being said, I think the current push towards outsourcing research to private companies/consultants rather than having in-house expertise could open up new opportunities for medical librarians who are interested in working for consultancy firms, rather than being directly employed within the healthcare sector.

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

As a medical librarian in a small/solo library, you are essentially a sole trader. The business rises or falls with you. You need to be self-motivated, flexible and able to work to a deadline.