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.