A network for new and aspiring library professionals

Interview: Ruth Smalley – On-Line Librarian

As a network we find it important to include our members to ensure that it is a network in the true sense of the word, rather than just us four co-founders. In that sense we hope to involve members in the blogging process. Consequently, this blog will include a member interview in order to provide an insight into the varied and diverse paths we are all heading in as we strive to attain the elusive first professional post and beyond (and those who have secured those already). We hope that this will be the first in a series of blogs, so please leave comments and let us know here or send us a message on Facebook, Twitter or alternatively email if you would be interested in sharing your experience and insights with the wider network.

This blog post will focus on Ruth Smalley, MMU MA Library and Information Management student and On-Line Librarian.

Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you first become involved in the library and information profession?

I toyed with the idea of doing a librarian degree when I was at school, but was put off by careers advice which said you had to have experience.  Instead I did a music degree and began work for a classical record company.  After being made redundant I moved into teaching.  After juggling teaching and bringing up a family for ten years I finally realised that I didn’t enjoy teaching and left.  I assumed that was the end of any ‘career’ and started applying for any job I thought I could do, expecting to end up typing in an office.  One of the jobs I saw was for a library assistant at my local town library; I applied thinking what a nice job it sounded like and was amazed when I got an interview.  I got the job and have honestly never been happier.  I absolutely love working in a library, dealing with the public and helping them find the books and information they need.  It is amazing how many times people go away genuinely grateful and amazed that we have found something out for them that they assumed no-one knew.  Unfortunately in 2011 the library (as is the case with many public libraries) had its funding cut and went through a major restructure.  Part of the fallout was the deletion of all temporary contracts, which included my job.  I was devastated, but managed to keep working on a casual basis in various library branches around the town.  It was at this point that I decided to bite the bullet and take the MA to widen my experience and so that I would be qualified to take on professional librarian posts.  I carried on working on a casual basis while I did the taught part of the MA and subsequently got a permanent Library Assistant post in April this year.

Can you tell us about your new professional post?

During the restructure process several librarians left or retired and the final part of the restructuring has been to fill these posts.  I’m so pleased to have got the job as it was my hope that I would be able to work in my local public library after qualifying and always hoped these posts would come up at some point.  My post is not a like for like replacement for someone who has retired though.  The library service is trying to develop its on-line services and my role will involve work to develop outreach using social media as well as helping people to get on-line and be confident using on-line services.  I will also have responsibility for recruiting and developing volunteers in the community to help and support people as they use computers.  I will also be covering the enquiry desk and doing some more traditional library work. 

In Siobhan’s post she has included a plan for what she intends to do in her new post, do you have any similar in mind with your post?

To be honest, I don’t completely know what I’ll be doing when I start, so no, I don’t have a plan, and also, in contrast to Siobhan, I’ll be working as part of a team with other librarians.  The library service has recently moved out of council control into a Community Interest Company along with Leisure Centres and Wellbeing services.  We have a remit from the council to improve social inequalities and improve health.  The whole service is in a state of flux at the moment with fewer librarians and fewer senior managers, so everyone is finding their feet and working out how best to use resources and maintain and develop services.  I’m on leave now until I start my new job and the Head of Libraries has said she is very keen for me to get started as there is lots to do!  I’m excited and a bit nervous about what challenges the new role will bring. 

What advice would you give to new library and information professionals who are looking for their first professional post?

I think nothing beats experience, so get as much work experience as you can, paid or unpaid and keep up to date with what’s going on in the library and information field.  I use Twitter to try to keep up to date with library and technology news.  Think about what skills will be useful in your field and try to develop them, but for any library or information job I would advise updating your computer skills.   Sites such as Code Academy are free and let you learn programming languages such as Javascript and HTML.  Sign up for automated alerts on job sites and follow job sites on Twitter.

What do you see as being the benefits of being in a network?

There are lots: friendship, support, a listening ear as well as a way of finding out about jobs, courses and new developments. 

What would you like to see from the Manchester NLPN in the future?

I think what you’re doing is brilliant!  The blog is great and the event you produced and the next one planned seem spot on, focussed on practical skills and information to develop on taught programmes which can never hope to cover everything.


We would like to thank Ruth for sharing her thoughts and experience with us and wish her luck in her new post. Finally, we welcome you to get in touch if you have any suggestions for blog posts and/or would like to blog for the network.


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This entry was posted on August 13, 2012 by in Interview and tagged , , , .

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