A network for new and aspiring library professionals
Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you first become involved in the library and information profession?
I did ancient and medieval history at undergrad (one of those really useful degrees). I thought I should try and get some experience doing something ‘real’, so during my third year worked at a local hospital in the Communications team. While I was there I decided communications wasn’t for me, but I did get some exposure to the hospital library service and got interested in librarianship as a potential career (don’t ask me why, it just seemed really interesting…). After I graduated, when I was looking for something to do, I did a work experience placement at a sixth form college library in South Manchester. It turned out I really enjoyed it, and so I decided to apply for the MA course at MMU.
Can you tell us about your new professional post?
I am Faculty Assistant Librarian in a medical library at a large Foundation Trust, made up of three hospitals in the West Midlands, which I’ve been doing for about 3 months now. Day-to-day I work in a small team of 3 at one site, but I often link up with my counterparts and the wider library team across sites.
I’m involved in a lot of the day-to-day running of the library, helping staff and medical students access print and e-resources, e.g. signing up for their NHS Athens accounts, as well as article and book requests from staff and students. I also do the ordering and cataloguing for the book stock. I do some inductions and information literacy training for individuals and small groups, and assist at large-group inductions and training, though this doesn’t form a huge part of my job at the moment. In addition to this I am also learning to do in-depth clinical literature searches and critical appraisal of evidence alongside my manager, to support patient care by providing the most up-to-date evidence to clinicians, which I am really enjoying. It’s a very varied and interesting post.
In Siobhan’s post she has included a plan for what she intends to do in her new post, do you have anything similar in mind with your post?
In the NHS you quickly find out that it can be difficult to enact much drastic change, either because of budgeting issues or IT restrictions or the fact that the medical staff is often incredibly busy, so it can be difficult to find a way to engage them in the library service. However, I’m lucky in that my line manager is also relatively new and open to trying new things. For example, we currently have an initiative to use iPads during our ward visits alongside more traditional library resources to encourage more staff members to use library resources to support their CPD or improve their research.
Personally I’m (attempting!) to take responsibility for marketing and branding the library service. This is something which has been addressed by my service but I’m trying to help create a joined-up approach as it’s currently quite bitty, and as we’re spread over such a wide geographic area, it would be nice to present a united front and a consistent message about our services in all the sites.
The library service is also looking into increasing the amount of eBooks we have available through the Trust so that popular books can be accessed by more users, so I’m doing some interesting research there.
What advice would you give to new library and information professionals who are looking for their first professional post?
I’m not sure! We all know how difficult the job market is and I certainly didn’t expect to get a job as quickly as I did. I think being familiar with literature searching and being able to confidently use databases, from university and also from helping friends and relatives with their searches is one of the things I was asked about in my interview, and is probably one of the skills I use most on a day-to-day basis constructing clinical searches. General technology skills and familiarity with computers comes in really useful too; though the iPads are the exception rather than the rule, NHS library services are rarely accused of being hi-tech! Generally, experience in library and information roles- I did a placement in the Information Management team at the local council, which while it wasn’t directly library experience, gave me experience of a working in a corporate information environment, which I think helped me.
What do you think was the most useful thing you gained from the course at MMU?
The professional qualification, definitely (though we haven’t got the marks back yet!) An understanding about website usability has come in handy very quickly as we are in the process of redesigning the library website, so I’m able to give ideas and feedback in a constructive way, rather than ‘that looks pretty…’.
My placement was also really good, in that I got a lot of really valuable cataloguing experience, which we actually didn’t get from the course itself, which was mainly theoretical.
What do you see as being the benefits of being in a network?
Manchester NLPN is great because as many (most) of us are just starting out in our careers; it’s a chance to ask other people about their experiences of different sectors and share experiences, both good and bad. It’s sometimes hard when you’re struggling to change or do anything new at your organisation, so it’s nice to hear about other people’s new ideas and strategies for overcoming their own difficulties.
What would you like to see from the Manchester NLPN in the future?
I’ve really enjoyed the last two events; they were really good in terms of giving us ideas and skills (though MadLabs were really chilly!) In the future it would be good to branch out from information literacy into other areas, for example, how to promote your library service with a zero budget and/or restricted access to social media (I love Facebook and Twitter as tools to reach out to users, but they just aren’t available in a restricted internet environment like the health service).