A network for new and aspiring library professionals

Interview: Penelope Dunn – Academic Liaison Assistant

Penelope Dunn

Penelope Dunn

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

I decided that the library and information profession was for me during a visit to the careers office at the University of Bath, where I was studying Sociology – I’d been interested in the field for a while and went to find out more. It was there I met a lady who had done a library and information MA, she pointed me towards CILIP and other helpful websites – the more I read about the profession and the diverse roles within it, the more I realised that it was a career I would enjoy. It was then I began to look at graduate training schemes.

In September 2010 I began working at John Port School in Derbyshire as the Learning Resource Centre (LRC) Supervisor; I was their first graduate trainee so it was a bit of a learning curve for myself and the school. I learnt so much about library work in my year at the school and I am so grateful to the LRC manager Kathryn Durkan for teaching me so many skills and being so supportive of my professional development by helping me to organise extra work experience and to attend relevant meetings. It was one particular day of shadowing at Derby Royal Hospital where I decided health information was the sector I wanted to aim for.

After leaving the school I began my MA in Librarianship at the University of Sheffield.

Can you tell us about your new professional post?

In September 2012 I began my first professional post; I am an Academic Liaison Assistant (Hull York Medical School (HYMS) and Health Sciences dept) at the University or York – this is maternity cover (ending in June 2013). My job focusses around ensuring students and academics can access the resources they need for their course/research; this includes ordering, updating reading lists and information literacy sessions. I regularly assist in these sessions and I am beginning to lead them more frequently and also offer 1-to-1 sessions for those with specific research needs. The sessions are normally focussed to a specific skills/project e.g. introduction to eresources, searching the literature for your dissertation, searching for research (postgrads).

Being based in the health care field – a lot of my work is surrounding evidence based practice. I am responsible for updating and creating online tutorials and guides for student use. Both HYMS and the Health Sciences department have subject guides which I update and maintain, I also update the HYMS Library blog with any news/announcements. My work with HYMS does involve liasing with my colleague based at Hull, in September and October I travelled to Hull to assist in the induction sessions.

I also act as “second line support” to the enquiry desk once a week.

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?

As my job is only maternity cover I do not feel it is my place to change things, but I do get involved in meetings and make suggestions for development and improvement, a few things have been taken on board, but they are mainly minor adjustments to make daily tasks easier/more fluid.

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

Keep an open mind, if you are not sure if the job description is really what you are looking for – email and ask if there is any more information available. If there is a field you want to work in, focus your search there but do not completely eliminate similar areas – do not just search for jobs with “library” or “information” in the title.

With regards to applications and interviews, always be yourself – I know this sounds like one of those airy-fairy sayings but it is true – the “supporting statement” part of an application is often the most important, you have to get across your personality and ambitions whilst discussing work experience and skills. Remember to highlight instances where you have transferred your skills from a non-library job to the library world, as well as skills developed in the field.

In interviews you are not just being judged on your answers to questions but how you answer them. Try to relax, take a moment to think before you respond; don’t be afraid to ask them to clarify what they are asking. Personally, I looked upon the interviews as a chance to develop my interview technique and as a valuable learning experience, even when I didn’t get the job – and yes, I was turned down for a few before I got this one.

What do you think was the most useful thing you gained from the course at Sheffield?

I wouldn’t have got my job without the professional qualification. The general grounding in the field and the foray into the sectors I’m interested in (particularly health care information). However, I think the key thing I learnt from the course at Sheffield was time management, in the summer term I had 6 major deadlines due on the same day. I also worked part time alongside studying full time, so I had to micro-manage myself and my time.

I also think the network built up with friends on the course and lecturers is invaluable.

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

I think networks are particularly beneficial for new professionals – as you can share experiences, views, ideas and advice. It is also nice to know you are not the only one facing difficulties or challenges at work. They are also useful to hear about new job opportunities. When I was a graduate trainee the LISNPN website was great for finding out about acquiring funding for my MA. I think that as library and information work is often forgotten by the rest of the working world that the networks make it more visable.

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

I think the current format of the events is great, I attended both and found them very valuable. Perhaps, work could be done to develop a network of opportunities to work swap/shadowing, so people could get experience in other sectors/view the profession from a different angle – I understand this would need agreement from employers but some may be quite open to this. Also workshops on sharing best practice and maybe a catalogue of resources used that people wish to share.

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This entry was posted on January 17, 2013 by in Interview and tagged , , , .

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