A network for new and aspiring library professionals

Interview: Marie O’ Neill – Head of Information and Library Services, Dublin Business School

Marie is Head of Information and Library Services at Dublin Business School and has kindly agreed to answer our questions about her career path and how she got involved in the profession.

You have worked as a library professional for over twenty years, in a variety of libraries including law, medical, government and university. How did you first get into the library and information profession?

I completed a BA in Arts at University College Cork. I then completed a Graduate Diploma in Business in the Michael Smurfit School of Business at University College Dublin with the aim of making my degree more marketable to employers. I did not find business studies as stimulating as arts studies however. I quickly realised that I would not be seeking employment in the business sector. Whilst at UCD, I saw an advertisement in the Careers Office for the post of Library Intern at King’s Inns. Upon completion of this internship, interns would go on to apply for the Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Studies at UCD. I thought that librarianship sounded like a really interesting career so I decided to apply for the internship which I secured. I subsequently decided to do the Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Studies at UCD.

I don’t regret my year as a business student. The knowledge and skills that I acquired on that programme have been beneficial to me throughout my career and gave me a competitive edge. I think that it is beneficial for librarians to have some subjects in their toolkit that come from the business world. Better still we should build business subjects such as digital marketing and big data into the curriculum of library programmes.

MarieTell us about your current role and the specific skills needed.

I am Head of Library Services at Dublin Business School. My primary responsibility is for the strategic development of the Library. I also have responsibility for managing the Library budget. The skills required to be a Head of Library today are wide ranging and encompass strategic planning; financial, HR and IT Management as well as project management. I think that we need a more indepth focus on project management within library programmes today as project management is now a huge component of the job. Anybody who has migrated to a new library management system has an understanding of the project management skills that are required to bring this complex task to fruition.

I believe that the skills that we have as library managers and librarians are highly transferable and I am often surprised that more information professionals are not head hunted by industry. For this to happen, we need to shout more loudly about our skill set. There is a wonderful new group called the Information Professionals’ Network comprising the Library Schools of DBS, UCD and Ulster University as well as professional library bodies. Members are working together to source new opportunities for librarians and to show case our skill set to a wider range of employers. The Information Professionals Network has a Twitter page (Infoprosnet) and they also have a Linkedin page containing profiles of a wide range of librarians and what they do. It has been a pleasure to work with the two other library schools and other members of the Information Professionals’ Network. We share the same passion and vision in relation to promoting the skill set of the profession. Colin O’ Keeffe, Programme Leader of the MSc in Information and Library Management at DBS along with Dr Claire Mcguiness, lecturer at UCD’s iSchool will present on the Information Professionals’ Network at the DBS Library Annual Seminar on June 9th.

It is also my believe that we need to change our name as a profession. At the DBS Library Annual Seminar this year there will be a debate on whether it is time to retire the word ‘library’ and ‘librarian’ to enhance our employability. Dr Helen Fallon, Deputy Librarian at Maynooth University and Maria Rogers, Librarian, Barnados will be debating. It will be a really exciting debate. It is my contention that we should retire the words ‘library’ and ‘librarian’. I have a great deal of sentimental attachment to these terms but I feel that they hamper our young graduates from finding wider employment.

You initiated the development of an MSc in Information and Library Management at Dublin Business School. What was the impetus for this and what did it involve?

I felt that there was an opening for a part-time evening programme in the Republic of Ireland. I also felt that there was an opening for an MSc given the more technical environment that librarians now work in. At the time DBS was partnered with John Moore’s University Liverpool (LJMU) and the majority of our awards were joint DBS-LJMU awards. LJMU had a successful MSc in Information and Library Management Programme. DBS also had a very strong IT Department with superb IT lecturers with extensive industry experience. Brian Hickey, an IT lecturer on the MSc information and Library Management for example, has spoken at our DBS Library Seminar on the challenges and opportunities of hosting on the cloud. His talk was so popular with librarians that we have invited him back to speak at this year’s seminar on the opportunities for librarians in big data.

I also recruited in well known faculty and industry experts including Caitriona Sharkey (Associate Director, Knowledge, Ernst and Young), Dr Christoph Schidmt (Sub Librarian, Trinity College Dublin), Dr Clare Thornley (Research Fellow, Innovation Value Institute, Maynooth University), Dr Marta Bustilo (University College Dublin) and Mark Farrell (Proprietor, Arcline). In addition to being academics, they also have real world experience in the information and library sector which is invaluable for our students.

So the environment at DBS seemed highly conducive to offering an MSc in Information and Library Management. I also liked the emphasis that the LJMU programme had on information management. So in 2008, we underwent a programme validation exercise at DBS which we passed and in 2009, we launched the MSc in Information and Library Management, a joint DBS-LJMU award which was accredited by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the UK. We have since migrated the programme over to the Irish regulatory framework. The programme is now awarded by Quality Qualifications Ireland and accredited by the Library Association of Ireland. It was extremely important to me that we secure the accreditation of the Library Association of Ireland. They conducted a rigorous accreditation exercise which we passed. More importantly they provided really valuable insights into how we could enhance the programme further. The MSc in Information and Library Management originally had a standalone three week work placement. This is now integrated formally into an employability module on the programme.

This article which I published in An Leabharlann in 2015 gives an overview of how the programme evolved:

Has your involvement with the MSc made you consider becoming a lecturer/running a module for the MSc?

I have been approached to lecture on the programme but I already have a demanding workload as Head of Library at DBS. I am also heavily involved in the strategic development of the MSc in Information and Library Management and its promotion and marketing (I speak at conferences on the programme, write articles on it etc.). I also provide a lot of hands on support and advice to students. I very much have an open door policy for students of the programme.

Something that has been enormously satisfying to me has been the lecturing opportunities that the MSc has provided to my team. I have an extremely dynamic team at DBS Library and it is great to have an additional outlet for these staff members to share their real world knowledge and experience for the benefit of students. David Hughes, Systems Librarian at DBS teaches on the Information Technologies module for example. Dave is a popular speaker at our Annual Seminar. This year he will be speaking at our Annual Seminar on our recent migration to Shibboleth software. Colin O’Keeffe, Teaching Librarian at DBS teaches on the Teaching Librarian module and is also Programme Leader. Colin juggles a demanding role in the Library with management of the programme. He has impressive organisational and project management skills. I do guest lectures on the programme twice a year; one on interview and CV preparation and the other on leadership. I really feel that is important that we prepare students not just to be managers but to be leaders.

You decided to complete the Master 20 years after completing a graduate diploma. Why did you decide to do the MA after a long period of time?

I had started a PhD at Shefffield University under the tuition of the information literacy guru Sheila Webber about seven years ago. It was a dream come true to have the opportunity to study under her guidance. Six months into my studies, I gave birth to a premature baby weighing one pound (Chloe). I decided to take a two year leave of absence from work to give her the attention that she needed as she was in hospital for a very long time. I am happy to say that my daughter is five now and thriving. I decided not to continue with the PhD. My daughter is essentially my PhD now which is wonderful!

I still felt however that I needed to upgrade my graduate diploma qualification. I applied to the University of Northumbria. I was fortunate to receive exemptions based on my graduate diploma and my experience and I was required to do the research methods and the dissertation modules solely. The programme is offered online which suited me in terms of my domestic commitments. I am delighted to say that I completed the programme successfully and recently published an article in the New Review of Academic Librarianship on reading list software, (Loughborough’s Online Reading List System) which was the subject of my dissertation. I co-published the article with Lara Musto, graduate of the MSc In Information and Library Management. See:

I feel that it is important that librarians refresh their knowledge and I was delighted that I went back and revitalised my academic qualifications.

Have you noticed a change in how librarianship is taught?

I think that all of the library programmes have a much stronger technical focus. There is also a bigger emphasis on employability. The MSc in Information and Library Management at DBS has a Personal and Professional Development module for example which prepares graduates for a career in librarianship. It also contains a three week, industry relevant work placement. The Library Schools of DBS, UCD and Ulster University are working on the first ever Careers Expo for information professionals which will take place on May 19th. It has been wonderful working with Professor Kalpana Shankar of the iSchool at UCD and Dr Jessica Bates at Ulster and their teams on this initiative. We are each equally committed to broadening the range of opportunities for library graduates and professionals.

Future changes that I would love to see in the DBS programme are the incorporation of a Research Librarian module and a Librarian as Publisher module. I would also like a dedicated leadership module. In a recent article that I wrote for SCOUNL Focus, I discuss, alongside the directors of other library programmes the changing skill requirements in the sector and how the MSc in Information and Library Management at DBS is responding to this :

What impact did completing the Masters have on your career?

As a librarian I am constantly supporting faculty and students with their research needs: publishing articles, preparing dissertations etc. Having to do my own 20,000 word thesis gave me a deeper insight into research methodologies which I have found invaluable.

What tips would you give to aspiring librarians?
Numerous tips. Make sure that your CV looks like a library CV and that it is immersed in the semantics of librarianship. Hone your interview technique (do mock interviews with librarians). Network (join professional groups) etc. Have a digital profile (Twitter, Linkedin etc.). Get your foot in the door somewhere (its amazing how part-time work can grow into full-time work). Find a mentor (experienced librarian). But most importantly be nice. Never underestimate the power of being nice. When all things are equal in an interview, an employer wants someone who is pleasant to work with and who fits in with the team. Have faith. I have been a librarian for twenty years and most graduates I know got work in the library sector and are now thriving. Also acquire a diploma or certificate in a subject that wasn’t taught on your library course such as digital marketing, project management or big data. It can give you a competitive edge.

What skills do you think librarians will need in future?
I think that librarians will need publishing skills. I have noticed in the US that there are now posts in universities called Publishing Librarians. With the open access journal movement, librarians have a wonderful opportunity to publish academic journals. At DBS, Library staff publish a peer reviewed, open access academic journal called Studies in Arts and Humanities ( The journal is indexed on the Directory of Open Access Journals and indexed on an international EBSCO database. I am an Editorial Board member of SAH Journal. The Library is also about to launch an open access peer reviewed journal called DBS Business Review. I am one of the managing editors of this journal.  Please see this editorial written in SAH Jouirnal by my colleague Jane Buggle at DBS Library on librarian as publisher:

Finally two shout outs for the Careers Expo at Dublin Business School May 19th and also DBS Library’s Annual Seminar, June 9th. Events details will be posted to Eventbrite imminently. Alternatively contact for further information.

For more information on the MSc in Information and Library Management, please go to:
The next open evening for the programme is Tuesday, May 9th at our Aungier Street building from 5-7pm. All welcome.


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