A network for new and aspiring library professionals
Louise, a Faculty Librarian at The University of Central Lancashire, has answered some of our questions about her library career and the skills she uses in her current role.
I completed a BA in English Literature from Liverpool Hope University in 2009. In my second year I decided I’d quite like to be a librarian after my faculty librarian, Fiona Hair, delivered an information skills session and really inspired me with her enthusiasm and passion for the profession. Fiona gave me some great advice and helped me secure some work experience at the University Library. I knew then that it was the profession I wanted to pursue.
To gain more library experience, I continued to volunteer in public libraries alongside bar and factory work then, after countless unsuccessful applications, I finally secured a library assistant post at Bacup public library. In 2012, I was fortunate enough to graduate with a Postgraduate Diploma in Library and Information Management and this enabled me to apply for qualified posts in the education sector. For the next 2 years I worked in the HE library at Blackburn college where I developed my experience of customer service, acquisitions, cataloguing and delivering information skills. I then went on to work at UCFB, a unique institution, which focused on sports business degrees and in August 2017, I moved to my current position as faculty librarian for Business, Law and Social Studies. I’m developing my knowledge of legal librarianship and finding it interesting, varied and challenging (in a good way).
Currently you are a Faculty Librarian for Business, Law and Applied Social Studies at University of Central Lancashire. Can you describe your current role and the specific skills you use?
I currently oversee the library resource and services for the faculty which includes the Lancashire Law School, the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. I also manage a colleague who has main responsibility for the Lancashire School of Business. We plan and deliver information skills sessions to our schools which has given me an opportunity to create interactive and engaging lessons with the use of technology and apps. Providing this guidance to staff and students is the best aspect of my role and the one I’m proudest of. After overcoming my fear of public speaking I can now comfortably deliver these sessions even in a lecture theatre.
Liaising with suppliers to organise trials and subscriptions requires me to negotiate with and maintain a positive relationship with external providers and it is my responsibility to then market and review the resources through information skills, social media and academic liaison. I also review the resources’ value for money by analysing the usage statistics and making informed choices on whether to re-subscribe, look for alternatives or make savings depending on budget constraints but also take into account the student experience and access to quality information. Many liaison librarians would probably agree that this is one of the most challenging aspects of our roles.
I’m also currently working on a copyright information project and I’ve even surprised myself about how much I’m enjoying this stereotypically “dull” topic. I’m working as part of a team to improve our online copyright information and copyright advice service. I’m developing my own knowledge about copyright along the way which is useful for my role in the law school.
You previously worked as an Assistant Librarian and an Academic Support Librarian at University Campus of Football Business (UCFB). What differences have you noticed between the 2 institutions and the student groups at each one? And what skills have you transferred from your experience at UCFB to your current one?
During my first year of working at UCFB I worked alone performing all the different tasks that make a library function properly from front line customer service to acquisitions and cataloguing which helped me develop and my confidence in my abilities increased so when I moved to UCLan I felt I was ready to take on more responsibilities in a much bigger university. At UCFB there were about 300 students at the campus I worked at and I felt like I knew them all by name. I was able to offer a very personal service and dedicate a lot of time to students who needed guidance. With 20,000 FTEs at UCLan it’s a totally different environment and almost impossible to offer that type of service. Having said that, I now work as part of a much bigger team so the offer at UCLan for 1:1 guidance is still very good.
Operating a library out of premiership football stadiums had its disadvantages and challenges but was quite an impressive and exciting place to work. The students were predominantly male and pretty sports mad but I was fortunate to meet some interesting, bright students who later became colleagues. At UCLan, with so many different courses and subject areas on offer the students are naturally more varied and diverse. I’m enjoying helping students within my school but I also get the opportunity to meet students studying a variety of topics which keeps things interesting.
What tips would you give to aspiring librarians?
Try and secure some work experience in all the different library environments. I always wonder what it would be like to work in a prison library and really wish I had tried harder to get some part-time or voluntary work in one. Also, the market can be surprisingly competitive but don’t give up and keep trying to improve your CV. It’s the best job in the world and worth the knock backs.
What would you like to see from NLPN in the future?
NLPN have helped me so much and are a valuable group to new (and old) professionals. I’m really proud that it was set up and run by people I graduated with. The development events organised are always current and appropriate – I wish I could make it to more of them so keep doing what you’re doing.