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?
Growing up I was a regular at my local public library and a library monitor at my school library. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I realised that practising law was not where my future lay and looked around for another path. It wasn’t long until I realised where my heart lay and so I did an accredited qualification in Information Management and looked for library jobs. Just as I was starting to give up, I got a short-term contract in one of the Northamptonshire County public libraries. I was in a position to move around the country and so was able to take work where it came up. I transitioned to academic libraries after completing my MA in 2015 and took my first professional role in December 2016.
Currently you are a Liaison Librarian. Can you describe your current role and the specific skills you use?
As Liaison Librarian I build relationships with academic and support staff in the schools I cover and deliver Information Literacy sessions to undergraduate and postgraduate students, alongside one-to-one sessions with doctoral candidates. Teaching is a huge part of the role and the part I love the most! I also develop digital guidance material and do some work on the Information Architecture of online subject guides. In my first professional role I did a little bit of everything, particularly cataloguing and classification. I like being an all-rounder.
What advice would you give to new professionals looking for post in the academic sector?
Keep applying! It can take a while and rejection emails are frustrating. Try different things in applications and keep copies of applications that were received favourably to serve as a template for next time. Find opportunities to expand your experience with volunteering roles; teaching and forming networks are key skills to hone. Keep up-to-date with approaches to teaching and reflect on your micro-teaches and presentations… these are often an important part of the interview process. I went to an event at a public library on CV writing and that was really useful (literally the next application I sent after it led to an interview).
As someone with a background in academic libraries in recent years, what changes have you witnessed in how services are delivered and the services students expect? And what do you think will have an impact on services in the next couple of years?
My background is quite varied and in a fairly short career I’ve had the opportunity to work in public and academic libraries and even done a project in a prison library. In regards to academic libraries there are the obvious financial factors, especially in the last few years. Issues around environmental sustainability in libraries and library design will be increasing in importance. I’ve been really intrigued to learn about decolonialisation in collection management and its impact upon notions of authority from an Information Literacy point of view; I think this might be an upcoming area that might impact in the next year or so on liaison librarianship.
Where do you see yourself going next?
Well, I’m really interested in exploring the opportunities to become a freelance librarian. I’ve been intrigued by the emergence of remote librarianship in the USA and Australia. It’s not such a thing in the UK but things like the REF produce opportunities to explore freelance project based librarianship and I’m keeping an eye open for other opportunities. I like to keep things varied and the economy is changing with more and more people working a range of freelance and part-time roles, which can really help keep things fresh! Going freelance can be tough; I think it’s good to have a backup source of income. Then it’s a case of keeping your eyes open for opportunities and developing a broad skill base that lets you take advantage of them. Mind you, I’d also love to do a PhD…
You are the founder of an Information Science journal club and the Manx Libraries Forum, both on the Isle of Man. Can you tell us more about this and your hopes for the future?
When I moved to the Isle of Man, I felt somewhat professionally detached from things and made a big effort to get in touch with other information professionals on the Island to build my network.
One of the things I did as part of this was to establish two groups. The first was the Manx Libraries Forum*. This is a group that meets four times a year made up of representatives from the libraries of Manx. It gives us all an opportunity to share ideas, CPD and news; it also provides a place where we can network and set-up smaller issue focused groups of members. For instance, one group that has formed recently is exploring statistic gathering amongst Manx Libraries. It’s an important time in Manx libraries, we have a government consultation going on and the forum has provided a mechanism for librarians to speak directly to government.
I also set up the Manx Information Science Journal club*, while networking I met several people on the island who were undertaking library courses or thinking about Chartership. There were also several new professionals and I thought it would be a great idea for us to meet periodically and discuss a journal article in the field as a way of learning and reflecting on how new approaches might be used on the Island.
We’re a small group and we’d love to work with other groups beyond the island to gain a wider set of perspectives. I’m sure there are many other small groups out there but I haven’t yet found any online forum where such groups can form links and collaborate…
Is anyone out there a member of a similar group that is interested in exploring options for mutually expanding horizons?
Is there anything you would like to see from NLPN in the future?
I’d love more information on entering regional networks, applying for bursaries and making contact with fellow professionals and communities-of-practice, especially for those new professionals who might find themselves lone-working a lot. That’s the reason I was so keen to set-up some groups on the Isle of Man. Communities-of-practice are great for sharing knowledge and building experience and the NLPN already provides a wonderful opportunity for that.